I had a client whose ‘gremlin’ sat on her shoulder, koala-like, digging its sharp claws into her skin and whispering endless put-downs to her. “You won’t be able to do that”, “You’re going to fail”, “You’ll look stupid”, on and on.
I wonder whether you also have a gremlin? A voice that tries to do you down, that wipes away your abilities and confidence, that holds you back?
Many of us do, it appears. But why is it there and what can we do about it?
How do we prevent it getting in the way of confidently greeting the challenges we face and being our best selves?
Why your gremlin?
It’s almost always the case that our gremlin has been there for some time (years even). He’s been sneakily chipping away at our confidence and determination. It’s a form of self-preservation, keeping us ‘safe’.
It goes something like this…
You have an important presentation to do for work. You’ve made presentations successfully before. But inside you can hear a voice saying: “You’ll dry up. You’ll look stupid. You’ll get tongue-tied. You’ll fluff what you want to say. People will think you’ve failed. You’ll think you’ve failed…”
Then the nerves start. You feel anxious and stressed just thinking about the forthcoming presentation. You dream up all sorts of embarrassing failures in your head. The nerves make things feel worse. Your gremlin has a field day. Now you know you’ll fail. Perhaps you’ll dream up some excuse for why you can’t do it, or even go off sick…
Great! It’s worked. Now you don’t have to do the presentation. Thing is, there will be more. Each time you go round the same circle, get more nervous, and put off your chance of success. And you feel worse about yourself each time you put it off and don’t step up to the plate.
What can you do about your gremlin?
Chances are, you’ve already started. Just by reading this, you may have identified the gremlin that you give room to. Simply noticing your gremlin, and the tricks he (or she) plays, mean you are in a position of power. Power means choice. Choice means you can choose to do something different.
Recognising your gremlin, and how he tries to undermine your success, allows you to take control of your thoughts. You can then choose to think differently about your challenges.
Once you notice your gremlin at work, you can silence him. The client I mentioned chose to imagine a cage in the corner of the room. That’s were she put him, then locked him in and kept the key.
Sounds ridiculous? Maybe, But it worked. The gremlin himself was imaginary, yet he played havoc with her confidence. So creating an imaginary cage to lock him in allowed her to take his claws out of her shoulder, and to walk away from his jibes.
Your gremlin is often built on very flimsy evidence. Perhaps you once fluffed one presentation. Perhaps once or twice you had some negative feedback from a presentation you gave. Maybe you could have given a recent presentation better. So what? We’re all human. We cannot always operate at the top of our ability.
Yet, there may be many occasions when your presentations have been at least adequate and maybe even good. Perhaps not for you own exacting standards, but for the vast majority. It’s easy to draw a negative conclusion from one or two instances and then ignore all the positives.
Once you have silenced, or at least recognised your power over your gremlin, you can then use your thoughts to help, rather than hinder you. Instead of listening to your gremlin, what would you like to hear? What would be helpful for you so you achieve success? What might even be more truthful?
This might be: “You can do it!” Or “If I prepare, remind myself of when it has gone well, and then just do my best, I will be fine.” Or “Remember that presentation I gave to x that went well? I can do that well again”.
The great thing is that every time you silence your gremlin, and choose more helpful thoughts, your chance of success grows. Similarly each little success leads to more chance of success. Your comfort zone grows and you are able to take on more and more challenges confidently.
So, go recognise and silence your gremlin. Remember the awesomeness of you. And go and be great!