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Facing My Inner Critic Gremlins

Starting at the end of September each year, witches, vampires, mummies and other mythical creatures appear in front yards, shop windows and everywhere else. Then like clockwork, they make a hasty exit on November 1, not to be seen or heard from again for another 11 months. 

Unfortunately, there is another less innocent creature that lurks in the shadows all year round. It doesn’t wait for Halloween or a full moon or Friday the 13th to pay us a visit. 

They pounce at the slightest whiff of self-doubt. They drop in when you are up for a promotion or starting a new relationship. In short, these pesky beasts are summoned when someone has the audacity to step outside their comfort zone. 

That’s right. I’m talking about your Gremlin, A.K.A your “inner critic.”

They need nothing more than a moment’s hesitation to pop up and scream “You’re not good enough!”

What makes them so nefarious is that Gremlins tell us we aren’t good enough is a super specific way that gets under our skin and into our psyches. They make it impossible to ignore them. They prevent us from taking chances, trying new things, and reaching our potential.

If you can’t ignore them, what can you do? I’ve learned two ways to face down a Gremlin. Both methods begin with identifying the Gremlin (You probably have more than one, so take it one Gremlin at a time) and pinpointing what this Gremlin is telling you. In what way are you not good enough? “I’m not pretty enough.” “I’m not smart enough” “I’m not organized enough.”

Once you have the Gremlin in your crosshairs, it’s time to either silence its message or give it a new purpose.

What my Gremlin tells me

When I was learning these methods, my Gremlin was telling me, “You’re not qualified enough.” I felt like I needed permission and validation before I could take something on. I was afraid to apply for certain jobs or take on new roles until I had an official piece of paper explaining that I was competent. I frequently doubted if I was up to the task.

This meant that I turned down opportunities, shied away from challenges, and undervalued my work. I was losing money because I wasn’t charging enough for my time, and it was impacting my confidence because I was relying on external factors to give me something that had to come from within. It was time to confront my “You’re-not-qualified-enough" Gremlin.

Method #1 - Silence its message and give it a new one.

For the first exercise, I dug out a little figurine I had of Mary Katherine Gallagher to represent my Gremlin. She was small enough to leave on my desk or keep in my backpack, so she was always close at hand. 

Then I started to take note when her voice chimed in. I would hear her right before an important phone call or when I was typing an email to a potential client. She got louder when I was trying to pitch my services to someone, or when I was giving a workshop. 

“What makes you think you can do that?” 

“Are you sure you have the skills and experience to take this on?”

“Why wouldn’t they look for someone more qualified?”

“I think you are a bit out of your league.”

I had heard these messages before, but this time I could locate the source. I imagined the voice was coming from this tiny Mary Katherine Gallagher. I visualized her sticking her hands in her arm pits and smelling them each time she took a dig at me. (Sorry to anyone, who doesn’t get this reference.) It made it a whole lot easier to say, “Ssssssh!”

Eventually, I asked my little Mary Katherine Gallagher Gremlin to say something different. So now when I look at her, she shoots her arms into the air, lunges forward bending her left knee and shouts: “You’re a SUPERSTAR!”

Method #2 - Thank it for its service and reassign it.

While the first exercise helped, this Gremlin proved to be quite resilient. Fortunately, I learned another technique for facing Gremlins, which requires you to dig a little deeper and explore where the Gremlin came from and what purpose has it served in your life. 

I can’t remember when this Gremlin first appeared, but I know what impact it had on me. Because I was constantly getting the message that I wasn’t qualified to do basically anything, it motivated me to read lots of books, seek out mentors and attend professional development seminars. It also pressured me to invest a hefty sum of money in a life coaching certification program, which is where I learned about Gremlins and how to deal with them. 

When I look at it from this perspective, my Gremlin has made me who I am today. I am a voracious reader, a podcast fanatic, and life-long learner. However, there comes a time to step out of the classroom and start putting your education to use. This Gremlin’s mission had been accomplished, and I no longer needed her service. 

It was time to send her over to HR and see if we could find a new position for this industrious worker. After some retraining, my Gremlin was given the new title of Director of Confidence. Instead of following me around to remind me I’m not qualified, her new job is to walk ahead of me and tell everyone I’m a savvy talented professional who deserves their attention. She’s been on the job for nearly five years and is performing very well.

Gremlins, Everyone's got ‘em.

No one is immune from Gremlins. We all have at least a few, and new ones are always showing up. They are difficult to ignore, and just get louder with time. As uncomfortable as it may be, I challenge you to get to know your Gremlins by name and start a conversation. They might be deadbeats that need to be sent packing, or they might be a hard worker who just needs to be reassigned.

If you would like some help exploring your Gremlins, I'd love to be your travel companion!

You can reach me HERE.


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