In cartoons and movies, gremlins are mischievous, clever troublemakers who try to sabotage everyone’s good efforts. In our own lives, they find fault with everything we do, creating negative thoughts and excuses that keep us from taking action.
One woman I worked with, “Alexis,” had long dreamed of starting her own online business. Well aware that it would take some time to get it off the ground, she researched it carefully and took some training courses in marketing. But when it came time to design her website and begin to offer her services online, she kept putting it off, saying she wasn’t ready yet.
“Frank,” an attorney in private practice for the past 24 years, was deeply unhappy in his career. What he really wanted to do was to use his gifts as an advocate for children with learning disabilities. He was excited to discover that he would be able to use his existing skills to transition into his new career. But then one day he changed his mind. He decided it would be “unrealistic” for him to start over at his age. It would just be “easier” to keep doing what he’s been doing.
And then there’s “Teri,” who has spent the last 18 years in the I.T. industry, working long hours and dealing with demanding customers. Her passion is the graphic arts, for which she has great talent. She knows it would be a better fit for her personality, but she’s beginning to think she’d be “crazy” to take that kind of chance. It would involve too much time and hard work, and she might fall flat on her face.
Say Hello to the Gremlin
Alexis, Frank, and Teri have something in common. All three have met their gremlins.
If you’re feeling stuck, you’ve probably met yours, too.
Your gremlin is that inner critic that holds you back from expressing yourself fully. It uses your fear, worry, and self-doubts to find fault with the things you want to do. You’ll hear it say things like, “Why bother? You’re only going to fail.” Or how about this one – “People who have work they love are just lucky. That could never happen to me.”
The economy definitely presents a challenge for job seekers and career changers. It takes knowledge of the job market and the latest job search/marketing techniques, a lot of preparation, and a positive mindset, all of which your gremlin can’t wait to undermine. It doesn’t want you to change.
How to Handle Your Gremlin
It’s important to know that your gremlin is not you. It’s not even your voice, even though it sounds like you. It’s a disconnected “part” of you whose messages could have originated in any number of ways. I believe it truly is looking out for you, trying to keep you safe, but its messages are no longer relevant for who you are now. All it does now is to get you reliving your past, worrying about the future, or over-analyzing every move you make to the point of paralysis.
It’s good to be cautious, to take things slowly, but the gremlin wants you to do more than that. It wants you to give up.
When you begin to hear those familiar messages in your head, Rick Carson, the author of Taming Your Gremlin, recommends that you:
- Simply notice it. Your gremlin does not want to be noticed – that’s its Achilles’ heel. It prefers to work behind the scenes. The most powerful thing you can do is to simply observe it and listen to it. Don’t ignore it! But don’t believe what it says either. Noticing it takes away its power so you can regain yours.
- Relax yourself. Take some deep breaths. Go for a walk. If this idea sounds silly to you, that’s your gremlin talking, too! The point is to realize that those thoughts in your head are just thoughts. They aren’t you.
- Acknowledge the gremlin. If it helps, give it a name. Put a face on it. I like the picture of the gremlin above – it reminds me of how small it really is. Listen to what your gremlin’s trying to tell you. Hear what its concerns are. Name the fears that it brings up in you. And then keep moving forward with what you’re doing. Move right through those uncomfortable thoughts and feelings.
You can take charge of your gremlin by deciding how you would rather respond. Allow yourself to make that choice. And most importantly, listen for and learn how to hear your true voice underneath that of your gremlin.
Does your gremlin have you feeling stuck? Next time it starts to act up (and you know it will!), how will you respond?