Managing Your Inner Critic by Erin Mecseji
If you’ve ever been moving along, taking action, setting goals, and generally feeling really good about yourself and your life as an academic, and then all of a sudden you become stymied by thoughts like “I can’t do this”, “I don’t know enough or have enough information”, or “This is too hard!”, then you’ve undoubtedly just had an encounter with your Gremlin. Your Gremlin is the little, or most often big, voice in your head that keeps you stuck and from moving forward. Read on for ways to get past your Gremlin and back into action.
- Simply notice. The first step in managing your Gremlin is to simply be aware of what he is saying to you. Don’t judge. Don’t criticize. Just notice.
- Breathe! The simple act of breathing – slow, deep breaths — allows you a much needed detachment from your Gremlin by slowing you down and allowing you to reflect more purposefully.
- Challenge your beliefs/thoughts. Ask yourself “is this true”? If you sit quietly with this question, you’ll be able to hear what your authentic self is trying to tell you.
- Write it down! This is a great technique to slow you down. You cannot possibly write as fast as your Gremlin can talk in your head. By writing your thoughts down on paper you automatically slow the Gremlin down and are able to more clearly separate truth from fiction.
- List your most common Gremlin thoughts. Take out a sheet of paper and start making a list of your most common Gremlin thoughts. List them all! Now, next to each one write a challenge to that thought. For example if your Gremlin thought is “I don’t know enough to take on this project,” then your challenge might be “I know enough, and what I don’t know I can learn.” And, when you’re finished you will have your own list of positive thoughts to replace the Gremlin thoughts with. I suggest you put them in a prominent place so that you can refer to them often.
- Get to know your Gremlin. Draw a picture of your Gremlin. Include as much detail as you can. Once you get to know your Gremlin, you begin to see him for what he really is, and he will no longer have the hold over you he once had.
- Give your Gremlin something to do. When your Gremlin has a particularly difficult hold on you, send him away or give him a job to do. He will eventually come back (they always do!) but for a while you will have some well earned and much-needed breathing space.
- Become a detective. Rather than taking what your Gremlin is saying at face-value, seek out evidence that your Gremlin is WRONG.
- Play with you options. Now that you have options, play with them! Even though you and your Gremlin may appear the same…you are not! You have the choice to change your beliefs, to change your thought patterns, to choose something new and different for yourself.
- Get a coach! Your Gremlin is subtle in sabotaging you. Your coach will hear and challenge your gremlin when your gremlin is talking as “the voice of reason.”
All of us have Gremlin thoughts to one extent or another. The problem is that most of us don’t take them for what they are – nonsense – and instead believe them to be true. When you choose to listen to your Gremlin you will notice that your options are very limited. When you choose to step outside your Gremlin and look at other options or choices…the possibilities are endless!
© Erin Mecseji, ACC, CPCC is a business and personal coach who works with successful small business owners and professionals to create businesses that work for them rather than against them. Erin’s clients have more focus, creativity, balance and time. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Encompass Coaching.
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