Slaying the Enemy Within

 

This month in my column on North By Northwest on CBC Radio One in British Columbia I talked to Sheryl MacKay about negative self talk. You can read and listen to that interview here

 

photo by 0Four

photo by 0Four

This topic comes up in pretty much every meeting I have with a client as a life coach. Each of us may, from time to time, be frustrated with ourselves and feel like we made a stupid decision, but this inner self talk is more than that. This is the voice of fear. It masquerades as wanting the best for us, but all it really wants is status quo. Don’t change anything. Stay where you are. It doesn’t believe you should try new things, stretch your horizons, or chase your dreams. It can cost you anything from registering for a pottery class at the local rec centre, to moving to a new city to take a great job offer.

 

This voice goes by many names, the inner critic, the saboteur, the gremlin or the voice of reality. Take a look at the list below and see if you recognize some of these dialogues. Most of us have at least two or three.

 

Five Classic Gremlin Voices

Photo by Aimee Ray

Photo by Aimee Ray

 

The Perfectionist: If you can’t do it perfectly, why would you start? You’ll never do this perfectly, so quit while you are ahead.

The Pretender: You are a fraud. People think you know what you are doing, but you’ll be found out. You are a fake.

The Failure: You are doomed to fail, you always fail. You don’t need to even try.

The Humble One: It says “Stop showing off. It’s so rude to be vain. Don’t you think you are better than everyone else. Who do you think you are?”

The Small One: You aren’t enough. You don’t deserve this happiness.

 

photo by Neil Tackaberry

photo by Neil Tackaberry

Step One

 

  1. Notice this is just a narrative. A story you are hearing. You can isolate this voice as a character that shows up and criticizes you.
  2. Choose the character. Does this narrative feel heavy? Slimy? Cold? Create a character that embodies these things. If it’s dark maybe you see a tall, shadowy figure in a cloak. If it’s slimy and cold, maybe it is a lizard in a cave.
  3. Name your gremlin. It can be funny, like Mr. Know it all. Or Ms. Big Britches.
  4. The next time you hear that dialogue starting, sit down and let yourself write out what the gremlin is saying for one minute. Set a timer.
  5. Take a deep breath at the end of the minute and read what you wrote out loud for yourself. After each point, ask yourself, is this true? Would you allow anyone in your life to talk to you this way?

 

Taking this dialogue out of the shadows and into the light will help disempower it. The better you get at catching this story, the quicker you can remember you don’t want to listen to it. It’s not true.

Photo by Jesse Barker

Photo by Jesse Barker

Step Two

 

Always remember for the sake of what you want to do something. You aren’t taking that pottery class to become a world-class potter, so you’re perfectionist gremlin is out of place. Maybe you want to make friends, try something new or just have some fun. What you value and what the gremlin values are two different things. Never forget that.

 

Learn more about gremlins in one of my favorite blogs of the past. There are more tools as well in Dragon Slayer Tools

 

And here is a very personal story of meeting my gremlin in real life at the dressing room door after a show. How did I deal with it?

photo by Walt Stoneburn

photo by Walt Stoneburn

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