Smooth Sailing Ahead – Three Things I’ve Learned About Gremlins

Picture this: I’m excited about a new adventure I’m about to embark on. I am feeling the glow of what’s to come. Off I go – ready to take on the world – I know I can do this! Like Rocky Balboa – I’m a tiger, baby!

And then wham!

Out of the blue a little imp, sitting crossed legged on my shoulder whispers in my ear “Who do you think you are?”

What the hell? Where did you come from?

And then the little imp says a bit louder “This is really hard, are you sure you can do this?”

The self-doubt starts to creep in. I start to worry if I’m cut out for this new adventure.

And then the little imp, now standing up, shouts in my ear “You will fail. You should stop this madness!”  And I do. I stop. The imp, AKA, my gremlin, has got me on the ropes. I’m KO’d.

Does an inner dialogue like this sound familiar? If it does, you are not alone. I suspect most if not all of us have some type of gremlin trying to work it’s fearful, play-small voodoo on us. But the good news is that we have a choice. Albeit challenging, we get to choose what to do with this gremlin. I’ve tried the full-out battlefield, take the gremlin out-at-the-knees out approach and it does not work. For me, my gremlin is always there, so I’ve learned over time a few strategies that seem to work to help me navigate this inner saboteur.

Here are three things I’ve learned on how to manage my gremlin:

  • Get to know this character – for the longest time my gremlin was a big unknown to me – oh I knew it was always there – but I was a bit afraid of the damn thing. So, I started to get to know my gremlin. I asked myself what it looked like, what was its purpose, what does it say to me. My gremlin is a troll like creature, constantly telling me I’m not good enough. The more I got to know my gremlin, the less scary it was and the more I felt able to work with my gremlin. I realized my gremlin is not my enemy and is actually working hard to keep me safe. And to do this it uses fear to keep me small. In Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Big Magic – Creative Living Beyond Fear, she has a wonderful strategy about inviting fear into her life and working with the fear, creating space for it, respecting it but stating very clearly that it is not going to call the shots.
  • My #1 Fan – once I started to get to know and work with my gremlin, one strategy I engaged that really worked for me was My #1 Fan. My gremlin is a loud-mouth and likes to hog the spotlight and I figured there had to be another, more positive voice that was not being heard. So, I asked myself: “If I had a #1 Fan, what would it be saying right now?” And voila, another voice piped up, albeit quiet at first, with positive encouraging words.
  • Don’t give in, don’t give up – My gremlin tends to just show up at any given time, always uninvited and slightly obnoxious so I have to intentionally and regularly reach out to my #1 Fan who tends to hang out in the background, like the shy girl at the high school dance. And yes, there are times when I’m a punching bag while my gremlin and #1 Fan duke it out. Sometimes it is exhausting. Sometimes my gremlin prevails and I am bruised and sore. And more often now, my #1 Fan KO’s the gremlin and I’m off on my grand adventure!



“I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning how to sail my ship.” ~ Louisa May Alcott

1 thought on “Smooth Sailing Ahead – Three Things I’ve Learned About Gremlins”

  1. Normalizing that we all experience such a gremlin (love the characterization!) is really helpful. Receiving some ideas on how to keep company with him is also appreciated. Love your writing style.

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