​3 steps to silencing your inner gremlin (for good)

No matter how hard you try, ignoring your negative inner critic often isn’t enough to get it out of your head. Here are three steps (and one big secret) to silencing your inner gremlin and those nagging doubts forever.

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We all have an inner voice that speaks to us. Sometimes it cheers us on, congratulates us, and makes us feel great. But more often than not, it’s our inner gremlin that dominates the airtime; that negative voice that nags at us, tells us we aren’t good looking or slim enough, that we can’t reach our goals, and ultimately, that we just aren’t good enough. It might even tell us to eat another chocolate bar because we’ll never be slim anyway, or to give up on our dream because it will never happen. It might tell us that no one wants to be friends or fall in love with us, because we aren’t good enough to be loved. Sound familiar? An inner gremlin resides in many of us, some may be more talkative than others, but it can be a debilitating narrative to live your life by. Practice these three steps to help not only silence your inner critic, but to start to understand it, the key to getting it to STFU forever.

Balance out the airtime. Start by simply observing your inner gremlin and being mindful of when it rears its ugly head. Try keeping a journal for a day, to see just how often it demands your attention. You might be surprised at how often your inner critic has something to say about how you are living your life. Once you have noticed the gremlin has arrived, let it speak, but then invite your (perhaps lesser-heard) inner cheerleader or positive voice have its say too. If the gremlin tells you ‘you look awful today, people will say and think bad things about you’, let it. But then see what your inner cheerleader has to say. Perhaps your more positive voice will say ‘But you’re hair looks great.’ Start to balance out the inner critic and inner cheerleader’s airtime in your mind. Allow your positive thoughts some of the attention they deserve, too.

Look for evidence. Once you have begun to balance out the airtime, try adding to the interaction with your gremlin and sparking up conversation by reasoning with it. When the inner critic speaks, hear it out as before but this time, back up your inner cheerleader with some evidence. If the inner gremlin tells you that you aren’t good enough to reach your dream of starting a new business, let your inner cheerleader tell you that you can do it and that it believes in you, and then give some reasons why that’s true. Perhaps you have created a detailed business plan, or a friend has told you how in awe they are of all the hard work you have put in so far. Think of all the evidence, be it comments from your peers or hard facts, and include things you have already achieved. Write it down. This is your reality, not the gremlins nagging words.

The secret: Listen to what it is really saying, and answer it. Once you have started interacting with your gremlin and reasoning with it, start to try and understand where it is coming from. This might sound like trying to understand a bully; difficult to try and do, but ultimately very revealing and often the best way to resolve the situation. But your inner gremlin is not a bully. Your inner gremlin’s voice actually belongs to you. It finds its language from your past experiences, the things you learn and observe, the messages people and society send to you throughout your life. So when your inner critic or gremlin pipes up, what is it really trying to say to you? I like to think of a mother chastising her child for almost running into the road. The child might think his mother is angry with him, he might even think his mother dislikes him. She shouts at him with an angry tone and expression, telling him he is naughty. He cries hot, blubbering sobs and feels awful. But does his mother actually hate him? Of course not. So what is his mother trying to do?

She’s trying to protect him.

When you inner gremlin tells you not to wear that outfit because you look terrible, or to give up on your dream because you’ll never finish it, what is it trying to achieve? When it tells you that you shouldn’t ask someone on a date because you aren’t good enough to be loved, what is its ultimate goal?
Your inner gremlin is simply trying to protect you. It doesn’t want you to look a fool in unflattering clothes and have other people look down on you. It would hate for you to not to achieve your dream and look like a failure, so it’s easier to just give up now. It doesn’t want you to ask someone out on a date, because you might get shot down, rejected, or worse, heartbroken. It doesn’t want any of this because it is you. So it’s safer just to stay where you are. Stuck.
But just like the child, if he stays in his safe motherly bubble, he’ll never live. He’ll never fall in love or reach his goals, or achieve his dreams. Of course, he might fail, but he’ll also never learn and grow from those failures. He’ll just stay stuck. What would happen if you never break free of your inner voice’s cotton wool protection? What would you never achieve?
The final step to silencing your inner gremlin is to have compassion for it and give it the attention it is crying out for. Next time your gremlin opens its mouth, notice it. Listen to it. And then thank it. Say ‘Thank you for warning me – I understand you are only trying to protect me. But it’s OK. I’ve got this, and you don’t need to worry because...’ then give it your evidence. Your inner gremlin just wants to be heard. It needs to be understood in order for it to do its job and protect and warn you.

By building a relationship with your inner critic, listening to it, understanding it and even thanking it for caring, it won’t feel the need to shout so loudly to grab your attention in order to protect you, and that is the key to silencing it forever.

Ali Roff is a certified Life Coach and Dossier editor at Psychologies magazine. For special offer £28 one hour coaching sessions with Ali, visit alirofflifecoach.com.

Ali Roff

Dossier Editor, Psychologies