I first heard the famous quote by Marianne Williamson as a college student, and I remember being blown away by its message as it was counter to my beliefs about my fears.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?”
Up until this point in my life, I had believed that my fears were about not matching up; not making the cut, the grade, or the team; not getting the date or the job I wanted. I believed that these accomplishments would make me feel okay, make me satisfied and whole and that the lack of these accomplishments would make me less.
With just a couple of decades of life under my belt since first shifting my paradigm I still recognize that I can have limiting beliefs that invade my thinking. These are hidden rules and stories that I tell myself about my capabilities. They can sabotage my goals and prevent me from acting in alignment with my core values.
Rick Carson explains that each of us has an internal voice that is designed to do the sabotaging in our lives. It is this voice that tells us a negative story about ourselves; he calls it our Gremlin. In his book, Taming your Gremlin he explains, “Your gremlin is the source of your negative thoughts and he (or she or it) uses some of your past experiences to influence your attitude and behavior. Your gremlin can appear to be your best friend and advisor or your most ill-intentioned enemy. Although your gremlin wants you to believe that he has your best interest at heart, his motive is much less honorable: he is intent on making you miserable.”
Our Gremlin does not have to control us, but first we must understand it. Consider the source of your gremlin, does he/she tell you that you are not smart enough, that others don’t want you around, or that you don’t deserve happiness?
Carson continues to offer some solutions for noticing our gremlin by focusing on our own inner voice. When we observe ourselves falling into the following patterns, we can gently shift away from these negative thoughts.
You can’t – your gremlin tells you that you are not capable of accomplishing your goals.
When you hear yourself say, “I can’t do it,” change narrative to “I won’t” or “until now.” Consider this example: My husband recently began tutoring a college student in pre-calculus who described himself as being terrible at math. He shared that he has struggled with math for a long time and is worried he won’t be able to be successful. Imagine the field day his gremlin is having with this fear of failure. If he changes his language about pre-calculus he will have a better chance for success.
“I can’t do pre- calculus”
“I choose not to get help to understand pre-calculus”
“Until now I have chosen not to get help to be successful at pre-calculus”
You Should – your gremlin tells you all kinds of things that are absolutely imperative.
Beware of the gremlin words of should, must and ought. Think about the last time you felt like you should do something; you likely felt trapped and forced into doing whatever it was. Next time you notice those words try replacing it with the phrase:
“I choose to or choose not to”
You Don’t Deserve – your gremlin tells you that you don’t deserve what you want: material things, positive experiences, or even peace of mind.
We can suffer feelings of guilt when we feel like we are not worthy of deserving these things. Our guilt is paralyzing and stops us from action. Next time you feel guilty, decide what is the source of that guilt and then make a choice about an action.
Imagine I have neglected a relationship with a friend and I feel guilty about my lack of action.
My gremlin will tell me I am not really deserving of having that friendship in the first place. I can remain paralyzed with guilt or make a choice to reach out to the friend, and apologize for neglecting the relationship. Or I can decide to do nothing, and be at peace with the implications of that choice.
Fantasy is Reality – you have heard the joke about the risk of making assumptions; your gremlin loves for you to live based on assumptions about the future. I call this negative scenario creation Horriblizing. It is projecting my worries into reality about the future instead of naming the worry that I am experiencing. Carson gives a helpful example of the fantasy is reality gremlin tactic in his book:
If, for example, you feel that your employer will reject an idea that you propose, you might say to yourself, “I am imagining that my boss will reject my idea.”
The key word is imagine, which allows us to notice the fear we have and make a conscious choice about our actions.
When I focus my beliefs on what I can accomplish and on the power of impact I can have on my life and those around me, I feel powerful and full of choice. When I let that inner negativity or gremlin take over my thoughts, I am less in control, less effective and less happy.
Let’s keep the gremlins on center stage for a Halloween decorations instead of a source of negative thoughts in our lives.