Gremlins: Overcome Fears that Block You

Fears that block you aren’t aware of seasons. While this was written for Halloween, the suggestions can help you any time of the year.

As the end of October draws near, Halloween paraphernalia is all around us. When they see it, my tween and teen daughters still get excited about the sweets and treats and developing their costumes. Now that they are older, we’ll watch scarier things together like Stranger Things. We love getting spooked.

fears that block

When they were younger, they were frightened by the images of ghosts, monsters, and evil witches. And, they expressed their fright so vividly. They screamed, cried, and buried their faces in my chest and lap, or in pillows. (Ah, I miss those days.)

This time of year also reminds me of the fears and worries that haunt adults. But, instead of expressing them, we’re more likely to bottle them up…so much so we don’t realize that they block us.

We all have inner critics that haunt us. Coaches refer to these critics as “gremlins.” These voices tell us about all the bad things that could happen to us. Mostly, they tell us that we’re not good enough.

Gremlins can come from different sources. Maybe they echo the words spoken to us by an adult when we were children, and the memory of those words haunts us like a ghost. Others may originate in the critiques of well-meaning sources, which morphed or grew once in our heads.

The problem with gremlins is three-fold: They…

  1. Never really go away; they are a part of our psyche.
  2. Increase in volume when we’re trying to do something new or brave.
  3. Feed procrastination, guilt, and perfectionism, the “Three Deadly Roadblocks” for talented, caring moms.

So how do you quiet your gremlins in order to accomplish what you want to?

Here’s what I’ve learned working with my clients. The first step is to recognize them. Surprisingly, the mere recognition of your inner critics can be a powerful aid. So start by simply being aware of:

  • Their existence
  • When they come out
  • What they are saying to you
  • How they make you feel

Once you recognize your gremlins, the next step is to try to replace their voices with a more helpful one: a positive mantra. Following are a few examples of how this can work:

Gremlin: Look at you! It’s been over a decade, yet you still have your pregnancy belly fat!
Replacement mantra: I am working on improving my health.

Gremlin: Who do you think you are, thinking you can run a business part-time? You’re not doing enough to make this work.
Replacement mantra: I am going at a pace that is right for me.

Gremlin: Sally’s girls have made friends and built confidence having played soccer for so many years. Meanwhile, your kids have never played a team sport. Your girls are missing out.
Replacement mantra: My children have their own interests, and I support them in ways that are right for them.

The examples above are my own gremlins. My guess is that they are similar to some of yours, because I found they are similar to that of my clients. We’ve found such positive replacement mantras to be helpful. After some practice, the gremlins can become triggers of what to do next and prompts for getting unstuck.

This Halloween, be haunted by the ghosts and goblins that surround you, not the ones inside your head. And, make sure to have some sweets!

Happy Halloween!

An older version of this article was first published in October 2009.