How to *Finally* Fire Your Negative Thought Gremlin

negative blog post

“There are so many people who will tell you that you can’t do this, but you have to make sure that your voice isn’t going to be one of them.”

― Pooja Agnihotri

Want more for your life? Fire your inner Gremlin.

I once knew a woman who played basketball in high school. She was a tough defensive player and led her team in steals. She would get the ball from her opponent and sprint down the court for a fast break and an easy lay-up. 

The fans in the stands would yell and scream each time she got the ball and cheer her on as she ran toward the basket, sure she’d make the simple shot and ensure a strong scoring lead.

And then, inevitably, just as she leapt to ease the ball into the net, she’d put too much spin on it, or hit the backboard too hard, or the ball would bounce off the rim. And down the ball would come, without anything to show for all her effort.

Later, she reflected on why this happened: 

“I used to get the ball, but then when I went for the fast break, all I could think was “don’t screw this up, don’t screw this up!!” And I’d miss it every time. I put so much pressure on myself to make the shot that I could never get the ball to go in the hole! 

And then, after all the cheering from the stands when I made the steal, I’d hear loud groaning and shame as the ball came down without the 2 points that were supposed to go with it. I still can’t believe I did that, more than 20 years later. Ugh.”

Before your fire your Gremlin, you have to SEE them

I wonder how my friend’s basketball game might have improved if she spoke to her self with more compassion and support? Perhaps she would have made more of those fast-break shots, and perhaps not.

But, she likely wouldn’t have continued to beat herself up for so long, and likely could’ve accomplished way more if she cheered herself on the way she surely supported her teammates.

Noticing your negative self-talk at age 15 (like my friend was when she missed all those layups) is a big ask, and not very likely to happen. But, the sooner you CAN recognize your Gremlin and what they tell you–sometimes all day every day–the sooner you can give them a new role to truly support you.

So, start by turning up the volume on your awareness of your inner Gremlin. When does she (or he) come out and what does she say? Would YOU say that same thing to a friend, a parent, a coworker if they did whatever you did just then?

How often do you hear negative messages from your Gremlin? Is her voice constant, or does she only speak up when you think you’ve done something REALLY bad? (Whatever that means to you.)

Where did your Gremlin come from?

Does the inner Gremlin’s dialogue remind you of anyone? Sometimes, we inherit our Gremlins from those who’ve come before us. Your Gremlin could sound like your mom, dad, teacher, or coach, for example. Perhaps they were critical or their love was conditional on performance.  This may have been verbally clear, or the judgment may have been implied and deeply felt by you.

And even if they never shouted at you, per se, if you heard them verbally bashing themselves or their behavior, you may have picked up your negative self-talk vicariously. For example, what about the mom who looks in the mirror often and exclaims, “Oooh, I just HATE these thighs!”

Chances are that you probably internalized the same message every time YOU look in the mirror, too.

Or, if your 8th grade teacher called you a lazy good-for-nothing, you probably took that message with you in some form throughout your life. If you make a mistake at work today, that voice may come up in your head with a vengeance.

No matter where or how your Gremlin got their nasty role in your head, you may feel it’s high time to lay them off–permanently! BEFORE you go wanting to get rid of this part of you, it’s important to understand it’s perceived payoff.  The fact is, we don’t do anything (even a “negative” habit or behavior) if it doesn’t serve us in some way.

For example, overeating may be comforting, procrastination may be protection from failure, or the social anxiety protects may be protection from rejection.  The payoff changes from person to person and behavior to behavior, but the point is, there is some payoff!

Dialing down the Gremlin Voice

It’s easy to say “just talk nicer to yourself,” but Gremlins don’t give up their coveted positions of power very easily.  Once you’ve identified when and how your Gremlin shows up and starts spouting off, you must understand it’s role or purpose in your life.  How is it serving you? Keep in mind, the answer will NOT be logical because this is the work of the emotional subconscious.

The awareness and understanding is the opportunity to make a different choice. At this moment, love and accept all of yourself. Perhaps even thank this part of you for helping you in whatever way it has.  And then changing that message will happen in small steps over time.

You might start an opposing dialog when you start hearing the old negativity. Something in the way of gratitude actually works well. Like, “Gee thanks, Gremlin, for your well-intentioned words, but they don’t work for me anymore. I know you’re trying, in your way, to make me better, but I’m good and you’ll can relax for now.”

And then, it’s awesome if you can follow up that negative speak with something positive with which you can agree. Like, if your Gremlin just commented *again* about your thighs, you might try following that with “these thighs are strong and let me go walking in nature whenever I want!”

At first, you may feel a little awkward with it, but with time, replacing your Gremlin language gets easier.  Remember, compassion, love, and patience with yourself. 

Hire a NEW voice with the help of meditation

When you begin this process of change, it’s helpful to have support and a wealth of positive dialog ideas to build new thought patterns. That’s where meditation can help you tremendously. Start with this powerful practice to support Loving All Your Parts. 

For more personalized support to get to know your inner Gremlin (or critic, judger, worrier, or any other part), a hypnotherapy session is an extremely effective tool on your journey or personal growth.

I look forward to supporting your “becoming” process. It never ends, btw. And with practice and support, you’ll have a full library of encouraging self-talk that feels GOOD, gives you confidence, and helps you fully understand your value as a human figuring it all out.

Take good care,

–Sara


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About the author, Sara

Sara is the founder of The Mindful Movement and the owner of Coreworks Fitness, a Pilates and Yoga studio in MD. Sara is also a Pilates and CoreAligh Master instructor with Balanced Body.

Sara is passionate about helping others grow and live mindful, fulfilled lives. She helps others move better, feel better, live with a deep awareness, gratitude and their whole heart. She strives to inspire others to live authentically and passionately in love and abundance.

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The Mindful Movement

“The past is gone, the future is not yet here.  If we do not go back to ourselves in the present moment, we cannot be in touch with life.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh

Whether this is your first time practicing meditation, or you have joined the journey with me to deepen or reignite your practice, I am grateful you are here now.

Know that this journey inward may not always be easy, but it can offer profound benefits when practiced regularly. And like any other skill, it takes practice and patience to experience progress.

Start, Deepen, or Re-ignite Your Meditation Practice With This FREE 7-Day Foundations of Meditation and Mindfulness Course