The Care and Feeding of Gremlins


We all have one.  For some it speaks louder than others. It’s that nattering voice in the back of your head  saying you can’t do that.

You shouldn’t do that.

If you do, you’ll just fail.

Might as well stick with what you’re doing.

Maybe you just have to work harder…

Some call it a Gremlin. Other people call it our inner critic or our elephant. Those of you less inclined to abuse metaphors might prefer to describe it as Negative Self-Talk.

My gremlin is a scary, ugly  thing that looks a lot like Venom (Spiderman comics) with his big, sharp teeth and long, snake-like tongue. He is loud, terrible—hysterical almost, when it comes to pointing out my shortcomings.

Well, he was. The best thing I ever did was learn to identify and hear him. Not listen—not ascribe value to what he was saying, just hear his ramblings and treat them as if they come from a half-senile old relative that nobody in the family really listens to because he smells bad, has personal space issues and is, well, mostly crazy.

Hear him, nod slowly while backing away in a non-threatening manner and say, “that’s interesting”.

It sound ridiculous to type it out now, but I could only realize the garbage of what he was saying when I removed my emotional reaction it. And like trying to pick out a conversation in a crowded room, it became easier when I identified him. I found my Debbie Downer.

After that, I started to have some fun with him. I took my kid’s Venom figurine and dressed him in some old Barbie clothes. Now, when he starts his rantings in my head, I  mentally dress him up in funny clothes and tell him to go play in heavy traffic. We have this back and forth that reminds me a lot of the Frog in the Blender.

It took a while, but he’s a lot less powerful now. He still occasionally reveals his scary head, but mostly he just sits in the corner knitting, no longer interfering with my inner Wonder Woman.

So today, look out for your inner Gremlin. Call them by name and introduce yourself. Just because they’re crashing your party doesn’t mean you should pretend they aren’t there. Take stock of what they look like and start to hear the words they say. Ask yourself if you would take them seriously if they were physically in front of you or if you would just roll your eyes (and/or throw your coffee in their face) and go on with your day.

It’s a gremlin. It doesn’t like sunlight, that will kill it. Same here. It’s time we put them in the spotlight and neutralized their power over us.

Gizmo: Bright light! Bright light!

By Veronica Ciolfi