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How to Make Friends with Your Inner Gremlin (Inner Voice)

inner voice or critic like cute dog wrapped in blanket

Are your inner thoughts driving you crazy? It's no wonder. A new study, using functional magnetic resonance imaging, finds that we have more than 6000 distinct thoughts every day! And, how we respond to that inner voice (or self-talk) can determine whether they push us forward or hold us back from achieving our goals.

In episode #49 of my Energize Your Life podcastTerry Boyle McDougall, an executive and career coach, and author of Winning the Game of Work, shares how to make friends with your inner voice.

1. Name It 

Terry has named her inner voice Ralph. And, she refers to it as her "gremlin."

Remember the 1984 fantasy horror film, Gremlins, produced by Steven Spielberg? Terry she compares Ralph to those cute fuzzy little gremlins. And, just like Gizmo (the character in Gremlins) can be controlled under the right circumstances, so can our inner voice.

The first step in making friends with your inner voice is to name it. That's to remind us that we are NOT our thoughts. Personally I know that some of my thoughts don't belong to me. Some are things my parents said to me, but they still pop up in my mind. Some are things I've heard friends, colleagues, and so-called "experts" say. You, too? 

Terry reminds us that our inner voice is sometimes just trying to protect us when he reminds us to avoid risks and take the safe road. Unfortunately, by doing so, our inner voice ends up stealing away some of our happiness and fulfillment, too. So, we have to move on to step two.

2. Tolerate It

The second step in dealing with our inner voice is to learn how to tolerate it. Just realizing that we are not our thoughts, helps here. 

You know how that person at the office - or that kid at home - can sometimes get a bit pesky? And, how, oftentimes, there's not much we can actually do to make it stop? Well, the same thing applies to our thoughts.

We don't have to listen or react to each and every one of them. Instead, when useless thoughts pop into our head, relax and don't over react. 

Could you image those thoughts as clouds in the sky and just watch them float on by? Or leaves floating down a river? 

What about promising yourself to think about it later? Maybe even give yourself a specific time in the day to address it. Journal about it first thing in the morning - or just before going to bed.

A woman once shared with me that she used to get very upset at work until she promised herself she could, "Cry at five." That's right. She actually gave herself permission to cry when she got off of work at five o'clock. And, it worked.

Instead of crying during the day - or stuffing her emotions completely (that's not healthy), she would wait until she got in her car at the end of the workday to have a meltdown.

Eventually, she stopped crying everyday. Just giving herself permission was enough to help her to realize she had a choice in how she reacted. She didn't have to listen to her inner gremlin if she didn't want to.

3. Question It 

Sometimes, instead of just tolerating those thoughts, you might need to question their continued usefulness.

Listen into your thoughts and then ask yourself if that thought is true. Maybe it's time to send it on its way - for good.

If the thought is true, and you're worried about the consequences, now's the time to ask yourself, "What do I need to do?" Remember, you always have a choice. 

4. Tame It

In the movie, Gremlins, those cute fuzzy creatures created havoc on the town when you did three things:

  1. exposed them to light
  2. got them wet
  3. fed them after midnight

What about you? Have you ever noticed that your inner critic is more rambunctious when you're not taking care of yourself? 

So what self-care will help you to keep your inner critic under control? Getting good sleep? Fueling your body with healthful foods on a regular basis? Pushing away from your desk and getting some move movement into your day?

5. Train It

Lastly, why not train your inner gremlin to your benefit so you can achieve your goals? 

Once you've decided that certain thoughts are not helpful to you, train your inner voice to replace those negative thoughts with a positive affirmation or mantra to take it's place. This might include:

  • I've got this
  • I'm good enough
  • I've done it before, I can do it again
  • It is what it is
  • I am calm and relaxed

There you go - five steps to help you to make friends with your inner gremlin. Once you name it, tolerate it, question it, tame it, and train it, you'll find those thoughts really are your best friends. 

Terry wrote all about training her "gremlin" in this blog

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