Gremlins Are For Movies
Updated: Feb 13
How much do I age myself when I admit that I was in elementary school when Gremlins changed the "what should we be afraid of" game? Those little furry magical critters that you could snuggle one minute but have to run from the next were the things that my nightmares were made of. They were precisely what most of us really feared was lurking under the bed. I found myself thinking about Gremlins just this week, the result of a total collapse in focus, I suppose. And I realized how these Spielberg Gremlins could help teach us about our own. Yes, you heard me. Each one of us has our very own gremlin. Now are you scared?
Let's meet your gremlin. Your gremlin is the critic inside your head. He, or she, or however he would like to identify, speaks to you on a daily basis. He tells you that you can't do something because it is too hard for you and you will fail. He tells you to stop trying that new challenging thing because you will just be disappointed when you fail. Not IF you fail, WHEN you fail. Your gremlin keeps the door to your comfort zone wide open, while making all other doors and windows really small. He wants you to choose the big open door and forget about the others. If you happen to find one of those other doors, it is locked or blocked. And who blocked it? Your gremlin. He is a tricky little S.O.B. that's for sure.
But where did this guy come from? Your gremlin was created long ago. He emerged during a period in your life when you were tested. He emerged when something shook your confidence in self. He arrived on the tail of criticism that came from the mouths of others that you either actually heard, or you believed you heard. He found his way into your mind and repeated that criticism. And he hasn't stopped. And he now wields that power that you granted him. Every time you listen to him and step away from an exciting edge, you validate his claims. Every time you agree with his sentiment that you are just not good enough to do this task, he becomes the boss. And then you turn around and thank him. After all, he has protected you from what might have hurt. He has allowed you to stay away from any sort of emotional danger that could be lurking beyond that first step you are afraid to take. Your gremlin was created by a real incident, fed by a false narrative, supported by your lack of awareness, and empowered by your generated negative beliefs about who you are and what you can do.
How familiar do these phrases sound?
I'm not that type of person - I could never do that.
That is too risky, I'm not like the other people who do this.
I'm just not able to be like that or live like that.
This is just too hard for me. I'm not that smart.
That's not you talking. That is your gremlin. And if you do nothing else this entire year, make it your goal to get rid of him. Be a mafia boss badass and take him out. Bring him down to size by identifying his tactics. You know when he speaks, so call him out. Give him a name and tell him to knock it off when he raises his voice. Remind yourself what purpose he is serving and keep him removed from that particular situation by remembering that what happened before does not dictate what will happen again. A failure or a struggle from our past does not define who we are and what we can do. Ignoring the gremlin who makes such claims is key to realizing that simple truth. Just like in the movie, gremlins seem innocent enough. But once they have control, havoc reigns. And only we can stop them.
What is inside does more damage to us emotionally and even physically than what is outside. "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself" should be rewritten to say "the only thing we have to fear IS ourselves." We are the ones who have allowed the gremlin to invade and reside within, preventing us, one moment, one lost opportunity at a time, from doing what we want. Holding us back from trying something new. Trapping us in our comfort zone. And while that might protect us in the short term, it cripples us in the long.
"It's not what you are that holds you back, it's what you think you're not." These are the words of Denis Waitley, American motivational speaker and author. Sit with that for a moment. And make sure the only gremlins you pay attention to are the ones in your Friday night movie rental.