Gremlins. ANTs (Automatic Negative Thoughts). Cognitive Distortions. Whatever you call them, these unconscious negative self-judgements are at best unhelpful and at worst extremely unhealthy.
Handling gremlins is one of the three pillars of empowerment and goes hand-in-hand with finding clarity and being grounded.
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A gremlin is a descriptive (and uncomfortable) name for thoughts that hinder self-esteem, positive actions, and progress in life. It is an internal dialog that we want to bring out of hiding so it can no longer secretly sabotage us.
The contradiction of gremlins is that they may actually have kept us safe at some point in our lives. We told ourselves stories to keep us safe. Perhaps these thoughts kept us from trying and risking failure, or they provided confirmations for times when we did fail. They became stronger and more and more treacherous—because they became the “truth.”
Similar to a virus, gremlins become more systemic until we believe them! Do any of these statements resonate with you?
- When you fail at something, you can feel as if you are a failure.
- When someone else is called pretty, you become not so pretty.
- When you don’t get the grades, you are stupid.
- When you don’t make the team, you are a loser.
- If someone else is called skinny, you must be fat.
- When you don’t get the position, well of course, it confirms that you just weren’t worthy.
And on we go. We just create more powerful gremlins (stories) to protect us on a higher level. We up the protective (albeit negative) ante and continue to keep ourselves safe and out of the game of life!
What do we know for sure about negative thoughts?
- We are unconscious of them.
- They were created to keep us safe from harm.
- We turned them into a truth—which makes them harder to recognize.
- They can harm and hinder.
- They can be changed.
That last one is the key to living the life you are entitled to.
Can you recognize a stuck pattern in yourself? Can you offer yourself compassion and give yourself space and time to choose your next chapter consciously? Self-compassion, love, and self-forgiveness will open the door to forward motion.
We will only grow, dream, and rise in life to the level that our gremlins will allow us to. What we think absolutely has that much power over us. I am convinced that turning negative thoughts into positive beliefs can take years off our journeys to success and happiness.
Understanding where the gremlins come from and how they developed can help us to defeat them. Once thoughts are questioned, new possibilities are not just conceivable; they’re inevitable.