We all have one: a goblin, a gremlin, an inner critic, whose snarling and growling keeps us from feeling confident and worthy. Continuing with this season’s theme of “perspective,” let’s talk a bit about your goblin. Halloween is coming, after all!
Your goblin lives in your closet with the skeletons. He’s mean, cynical, negative, and likes to tell you you’re not enough, makes you feel guilty for not doing more at home, the office, for yourself?!!! If you were to imagine your goblin, he may sort of look like your partner from your first adult relationship, or maybe he looks a little like your old boss, or your tough-as-nails grandfather, or even your fifth grade teacher. Whatever form or combo your goblin takes, he’s not the core of who you really are, it’s just head trash! This type of energy is not something you want hanging around in your space when you’re trying to make a positive change in your life, grow your business…follow a new path, or even just get through the day.
When we hear or feel negative things about ourselves, especially when we’re young, we tend to remember them. Those triggers pop up when we’re feeling insecure, fearful, or ungrounded. We start to believe it’s true and before long it becomes a habitual type of trigger, some experts may even refer to it as the root of the issue. Bottom line is for you is to step one become aware of certain “trigger” situations: we condition ourselves to react based on this memory or feeling. And when we practice a habit for long enough, it becomes a belief. Like a tree sending roots into the earth, we feed our goblin out of our past circumstatances, and fears.
Here’s an example of the evolution of a goblin.
When Sara was just out of college, she went to work for a certain corporation. She was young and a little insecure, and had no real-world experience to speak of. One day, her boss (a critical, overbearing type who was probably pretty insecure herself) assigned Sara a project that she wasn’t sure how to approach. Being unsure, and wanting to please, Sara asked her boss where to begin. Her boss replied, “What are you, an idiot? Didn’t they teach you anything in college?” Sara was devastated. She knew she wasn’t an idiot, but her boss had just told her she was.
Sara finished the project, with no feedback—positive or negative—from her boss, and soon after left the company. Soon after starting her new job, another project crossed her desk that she wasn’t sure how to approach. She thought about asking for help, but was afraid her new boss would react in the same way her old boss had. Finishing the project on her own caused her a lot of stress and sleepless nights, and in the end, the result was satisfactory—but it wasn’t stellar, and Sara knew it. She heard her old boss’s voice in her head, calling her an idiot, and began to wonder if the woman had been right.
The memory that kept resurfacing for Sara became a habit: it reappeared automatically every time she was put in a situation where she needed help or advice. She conditioned herself to believe not only that it was the act of an idiot to ask for help, but that she was ill-prepared and ill-educated in her job field. When she got laid off last year, she was terrified to look for a new job, because she had honestly come to believe that she was unworthy of being hired.
Now, Sara is a fictional character, and I’ve simplified her story. But many of us have goblins living in our closets, and their evolution can be traced back to a single incident or memory that impacted us deeply. Our beliefs—our perspectives—evolve out of our experiences. Just like an athlete conditions her body to perform in a competition, we condition our minds to certain perspectives or beliefs. If these beliefs serve us, that’s great. But often, they don’t.
So the next time you hear your inner critic yapping away in your ear, telling you you’re not good enough, you’re stupid, you’re worthless, etc., try to pull your goblin out of hiding. Give him (or her!) a name, and try to follow him back to the experience, or set of experiences, that shaped him. Once you’ve pulled your goblin out of the back of the closet and into the light, he might not look so scary after all.
Want to learn more about how to give your goblin the boot? Pick up Taming Your Gremlin: A Guide to Enjoying Yourself, by Richard David Carson. This is a great read, not at all your typical “self-help” book.