How to control your inner 'gremlins', according to a life coach

Second guessing ourselves, or not believing in our own capabilities, can hold us back from doing things that make us truly happy, says life coach Rebecca Hass — but there are ways we can control our inner voices.

They're the little voices that can hold us back — but we can control them, says Rebecca Hass

We all have inner voices that keep us from reaching our full potential, according to life coach Rebecca Hass, who calls them our "gremlins". (Inti/Flickr)

Have you ever decided you wanted to learn a new skill or take up a new hobby, but ended up talking yourself out of it?

According to life coach Rebecca Hass, there's a voice (or two or three) inside all of our heads that often comes out to spoil the party.

"It's a narrative, it's a story, it's a conversation we don't even realise that we're having. And we talk ourselves out of things before we start them," Hass told host Sheryl MacKay on CBC's North by Northwest.

"It's called the inner-critic, the saboteur — but I often call it the 'gremlin,'" she said, adding that we can control these "gremlins", with the right practice.

Hass says the inner gremlin takes many forms: the perfectionist tells you it's probably not wise to try something new because you won't be good enough. The pretender tells you you're a fraud, and everyone's going to catch on. And the humble one says you're being vain and showing off.

She says the gremlins are often the fear of failure or a manifestation of low self-esteem — and they're completely normal.

"This is something that more often poses as the voice of reality. I think sometimes it really is acting as a cushion so we can prepare ourselves from disappointment, so we don't have to be too sad if it doesn't work out," she said.

"It never wants us to be hurt ever again."

Controlling your gremlins

But, she says, sometimes the gremlin in your head can get out of control.

Rebecca Hass is North by Northwest's newest columnist. (Rebecca Hass)

"It has a time and a place, but when it becomes a negative self-talk voice that stops us from moving forward, it's actually reacting to something that's not really there — it's catastrophizing something."

Hass says sometimes these gremlins can deflate what we actually want to do, like take a risk.

She says unfortunately, we can't get rid of them — but we can take back the power.

"If you can hear it and say, 'Wait a minute, I think this is a fear voice,' then you can start to make some progress with it."

She suggests once you identify your gremlin, set a one-minute timer and let it rant and write down everything it says in that one minute.

When the time is up, have a read.

Hass acknowledges that sometimes what you write down can be more cruel than you would expect, but it will help highlight what the prevailing fear is so it can be addressed.

"Look for repetition. Sometimes you feel like it has a hundred things to say, but it really is only saying one or two things over and over again."

See if your fears actually match up with your goals. More often than not, Hass says they don't. If you're afraid to try something new because you're worried that you won't be good at it, remember that most times you're not trying to be the best — you're just trying to expand.

"Shine a flashlight on that voice, get to know it. Take it out for tea sometimes and have a conversation."

With files from CBC's North by Northwest


To listen to the full interview, click on the audio labelled: How to confront your inner 'gremlins', according to a life coach