Turning Your Biggest Critic Into Your Biggest Cheerleader

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I was five years old and starting first grade at a new school. Our class was divided into two groups: The Panda Bears and The Unicorns. Perhaps the teachers thought the students were too young to discern the difference between the groups.

Not this Panda Bear.

It was perfectly clear to me that unicorns were majestic, sparkly, and smart while panda bears were cute, roly-poly and, alas, not the brightest crayons in the box. I certainly preferred (and still prefer) charismatic mega fauna to mythical creatures, but that wasn’t enough to convince me that being a panda bear was a good thing. The message was clear to me: I didn’t belong. And I wasn’t worthy of belonging.

The goal during that school year seems to have been for all the Panda Bears to read aloud in front of the class. (The Unicorns could already read aloud, presumably, coz they were all sparkly and shit.)

I was a shy kid. Reading aloud in front of the class was not my thing. And I couldn’t read.

As the year went on, though, I learned to read. And the day finally came for me to read “A Dog on a Log” in front of the class. I was the last kid…the last Panda Bear. And when I finished reading what was likely not the most thrilling story about a dog on a log, the entire class cheered.

I. Was. Mortified. (And it still registers today as one of the most embarrassing moments of my life.)

I was different. I wasn’t worthy. I didn’t belong.

This is one of my earliest memories of my gremlin—the inner critic that tells us we’re not good enough. I held onto these messages throughout my childhood, adolescence and into adulthood. I gradually came to own my uniqueness, but I still heard the gremlin’s voice reminding me I was different. That I didn’t belong. That I wasn’t worthy. I carried these messages with me until coaching school in 2014, when my peer coach helped me give my gremlin a new job.

We all have gremlins. Sometimes they are quiet—usually when we’re in our comfort zones. But they tend to get ridiculously loud when we’re about to do something really awesome.

These gremlins are part of us. We unconsciously create them to protect ourselves from getting hurt—by insults from others, by failure or by embarrassment. Gremlins hate it when we stretch outside our comfort zones. They do everything in their power to keep us cozily wrapped in our barbed wire blankets. They tell us we’re not good enough, not smart enough, not strong enough, or not attractive enough. Basically, they tell us we’re not worthy.

Gremlins are very good at “protecting” us from harm, while, in truth, they’re actually “saving” us from our own greatness. Because our gremlins are part of us, we can’t crush them or make them disappear. We can change our relationship to them, however. We can give them a new job.

Imagine that mean, nagging voice you often hear when you’re about to take a risk or try something new. Imagine what it would feel like if you could transform that voice into something loving and supportive. Imagine what it would feel like if you could live with a cheerleader in your head instead of an enemy.

We can do that—you and me. We can turn the love on.

Want to find out how? Apply for a free discovery call here.