Taming the Gremlin

Inner critic, gremlin, self-saboteur … by whichever name we call them, those annoying little voices can foil the best of intentions and leave us feeling deflated. 

The constant dialogue or tape in our heads that likes to remind us that “you’re not smart enough to do that” or “I don’t think you should even attempt that; you are way out of your league” can wear us down emotionally and mentally if we allow it.

My own inner critic speaks up whenever I am approaching a new idea or project, or if I have been acknowledged publicly for an accomplishment. The little gremlin also likes to help me set up unrealistic expectations with my time and energy; and when I can’t complete everything on the “list”, reminds me of all the tasks I never completed!

So what is this inner critic? Where does it come from and who is it? I believe that the inner critic is a combination of voices; our parents, teachers, peers and our own intuition. The intuitive aspect of the inner critic is there to protect and guide us, however, if we have assimilated others peoples’ beliefs and behaviours which do not serve us, we end up with a mix that can be critical, judgmental and that could tear apart our well being if it is allowed control.

I have adopted a few techniques to tame my little gremlin that may help you too. 

Awareness: When my little companion is talking too much I take a moment or two to discern first of all whose voice it is. If I find it is not mine but a parent, peer, boss etc, I decide whether or not there is any truth to the statements. If so, I look at what that truth is saying … is there something I need to do … is there a message in it for me. If I find that the statement is an old belief or someone else’s’ belief, I consciously release it, let it go. This is a process which takes time but which will eventually dissolve some of the negative and false criticism.  

Talk Back: If your inner critic likes to remind you that you’re not capable of something, focus on your strengths and accomplishments. Turn a negative into a positive affirming statement. You may choose to write in a journal the negative statements and then rewrite a positive truthful statement to replace it.

Build your self-acceptance: When we take to heart negative criticism, we are giving it power over us. Find ways to build your self-esteem and self-acceptance. If you are prone to needing approval from others, this is a very important step. Surround yourself with people who love and accept you completely and unconditionally. List the things you do well, what you like about yourself and all of your accomplishments and things that make you proud of yourself.

Be gentle with yourself: Make yourself a priority. Find activities and friends that build you up. Remember to acknowledge your perfection and wholeness.  Take good care of your body, mind and spirit.


Would you seek out a friend that is constantly nagging, complaining and draining your energy? Most of us would answer no, and yet we tolerate the sometimes constant barrage from our inner critic. Walt Whitman wrote “Re-examine all you’ve been told. Dismiss what insults your Soul.” May we remember this good advice!


Tucker Dinnes is a Life Wellness Coach who resides on Quadra Island.