Fear has a funny power over us, doesn’t it?
While I was doing my coaching training, I had the good fortune of being paired up with a corporate director during one of the more intense parts of the weekend. Given how vulnerable we were each supposed to be, I got to hear a familiar story. One of how the expectations of success and of being someone who everyone thought you had to be, were in fact crushing the main character of this story.
The theme of the exercise we were doing revolved around our inner demons: the fears and doubts that can absolutely crush us. At one point or another, these pop up to stop us from taking the next step forward. The successful are no exception; a great number of them suffer from imposter syndrome after all.
Why This Even Matters
I cannot tell you how often I run into a “successful” person who doesn’t quite feel successful and instead feels like a fake. These people often enjoy high positions at their companies, make quite a bit of money and don’t have much to complain about.
Yet they feel like they should be happy with everything they got in life. They’ve been reaping the benefits of a good upbringing, career and family. So why can’t they be happy?
Because their definitions of happiness aren’t necessarily the same as those around them.
As they are continually forced into a mold of who they should be, they are stretched to brittle extremes until they burn out. Instead of reaching this point, you may want to evaluate how much of an impact other people’s expectations have on you.
This scenario is only one example of how your inner demons can haunt you.
So how do you deal with them?
A Safe Place
Learning to deal with your inner demons is a long process. Having a safe haven to be vulnerable really helps with that. How so?
Biologically speaking, if we do not feel safe, then we are triggered into a fight or flight response. Studies have shown that even though we are well beyond the time when mankind had to fight everyday for survival, we still have this instinct in us.
When does it flare up? Anytime we feel judged or attacked.
Observe your reaction the next time you feel this way. You probably won’t be in the mood to share what’s really bothering you.
Find a method that suits you best in how you reflect. This could mean writing in a journal. You may have a nonjudgmental mentor to confide in. If you want external resources, this may mean a visit to a therapist or finding a coach.
Whichever method you pick, the goal is simple: to give yourself the space to explore your fears and doubts, how they impact even the most insignificant areas of your life and why they are there.
You may not get all the answers you wanted at first. But you’ll gain a great deal of self-awareness.
While you may wish your inner demons or gremlins didn’t exist, pretending they are not there does not help you. In fact, they are probably invisible to you because the thoughts and behaviors you have due to them are ingrained in your habits.
The reason why self awareness is so important is because of this: how you do anything is how you do everything.
When I was in a workshop, the trainers has us play a game. There were only a few vague rules for the participants to go on and because of that, we each made our own inferences. The game was only a portion of the program but it ran for a short time each day of the workshop. What happened at the end?
Everyone realized that how they played this game had many parallels to how they approached life. If someone was competitive, then they thought about the rules differently than someone who used the game as a reason to meet more people in the room.
There is a reason for every action that you do. How often can you catch yourself holding yourself back? What if by changing a few perspectives or behaviors, you were able to significantly alter your life?
That’s what being aware of your gremlins can do.
While your fears and doubts are a part of you, they are not you. How much influence they have over your life depends on how much influence you give them.
By now you have developed a set of habits that dictates your behavior without so much as even a thought from you. Some of those behaviors were born because of your gremlins.
Now the big question is: which ones are they?
Hint: the ones holding you back from your goals