Secret #6: Conquering Saboteurs


We’re half-way through the Next Chapter book club! Secret #6 from Gail McMeekin’s “The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women” is all about our saboteurs, a.k.a. our inner critic, gremlins, and one of my favorites… the itty-bitty shitty committee (Pardon my French! Oh, yeah and sometimes that committee is not so itty-bitty!).

Gremlins are those voices in our head (or sometimes in real life!) that tell us “You can’t,” “You’re not good enough,” and all those other messages that hold us back. Gremlins like to keep things status quo, so it’s no wonder that they get louder when we’re going after our big dreams!

One of the ways that I find myself getting stuck is actually even more complex than just a singular gremlin. Many times it’s a whole cast of characters creating a cacophony of chaos in my head. These characters are neither good nor bad. They just each have their own particular agenda. Last year, I took a course called the Inside Team from one of my coaching mentors. This model opened up a whole new way of looking at what gets in my way. Most importantly, it gave me tools for helping myself and my clients tease apart the sometimes very subtle internal dynamics of the various voices or inside teamplayers.

For my specific situation, I wrote out all the different things I was hearing in my head. This is best to do when you catch yourself saying, “A part of me wants this but another part of me wants that.” For example, I had a player who was very impatient. When I gave him voice, he would pound his fist and say, “Why aren’t your projects done yet?” But another, more playful part of me just wanted to do work when she was inspired. There was also another part that really got on my case about doing my homework, getting the right research done and figuring out the numbers. Needless to say, none of them were getting along!

Before I got it all down on paper, I just replayed this dialogue in my head over and over again (without even realizing it). And I was left feeling pretty stuck and frustrated. However, once I became aware of how these different players were at odds with each other, I was able to redesign how they interacted with each other in a way that supported me and my goals. I tapped into the wiser part of me to lead my team and to call upon the skills and strengths of each member. For example, even though the impatient player was very loud, he had a talent for keeping this moving things forward, especially if he teamed up with my “project manager” who created more manageable milestones that the more playful part of me could get excited by.

What different voices (gremlin-like, allies or other) do you hear? Which ones are louder and which ones haven’t had much air-time? When you map out the dynamics of your inside team, what becomes clearer? And how can you have your team players work in better partnership with each other toward your goals?

P.S. – Make sure to listen to Andrea Scher’s interview with Jamie. She’s got some great tips on getting past gremlins.

10 thoughts on “Secret #6: Conquering Saboteurs”

  1. I hate it when the “itty bitty shitty committee” becomes a cacophony. That is the toughest to get past. But I like to tell them to piss off and keep trying anyways.

  2. I love your ideas for getting that gremlin team whipped into shape so that it is productive, rather than destructive. I hate the bad voices, but can’t help wondering if there is a little truth in them, or more importantly, a little use in them. Like the one that says I’m not good enough… could that one spur me to higher heights?? Or the one that says I’m not going fast enough… could that one keep me moving? Maybe the I’m too tired one is there to remind me to take care of myself?

  3. I love the idea of the gremlins working as a team. It’;s like having an internal boot camp to keep you on track and performing at your optimum level, and isn’t this what we want?

  4. Oh I can so relate to your cast of characters! In fact, I named mine. 🙂 I love how you made them work for you. I must consider this 🙂

  5. I have different voices, too, and agree that giving them room to say their piece helps — instead of just running the dialogue in my head. By writing it down (“giving them the podium”), by *engaging* the voice, I can start to dig into what’s really going on.

    For instance, I often find that the scolding cynic is motivated by *fear* of something, and is trying to protect me/us in the only way she knows how. If I can engage that voice and discover what the root of the problem is, then I can respond to that voice in a way that honors us both. Sometimes it’s as simple as saying (to the voice), “Thank you. I realize you’re trying to help.” and then I can move forward.

    I want to embrace all of those voices. I don’t want to fight with them, ignore them, or let them call all the shots.

  6. itty bitty shitty committee!

    Oh that is such a fabulous description.

    This exercise seems perfect for me right now….just perfect.

    I am going to get out my journal. This is going to be good.

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