This is Why You’re Stuck

Posted March 12, 2014 by Rebecca Niziol in Life After Five


This is a gremlin.

You might be wondering what I mean by “gremlin.” When I talk about them most people think of the furry creatures from the 80’s movie. Nope, not those.

Gremlins are what I, and many other great coaches/therapists (like Brené Brown), call one part of the inner workings of your mind. Some call it your ego, some call it mental chatter, some call it fear. We’re all referring to basically the same thing. It is that part of you that holds you back from taking big risks. It is that part of you that curses at you when you mess up, saying things like “You’re such an idiot” or “Of course you made that mistake again!” It is that part of you that tries to convince you that you won’t be able to achieve what you want (get the guy, land the job, etc.).

As much as you might hate it, it is a part of you. Because of that, you can’t destroy it, pulverize it, or shove it over into the corner of your mind. It is there, and it’s going to be there for the rest of your life. Might as well make friends with it. As Tim Gunn says, we’ve got to “make it work.”

The challenge is your gremlin is a part of you that you don’t want to see. It is the darkness, the vulnerability, and the ugliness that you avoid at all costs.

You know it’s there, but you sure as hell don’t want to look directly at it much less do a bunch of weird coaching work around it. It’s maybe not the most fun, but it might just be the very thing that cracks open that hidden barrier you’ve been hitting your head against. Of course you can always stay stuck, frustrated, or overwhelmed if you’d like by continuing to push it down or fight against it. If you want better results and more uplifting feelings, read on.

We all have a backpack full of limiting thoughts, outdated beliefs, and self-sabotaging behaviors that we’re lugging around. If you were to dig into the root of all that, time and time again it comes back to your gremlin. You might have one gremlin or you might have a couple. Either way, these parts of you are the birthplace of your fear and insecurities.

Imagine how your life might change if you can make peace with your gremlin. Suddenly you will have control over that part of your mind, instead of letting it control you. Some of those negative thoughts will still pop up, but they won’t overtake your day. You’ll step into a power you never knew you had. There’s a lot of empowerment hoopla out there… and I’ve tried most of it. Working this way, inside out, by digging deeply into yourself and your own mind is the one way I’ve found you can actually create true lasting change. There might be other ways; I just have yet to find another that works so well, especially when it comes to these tricky parts of our minds.

Gremlins have a very distinct job, and they are quite good at them: keep you safe and comfortable. This part of our mind is deeply connected to our survival instinct (that fight or flight reaction). At some point in your life, you were hurt. Whether physically or emotionally your systems registered pain and felt uncomfortable, and your gremlin was either created, or gained strength in that moment. It is there to protect you. It is there to help. That’s why it’s always going around telling you all these limiting thoughts. It knows if you believe them you won’t take action, you won’t change, and you won’t go for it. You’ll keep doing the same thing you’re doing, because that’s more comfortable, and therefore will be able to (it thinks) avoid the chance of more pain.

There’s some truth to this whole gremlin operation. When you take a risk your chance for success goes way up, but so does your chance of failure. When you fall in love you can either end up with the partner of your dreams, or with your heart shattered in a million pieces. Your gremlin doesn’t want you to get hurt, so it tries to convince you to limit any possibly painful circumstances in your life. If you’re feeling like you’re stagnated at work, now you know why… a gremlin. If you’ve been frustrated because you know what to do, but you’re not doing it… a gremlin is there stopping you.

For most us, our gremlins are rocking the show. This leaves us feeling limited, stuck, alone, frustrated, angry, unfulfilled, and afraid.  Deep down we’ve all got a big fear that’s acting as our greatest motivator in the form of a gremlin. If you can uncover the fear behind your gremlin, the one that’s fueling it every day, you can begin the process of regaining control over your mind and therefore your life. What’s your fear?


I am afraid I’m not good enough.


I am afraid I’m not loved/lovable.


It comes back to those two fears again and again. Admitting what you are afraid of is the first step in moving beyond it. When you are no longer making excuses as to why you’re not doing something, and instead just say, “I’m afraid,” it is incredibly freeing.

When would NOW be a great time to discover your big fear and face your gremlin? If you want some help in that journey, let’s talk. If you can face your gremlin (and you can), you will see the part of yourself that either terrifies you or you’ve been fighting against for years really isn’t so bad. That’s what I realized when I started doing this work. My gremlin happens to look like a super model with a fierce head of hair that wears a man’s power suit. Who knew?! After giving it a name, a face, and a form I could finally wrap my head around this part of me that seemed so out of control. You can do the exact same thing.

About the Author

Rebecca Niziol

Rebecca Niziol, ELI-MP, is many things: a life coach, yoga teacher, dancer, event planner, connection catalyst, and your new best friend. Her mission is to empower others to live the authentic life of their dreams. After years of traveling North America and Europe, she is happy to have found a home and community in Chicago.