April 6, 2020
Everyone Thinks You’re Doing a Great Job. Why Don’t You?

By Annette Rubin

Annette Rubin
With a major leadership turnover looming for nonprofits, due to baby boomer retirements, organizations need to cultivate strong successors ”“ and one way to do that is to ensure that potential leaders recognize and are able to work to their fullest capacity.

Achieving that goal includes banning the gremlin.

A veteran nonprofit professional who was facing a major leadership challenge recently wondered if she just wasn’t cut out to do the job. Here was a highly successful, nationally recognized leader in her field who was questioning her strength as a leader. This was a strength that had clearly been demonstrated. So why was she questioning her capability? It turned out to be the gremlin, the inner critic that saps the confidence of many successful people.

Too often, outwardly successful and experienced nonprofit professionals inwardly believe they are fooling everyone and are really not good enough to achieve their goals. This negative self-talk can undermine even the most successful individuals and limit their effectiveness.

So, what is the gremlin? It is that little green creature who sits on your shoulder and whispers into your ear:
  • You’ll never be successful in this role.
  • Who do you think you are to attempt that project?
  • You couldn’t possibly succeed at that!
  • You’re just not good enough.
  • Don’t you know that everyone assumes you will fail?
Why are gremlins bad? Having that gremlin or inner critic questioning your ability undermines your work and progress. It inhibits you from achieving your full capacity. It prevents you from pursuing your goals. And, beyond the impact in the workplace, it is just plain demoralizing and detrimental to your emotional well-being.

Unfortunately, the presence of this gremlin is very common. Nonprofit leaders who by all outward measures are effective, well-respected, and experienced, all too often grapple with this challenge.

What can you do to conquer the gremlin? Much has been written about ridding yourself of negative self-talk ”“ the gremlin. The bottom line is that it takes focus and a change in attitude and how you treat yourself. Here are the basic steps for banishing the gremlin.
  1. Recognize it. The first step to dislodge the gremlin is to recognize that it is there. Our inner dialogue is always at work, often without our even noticing. It is important to take the time to be aware of what your inner critic is saying to you. If and when you catch yourself in negative talk, be sure to take note. Be aware that it is happening so that you can fight back.

  2. Name it. It is important to realize that the gremlin doesn’t represent the real you. It is an internal voice that has developed over the years from exposure to external criticism or negative experiences. You can remove its power by giving it a name. I call mine Harry (don’t ask why). Once you’ve named the gremlin and separated it from the real you, you can tell it to go away and leave you alone.

  3. Take away its power by talking back. The gremlin’s role is to make you doubt yourself. But, you have the power to argue and prove it wrong. Ask yourself how true is it really that you can’t do that project when your history of success says otherwise? Then tell the gremlin that it is wrong. Ask yourself how you would judge yourself if you were viewing the situation from the outside. Then tell the gremlin that you don’t accept its destructive, false rant.

  4. Replace the critic with a positive voice. Creating a new inner voice that offers positive self-talk is a powerful strategy for getting rid of the gremlin. Begin by identifying positive things about yourself. Your gremlin may argue and fight back but keep reminding it and yourself of your abundant attributes, accomplishments, and expertise. If your gremlin tells you that you are not capable, make sure your positive voice shares stories that demonstrate your capability. Eventually the positive voice will drown out the gremlin.
Too many nonprofit professionals allow the gremlin to impact their sense of self and confidence. By recognizing its existence, giving it a name, talking back and replacing it with a positive voice the gremlin can be banished, allowing your true capacity and strength to flourish.

Annette Rubin, founder of Coaching to Potential, helps nonprofit professionals strengthen leadership, management, and strategic skills. Email her at annette@coachingtopotential.com.

November 2018

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