Anna Barez-Brown discusses her Gremlins – friend or foe?

Every Shine course is unique – and every single one teaches Cal and I something different – let alone the women that attend it. That’s the beauty of a group of women that have come together with a common purpose. It changes things and always creates total magic. Last time was now different.

One of the last Shine courses that we ran at our base in Lyme Regis was just like that. The women that attended were all new to each other and all came for different reasons and from different career backgrounds. But each of them brings a value and a new energy – and that’s what is incredibly exciting; we never know where it is going to take us.

This time we found ourselves changing our minds. Well – that may be an over-exaggeration, but we started to look at things a little differently. We met and befriended our gremlins.

Every single Shine course, without fail, we discuss gremlins. Gremlins are the the inner-critic, the saboteur, the conversation that we don’t even know we’re having. It’s something that women have far more than men, as men are better at compartmentalising their life. Women have the voice telling them that ‘you’re ‘only pretending’ to be good at your job’. It’s the little voice that tells us not to ‘blow your own trumpet because they’ll think your a show-off’, or that tells a perfectionist that nothing they do is ‘quite good enough’.

The thing is, the Gremlins exist for every one of us. We cannot possibly escape them and their nagging voice. They often keep us small and they divert our energy to the wrong place.

For example, my personal gremlin comes when I’m sitting in an airport in Zurich, feeling great after running an amazing programme, being paid well, meeting great people and spending time with some good friends. Then my gremlin says: “What on earth are you doing here – when you die your children will be the thing you think about – not this moment or how successful you have been or how many clients you have had! What a terrible mother you are!” It completely ruins my moment!

That’s what we have always historically talked about with the women at Shine. What does your gremlin say – how does it affect you – does it stop you from growing? But inviting our gremlins out in the open can really affect the energy in the room and it’s always quite a risky thing to do.

This time was different. This time we were all standing in a circle and I really felt the energy drop. I thought to myself – this really isn’t working. Usually we get them to act out their gremlin, we make it funny and keep it light, but it wasn’t working this time. Instead I said ‘right, take your gremlin and put it on the card, put the card in front of you and instead talk to your gremlin and think about one thing that is good about it’.

My gremlin reminds me of my children – it’s not a bad thing. He will always make sure that I am a good Mum as well and stick to my priorities. He’s there to regulate me and to remind me of the important things in life. I have another gremlin that tells me that I am not good enough, that I have to be better and do more. It is a big driver for my life! I use it to help me raise the bar and to play a bigger game.

We decided to turn it into a positive. How can you embrace your gremlin and have a different relationship. How can you make it your friend and be honest and say ‘I don’t want to be driven by you 100 percent, but a little kick from you helps me raise my game’.

They all did it and it worked. We talked about our gremlins, but we kept the energy high. They got to vocalise the gremlins inside their head, but they also made those voices their friend – at least their friend where they needed one!

So many of the self-help guides or psychology books that you will read will focus on silencing the voice of your gremlin, squashing it down so that it doesn’t rear its head; telling it to be quiet when it suddenly sneaks into conversation. But last week in our big sitting room in Lyme Regis, we found that a new technique has identified that sometimes Gremlins can truly be our friend.

Cal and I often see women that drive themselves incredibly hard to be a great Mum, a good boss, a caring and dutiful daughter and an attentive and supportive wife. It’s that Gremlin that is the ingredient that drives them – and more often than not, beyond anything that they need or have the energy to be. It is a fine line. Our gremlins certainly don’t always help us. Often that negative voice can prove incredibly debilitating for some people. That’s where we have found that Shine can help individuals to find the right tools within themselves to deal with their inner voice.

But what the latest workshop did show was that our gremlin can actually be used to good effect to make us better at what we do. What we were able to do was to reframe the relationship with our gremlin. It worked well and gave fresh energy – but I think that’s as much about making peace with your gremlin as it is about driving you to be better for it.

This technique is certainly something that we will be using from now on – it made an impact on the women we had with us and it maintained a great sense of positivity in the room.

How do you manage your gremlin?


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