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Drawing strength from my inner gremlins



“Hmm, are you sure you want to say that? They’ll find out you don’t know what you’re doing…”

“Working late again? Your daughter won’t forgive you this time.”

These are just a couple of the nagging thoughts that flood my mind on a daily basis, creating a constant source of mental distraction and filling me with anxiety.

Whilst these thoughts have played on my mind for some time, it was only until a recent two-day course of self-reflection that I confronted them head on, acknowledging them as the voices of my inner ‘gremlins’.

The two-day residential course, led by Shine Women’s Mentoring Service, was part of Engine’s Better with Balance programme, aimed at helping to support women within Engine and realise a vision of 50/50 male: female representation in leadership positions by 2020.

Aside from being an emotional journey of self-reflection - something I rarely allow time for – the course allowed me to better understand my gremlins and how to manage them.

Their voices tend to pop up at crucial moments. Whether I’m in a meeting, in the shower or lying in bed at 3am, the self-doubt and anxiety begin to creep in - every thought chipping away at my confidence.

Yet whilst I am already familiar with these voices, what the course showed me was that I’m not the only one who experiences them. And most importantly, by channeling them, they could become a strength - not a weakness.  

In practical terms, this started with one of the main challenges that was holding me back - not having the confidence to speak up in larger group meetings with senior and more self-assured colleagues. Quite honestly, these situations intimidated me - and still do a little.

I started by going toe-to-toe with my self-doubt gremlin to see who was right, and it forced me to speak up and prove the gremlin wrong. Did I sound stupid? No. Would it be easier to do it next time? Yes.

But it wasn’t just about challenging my gremlins, it was learning from them; learning that through preparation and practice I could conquer the fear.

For my important meetings with senior colleagues, I came prepared with a well thought-through point of view - not just a script I wanted to present. I used my gremlin to get me in the right frame of mind for the meeting, like a sparring partner who challenged me and asked the tough questions.

Now I have a love-hate relationship with my gremlins and take the same approach to managing them in my professional as well as personal life. I’m currently tackling the “you’re a bad parent gremlin”, although I’m not sure I will ever win that one.

However, ultimately, I have learned that rather than avoiding my gremlins, confronting them can help me get to the top of my game - even if the journey there is uncomfortable and emotional at times. 


Eve Bui, Group Account Director, WCRS