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Drawing strength from my inner gremlins

27TH OCTOBER 2018

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“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. 

AUTHOR

Eve Bui, Group Account Director, WCRS