Kicking the Arse of Self Sabotage

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

We all have a gremlin living inside us. This gremlin’s name is Self Sabotage. It’s the voice that tells you that you can’t do it. You will fail.

This gremlin could be some kind of primitive self-preservation mechanism. If you don’t try, you don’t risk heartbreak and failure. But it also seems to want to see us miserable. It doesn’t want us venture out and risk new things. It doesn’t want us to venture from the status quo. It keeps us in a rut, because the rut is safe and familiar, and even if we’re not happy in the rut, we have got used to being in it.

Some people let this gremlin rule their lives. They are also the same people who fuel other people’s gremlins. We all have people in our lives who tell us we will fail.  Whenever we hear that, our own gremlin gets a bit stronger. Hear it enough times, we might even start to believe it.

If you’re a writer, this gremlin is the voice that is telling you you’re no good. You will never succeed. You can’t really write very well at all. And it fuels the fear. You are afraid of rejection. But if you repeatedly tell yourself you’re a rubbish writer, you will never finish that novel, which means you will never get around to submitting it, which means you save yourself from the heartbreak of repeated rejection letters.

But it’s not good to listen to that gremlin, no matter how loudly it speaks to you. Plenty of songs have been written about how it’s better to have loved and lost than never loved at all, and so on. Some of them are pretty corny, but the sentiment is true. Sometimes you have to take chances. Sometimes the risk you take doesn’t work out, but sometimes it does, and you won’t know either way unless you give it a go. There’s another corny old adage that seems highly appropriate here. The things you most regret on your death bed will be the things you didn’t do – not the things you did. Even if some of those things proved to be mistakes in retrospect, at least you lived to tell about them.

So the next time you hear that Self Sabotage gremlin whispering to you that you’re going to fail – whether it be referring to your writing, or something else in your life – be sure to give that critter a good kick up the backside. That doesn’t mean it won’t come back – it invariably will. But the further away and more frequently you kick it, the longer it will take to come back. And when it does, at least you’ll be ready for it.


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