Reflections On Body Image: Talking Back To The Gremlin

dove-body-image-campaignWe all have it. . . that chatty critical voice inside our heads that lectures us, makes fun of us, scolds us, makes us feel “less than”.  I call my critical voice the “Gremlin” and finally realize that he has been the head honcho on a wrecking crew who seemed intent on making my life miserable.

Nowadays, I am able to stop him in his tracks most of the time.  But not always.  Sometimes when I don’t get enough sleep or I am feeling vulnerable, he sneaks up on me. Luckily I have learned not to hang out with him too long.

We acquire the voice of the Gremlin at a very young age. Whenever we were criticized for anything at all we somehow internalized that there was something wrong with us.  That we were not up to par.  That we had to be perfect in order to be loved.

Sometimes our well-meaning relatives told us we were chubby and should lose weight. “You have such a pretty face,” they would observe.  The kiss of death to so many of us!   So, we internalized the belief that we were not okay the way we were… that we had to be thin to be considered “pretty”.  And the only way we thought we could do that was to exercise for 3 hours a day and to limit our daily calorie intake to 500 calories.  The South Beach Diet.  The Atkins Diet.  The Protein Power Diet.   The Gremlin had us on them all!

We allow the Gremlin to make us feel unworthy, damaged, ugly, like there is something terribly wrong with us.  We allow IT to affect our life in numerous ways because we don’t really understand that the critical voice in our head is not really us.

The voices are all the spoken and unspoken messages we somehow internalized from our past.  And they became beliefs that we carried like a too cumbersome backpack.

Our critical voice is a force to be reckoned with because it is like a bratty child. . . it thinks it knows what is right for us.  It thinks it can help us if only we will listen!  But in reality, the Gremlin is a robber; it drains us of our life energy, our spirit.  It wants to control us, to sabotage us, to make our lives miserable.

My friend Pamela discovered her Gremlin during a workshop a few years ago. She named it “Ms. Loser”. She enjoys telling it off in ways that she was not able to do with her parents.  She barrages it with big ugly swear words!  Words she doesn’t dare use in her everyday life!  She tells her critical voice it is WRONG, WRONG, WRONG and she doesn’t have to listen to it! And like a petulant little girl she tells it that it is not the boss of her! That only she is the boss of her!  I love watching her face when she speaks of her glorious feeling of liberation!

I understand as I, too, have felt this same liberation. The liberation that comes from knowing that you are in charge of you.  And the best way to be in charge of you is to become aware of any voices that are not allowing you to live in your full magnificence.  And replacing those voices with thoughts that empower you to be the person you really are . . . joyous, alive, energetic and amazing!

Call to Action:

  1. The first step is recognition of the Gremlin’s presence.  You may even want to draw a picture of it. Is it fang-toothed and evil looking or skinny and slippery?  It is not always easy to see it as something that does not have your best interest at heart.  You may want to give it a name.
  2. Notice what feelings come up when you focus on negative thoughts (when you tell yourself “I should be thinner,” you might feel disgusted, sad, hopeless).
  3. Talk back to your Gremlin. Rant and rave it if it feels right.  “I know what you want to shame me but guess what?!  I know your tricks! I know you think I am not good enough unless I am as thin as a pencil but I refuse to buy into your lies!”
  4. Focus on your strengths. Use positive affirmations that are meaningful to you to replace some of the negative messages you have been feeding yourself.

Here are some affirmations some of my clients have found helpful:

I choose thoughts that nourish and support me.

I love and accept myself just as I am.

I am happy to be me.

I easily make choices that are good for me.

My body is whole and healthy.

I see the beauty in myself and in others.

I love myself and therefore my whole life works.

I am open to peace, joy and love.

Brenda Strausz is a holistic psychologist and coach with practice in Southfield, Michigan. She combines alternative and conventional modalities to guide you to live with more ease, joy and freedom. She strongly believes in the power of love and forgiveness. You can contact her at or from her website

You may also like:

New Year’s Reflections

The Power of a Listening Heart

Nine Ways to Open Your Heart to Joy

© Copyright 2011  Allison Stuart Kaplan LLC

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  1. Hi Brenda, I enjoyed this. 90% of my clients are women, and I believe to create a measureable change in the world we have to heal young women and mothers first. It’s not that men don’t need help too, its because women can empower our children inside the womb. Self esteem and body image, ‘I hate myself’, is the dominant force in illness amongst my clients. Awesome work Brenda. Love and peace, Simon.

  2. Brenda,

    Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful!

    This article reminded me of “why” I share self love workshops.
    “In order to love anyone or anything, we have to love ourselves first!” Every once in a while I catch myself reverting back to that space, from a long, long time ago where I let those voices control me. Although it was only a short time, every once in a while those voices want to speak up. I have learned to laugh really loud when that happens. “She” is not welcome in my life.

    Thanks for sharing so many great affirmations. I will share them with my daughter! Peace, hugs, love and BLISS! Teri

  3. Simon: I so agree with what you said!! We have to heal the world by spreading the message of self-love!

    Teri: ditto!! I am so glad we are going to do some workshops together. I am alsoo gald you are sharing the affirmations with your beautiful daughter.

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