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Have you ever had one of these thoughts pop into your head?
          “You shouldn’t try that. You’ll fail.”
          “You’re not smart enough to do that job.”
          “People will laugh at you.”

Or what about:
          “That’s a ridiculous idea. Keep your mouth shut.”
          “Everyone knows you’re not qualified.”

If you’ve heard any of these statements coming from the space between your own two ears, you may be normal. And you may be hearing your Lizard Brain.
The older part of the mid-brain, the amygdala, is often referred to as “the reptilian brain.” Sometimes it’s helpful to think about this part of our emotional response system as “the Lizard Brain”.
We might think about the Lizard Brain as our negative, fearful self-talk that keeps us from trying new things or taking risks, because if we should fail, we may suffer embarrassment or shame.
The Lizard Brain isn’t all bad. The purpose of the amygdala is to alert and remind us of danger, but our brain in a high emotional state doesn’t always know the difference between what is actually life threatening, and what is not. It responds in almost the same way to negative performance feedback from your boss as it might to the sound of footsteps behind you in a dark alley.
Our Lizard Brain is simply the voice of fear with a mask of negative messages we may have heard at earlier times in our lives. The negative messages may have come from others—parents, teachers, peers, the media—or manufactured by our own self-doubt.
Everyone has a Lizard Brain, and it’s important to make sure we know our lizard and learn how to deal with it. Here’s today’s exercise:

Draw your Lizard Brain

Get out your paper and your markers and draw a picture of the lizard character in your head that speaks to you with fear and negativity. You don’t need to be an artist (and you may instantly hear your lizard say, “You can’t draw!”), but don’t let that stop you. Give your lizard a name, give him or her some color, and then identify what your lizard says to you.
What did you learn in that exercise? Show it to someone else, and describe how your lizard influences you.
Why do we ask you to draw it? Because it’s the first step toward separating yourself from your own negative, fearful thinking. By getting it out of your head and down on paper, you’ll be able to see your fears more objectively, and then you can decide what to do with them.


You may not be able to stop your lizard from intruding into your life completely. After all, the amygdala serves an important purpose in keeping us alert to potential danger, whether real or imagined. But there are ways to reduce the intrusions and take charge of your lizard brain so it has less power over you. When you take charge of your negative self-talk, you make space for courage and confidence to grow.

  1. NAME IT By drawing your lizard and giving it a name, you can begin to become more aware of your own patterns of negative self-talk.
  2. CLAIM IT Once you become aware that you are talking to yourself in negative and destructive ways, you can “own” that you are the source of the fear and negativity, and decide to make a change.
  3. TAME IT You may not be able to rid yourself completely of the annoying lizard, but you can tame it by setting limits to keep it quiet, deciding that you are going to step up and show your courage in spite of the lizard, or simply not listening to it when your reasoning brain presents evidence that the threat is not real.
Lizard "tamed"!

Lizard "tamed"!

That’s the Lizard Brain. We hope you’ve had some fun with our exercise today, and we encourage you to keep your drawing handy to remind you to keep a leash on your lizard as you continue to build your confidence.
Cheers! We’ll see you tomorrow.

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