As I’ve struggled to rein in my ego (who I call Victoria Rochester – you can read all about her here), I’ve become more astute at noticing when Victoria is running the show. What I’ve noticed is that she tends to take over at large public events like the Hay House conference or South By Southwest, where my Inner Pilot Light, who I call Lissa-nanda, experiences a bit of social anxiety and has a tendency to hide out. I’ve also noticed that when Victoria takes over, things tend to go south, especially when it comes to my relationships.

I’ve been trying to witness Victoria when she shows up in my life, not to judge her, not necessarily even to change her, but just to recognize her and realize she is not me. She is part of me, but she is not the whole me.  My goal is to notice Victoria but gain the wisdom and courage to let Lissa-nanda make my decisions and operate my life. Which, trust me, is easier said than done.

What I Notice

Last week, when I was at the World Domination Summit, Victoria was in her element.  She was hanging out with “somebodies,” getting dolled up in fancy duds, having lunch with all the right people, and generally feeling pretty self-righteous.  But what I noticed is that when Victoria starts feeling insecure or is valuing her own worthiness, she pulls this really annoying fast one and starts leveraging her connections to “important” people to make herself look good.

It’s subtle. If you didn’t know Victoria the way I know Victoria, you might not even notice it.  She doesn’t name drop or rub it in your face. But she does let slip the kinds of things only someone intimately acquainted with these important people would know. In doing so, Victoria demonstrates that she’s “somebody” because she’s close to other “somebodies” and privy to the details of their lives.

Noticing how Victoria was acting left me feeling… I’d say ashamed, except that after hearing Brene Brown talk about how shame is poison and makes us do unconscionable things, I know better.  Brene makes the distinction that guilt = I did something bad, and shame = I am bad. So let’s say I felt guilty. Busted. Juvenile. And motivated to stop using the privilege I have of close connection to “important” people to make Victoria feel more secure.

(Victoria wants you to know she had lunch with Brene Brown at World Domination Summit because she thinks you’ll like me more. Lissa-nanda doesn’t give a flip if you know this.  And so it goes…)

How I Talk About People

This realization made me more aware of how Victoria shows up, not just at big public events, but almost anytime I talk about other people. She shows up as gossip. She says things about others that position her to appear “superior.”  She likes to make people wrong when they’re not as “evolved” as she is (which, trust me, isn’t much).  She judges – a lot.

She also likes duality – right/wrong, black/white, better/worse, smart/stupid, wise/foolish, awake/asleep.

When she feels threatened, Victoria winds up badmouthing people she adores, criticizing people who light her up, and generally acting like a high school mean girl dressed up in spiritually evolved clothes. Again, it’s subtle. You might not notice it at first, and you’d probably have to be in my inner circle to witness it. But trust me on this. If you’re in my inner circle, you’ve probably heard Victoria’s cry for attention, her need to feel seen and heard, her underlying sense of unworthiness creeping out and rearing its ugly head by making other people wrong.

The Damage

All this name-dropping, gossip, judgment, and criticism isn’t without consequence. Such behavior erects a barrier between me and the people I love the most. After all, if I might turn around and bad-mouth you to someone else, I eat away at your trust in me. If I betray something you confided to me in order to make myself appear more important, you’re unlikely to tell me something in confidence again. If I leave you feeling criticized and judged, you may not want me in your life anymore. And that would be tragic. Because intimate connections with kindred spirits are precious and sacred and not easily replaced.

If, on the other hand, I let Lissa-nanda run the show, I leave those I love trusting me, knowing that any imperfections they reveal to me will not be judged or criticized, and feeling safe to be vulnerable.  As Brene Brown teaches in her TEDx talk, which I referenced in my TEDx talk, this kind of safety to be vulnerable is mission critical when it comes to love, intimacy, connection, and belonging.

Reining In Victoria

I don’t like the way I talk about even the people I love the most sometimes. I don’t know why I can’t keep my trap shut and remember what my mother told me about not saying anything at all if I don’t have something nice to say.

But I do know this. Noticing how Victoria shows up in how I talk about other people is helping me recognize this tendency, and instead of judging Victoria or having a smackdown with her (which is totally counterproductive and doesn’t work anyway), I’m trying to gently remind Victoria she is safe, worthy, precious, valued, and important, without having to tout her connection to important people or criticize/judge others.

Enter My Inner Pilot Light

This is where my Inner Pilot Light, who I call Lissa-nanda, comes in handy.  Lissa-nanda knows I’m worthy, not because I’m friends with “somebodies,” but because I hold within me a spark of divinity, just like you do. Lissa-nanda doesn’t need to criticize or judge others in order to feel better. Lissa-nanda is pure love, and when she shows up and runs the show, she doesn’t need to behave in ways that make people thinks she’s important. She has nothing to prove and nobody to impress. When she runs the show, things go much more smoothly.

So I’ve been trying to call her out more when I attend conferences and other public gatherings. Now, when I’m able to notice Victoria taking over, spouting off about other people, I’m able to shift gears, gently inform Victoria that her services aren’t needed at the moment, and let Lissa-nanda run the show. When Lissa-nanda is in charge, I see with what I call “magical eyes,” and I’m able to hone in on the divinity within everyone, rather than calling out their shadows. I’m also able to rest in the knowledge that I’m valuable and worthy, that I belong and fit in, that I’m good enough/cool enough/important enough/whatever enough just because I’m me. And that’s simply enough.

How Do You Talk About Other People?

Am I alone in how I let my ego self take over when I talk about other people?  Do you notice yourself doing the same thing?  Do you get smug or self-righteous? Do you share with others juicy details about someone else’s life that are better kept in confidence? Do you casually let slide that you know people who might position you to appear more important because of your connection with them? Do you judge or criticize others when they do things you don’t think are “right?”

Somehow, I suspect I’m not alone.

A 40 Day Gossip Cleanse

They say it takes 40 days to break a habit, so I’ve decided I’m going to spend the next 40 days trying really hard to keep Victoria in check when it comes to talking about other people. For forty days, I’m going to make an effort not to use my connections to famous people to lift myself up. I’m also going to try to abstain from judging, criticizing, or participating in anything that could be construed as gossip. If I talk about someone else, I want to make sure it’s my Inner Pilot Light talking, not Victoria.

What about you? Do you want to join me? Please share with me how you keep your ego in check when it comes to talking about other people. And if you’re inspired, join me for a 40 day gossip cleanse and post how it’s going for you in the comments here.

Keeping my mouth shut,

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28 Comments

  1. Sara

    Hi, Lissa,

    I know that your article didn’t ask about techniques or strategies to avoid gossiping, but I’ll offer one just in case anyone is interested. When I’m speaking (or writing) about someone to another person, I just make it a point to express myself as though the person about whom I’m speaking (or writing) is standing right over my shoulder. This helps to keep me clearly in line with what I feel is okay to share with someone else. Would this person mind my sharing this thought? No? Good. If they would? Then I keep it to myself.

    (Now if I could just stop THINKING gossip …)

    🙂

    So yeah, count me in on that action!

    Reply
    • Maria

      Hi Sara,

      That’s a really good tip! I’m going to try that from right now! And I agree with the stopping thinking gossip also, but baby steps for me. So, I’m joining you and Lissa and will keep you posted!

      Reply
      • Donna Workman

        Sara

        Great strategy…count me in. I am excited to joing in with such a realistic approach to living a good life
        Donna

        Reply
  2. Suzy Carroll

    Even the word gossip, sends my entire body and soul completely out of alignment. The interesting thing about letting go of gossip, is sometimes it means letting go of friendships. This is what I had to do. For years I had this close friend, but whenever we got together I felt drained and depleted. I finally recognized that her favorite conversation focus was talking about others. My favorite conversation focus is talking about ideas! The friendship no longer felt authentic and it certainly was not feeding my soul, so slowly I let it go and now I surround myself with people who desire deep connection and talking about ideas, not about people.

    I love your honesty and your bravery ~ first step is recognizing, the next step is taking action, which you have done so elegantly!

    Reply
  3. Susan

    How universal this experience is! Since I was a young child I have felt a little “different” and experienced a good dosing of social bullying. I was often the topic of gossiping conversation and somewhere, early on, I decided I was not going to gossip, or talk about others in mean or spiteful ways. I did not develop the fine art of gossiping and still am quite repulsed by the meanness of it. Instead I cherish speaking of peoples beauty and strengths if at all.
    Another little trick I read about … is to imagine “God” (or inner pilot or Spirit) standing right beside you when you speak…. that sure changes what you say!! Thank you Lisa for your honesty…your words are a joy to read.

    Reply
  4. Denise

    Count me in I am about to start a womens prayer group and need all the suggestions to keep it on the spirit and not become a hen pecking house of gossip

    Reply
  5. Janet

    Very wise. Very difficult, especially in an election season where were are in gossip-surround sound, so to speak.

    Your suggestion is well taken and it will be interesting to watch the voices in the mind NOT engage, especially when the season is like a sports events, divided into teams where we cheer one and disparage the other voice. Perhaps this outer layer of bullying noise will only bring consciousness around this matter as I listen or read emotionally charged and diabolically (at times) clever attacks flying at the speed of sound across the political nets. How do we keep our own ‘inner answers’ in check in the storms of attack designed, often by those trained in human psychology to stir us up. Do we retire from the flying disses where billions of dollars are being spent to ‘elect’ a candidate useful to one agenda over another? Wear blinders and stuff cotton in the ears?

    It’s insidious, isn’t it? As all the dissing gets under our skins and soon the inner horizons are filled with the saturated siren calls of Victoria. But hey, I’m in. Although i’m walking through the valley of the shadow of dueling duality and bullying sound bytes. Pardon my alliterations. 😉

    I’ll ante up too.

    Reply
  6. Ellen

    I love the idea of naming the ego part of me, then observing her behavior and dialoging with her compassionately about finding a better way. Reminds me of the years I spent in therapy. I’m ever a work in progress. 🙂

    Reply
  7. Lissa Rankin, MD

    Great to hear from you all.

    And yeah, Victoria’s not mean. Her version of gossip isn’t spiteful or disparaging. Instead, she uses it to artificially inflate her own sense of value. Silly Victoria.

    I’ve always told my daughter she can be anything when she grows up- a truck driver, a drummer, a lesbian, a Republican…the only thing she can’t be is mean.

    But I even see my daughter talking about others in a way that inflates her own sense of value. “They love me so much.”

    I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree!

    Thank you all for joining me! And thanks for your tips. Great suggestions.
    Much love
    Lissa

    Reply
    • Donna Workman

      Lisa
      I am so excited to be part of something that affects most of us. I love your honest approach to letting each of us realize (without judgement) that there will always be pieces of ourselves to work on, and it can actually enrich our lives to work on being that better more spiritual, accepting person. Let the fun begin!!!!

      donna

      Reply
  8. lone morch

    Hello Lovely Lissa,

    Thanks for sharing so honestly with us. I have struggled so much with social media, because while I may know ‘somebodies’ and hang out with ‘somebodies’ I’ve been so utterly uninspired to share it with the rest of the world. I don’t know what it is about me. A strange modesty and not wanting to ‘brag’ (am still Danish after all, where such ‘special feeling’ has been looked down upon)? A strong sense of what feels public and private to me and often stiffled by the ‘privacy’ made public in social media? Or simply a hesitation to add more non-sense to the overload of information I feel we live with – as if who cares if Kim Kardasian got a haircut, or that I went on a hike with Lissa though I did feel lucky she had time.

    What ever it is, thanks for this article. Made me feel better about my confusion and inner debate esp related to social media.

    xoxo, Lone

    Reply
  9. James

    I can relate and it’s sort of perfect timing to read this. Just yesterday I met a bunch of new people at a friend’s baby baptism reception. There was one girl that they were close to and I actually got along with great, she kept us all laughing. After leaving I talked about how great she was to one friend but I HAD to add in that she comes off a bit “judgy”. Why would I HAVE to add in that tidbit? I couldn’t leave well enough alone that I liked her and she was fun. Why is there a need to express all my observations, not everything needs to be expressed. Then today I did it again about another person at the party who came off negative and bitter. Now I think my observations are correct but why in the hell do I need to share them when in the bigger scheme of things it doesnt affect me at all? So this is a challenge to work on that. Thanks Lissa!

    Reply
  10. Hilary

    Oh, Lissa! You are so very courageous to share yourself so candidly with all of us! Awareness is half the battle, they say! Good on you for doing so — and for setting an example for that same awareness within all of us (ok, let me speak only for myself: that same awareness within ME!). Oh, one more thing: your post reminded me that we are ALL somebodies!

    In light and love,

    hilary 🙂

    Reply
  11. Danielle

    Lisa,
    Thanks so much for sharing your vulnerability. I relate to this post and I too want to take this promise.

    Reply
  12. Qaadira

    Lissa, your open-hearted candor and your “get right to the heart of it” insights continually inspire me to filter my personality through the lens of the Wise Divine within.

    Your post also reminded me of a conversation with a good friend years ago. As we were talking, I mentioned a mutual friend of ours in a sentence that started with, “I heard that she….” My good friend turned, looked at me with soft eyes and said, “You know, I recently made a commitment with myself not to talk about anyone who isn’t present in the conversation,” It was an eye-opener and I thanked her for reminding of the power of our words.

    Reply
  13. Tina

    Lissa-
    Count me in! I was sitting at my desk today spouting off to my boss about a mutual acquaintance that we both worked with years ago. Yak, yak, yak with judgement .. good laugh and my boss leaves. I open up my email and see the title of your post and thought -BUSTED! Gotta love Divine timing.

    Thank you for being so honest about your experience.

    Reply
  14. Jean-Pierre Ruiz

    Hi Lissa<

    I find myself doing the same with my former position (CEO) in the hopes that people will take me "seriously". I often feel inadequate (unworthy) of expressing facts and/or opinions based on my acquired knowledge because, after all, I don't have a Ph.D. after my name so why would people listen to me? How could I possible have enough knowledge to share?

    I pledge not to mention my former position for the next 40 days unless directly asked by someone (and even then perhaps I'll just say I was in "management"). Let's wish us luck.

    Jean-Pierre

    Reply
  15. Dynamica

    Well, poo..! I never gossip, or name drop – just ask my friend, the Italian count &/or the president & CEO who confides his deepest insecurities to me. Mark, who is a British lord, thinks highly of me, too.
    I may have some faults but my best friend suggested I was haughty and I lopped off her head. Now my friends are very complimentary.
    I never lie either. I may prevaricate, embellish, equivocate and omit but I never lie.

    I am aware of the definition of gossip – not defined as only saying negative things about someone, but:
    1. conversation about personal matters: conversation about the personal details of other people’s lives, whether rumor or fact, especially when malicious
    2. casual conversation: informal conversation or writing about recent and often personal events
    3. habitual talker: somebody who habitually discusses the personal details of others’ lives
    Ummmm…it’s just possible I have a few insecurities to release,
    Wal, shut ma’ mouth…
    Love, love, love & humor to all you beauties in cyberland…
    Your Canadian connection. :- )

    Microsoft® Encarta® 2007. © 1993-2006 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

    Reply
  16. Lissa Rankin, MD

    Dynamica, I got quite the giggle out of your post!
    Tee hee
    Lissa

    Reply
  17. Michelle Medina

    Thank you for this Lissa!! I feel like I’m on the brink of something huge for myself and I would like nothing better than to know my higher self is running the show no matter where I am!!

    Reply
  18. Tatjana/Selena Lucia

    Lisa, I enjoyed this post so much! When I was younger, my talks with my girlfriends were foucused on other people – thank God most of them were our exes! Then one day words were put into my mouth, so to speak: since I was known as a “talker”, everybody believed that I was the one who said something about the people I couldn’t care less (although I was completely clueless) and that was when I decided to stop talking about others. Now when I do not want to get involved , I just say that I’m really not sure and that I’m not the right person to talk about that.
    I also use a technique of “gossipping aloud”, but only when I am home alone and nobody can hear me. I get it out of my system and then I am fine.
    One thing:is it gossip when you relate your experience with someone? I was complaining bitterly to a friend about a co=worker, actually describing a situation that happened where her true colours were more than revealed and when her envy and jealousy really hurt me. I was matter-of-fact and rational, still my friend warned me somepeople might consider it gossip.
    Another question: the same co-worker constantly gossips about me, even with the people that know me. How do you deal with that? (I was promoted several times despite difficult personal circumstances and a lot of hard work and many contributions to the company and external associates praised me to my boss and I think that is the root of her envy and malice – she never works hard or does anything for the team because she is not “paid enough”. Put like this , is my question also gossip, although nothing is made up?)
    Lots of love,
    Tatjana

    Reply
  19. Sussie

    Hi Lissa,
    My mother was a bit of a gossiper, and i thought that is how friends talk to each other by sharing juicy things about others or what they learnt through the grapevine, or putting people down, was another way friends bonded between each other. (i gather now it was because she felt lonely at times)
    But one day my higher self told and showed me it wasn’t how you make and/or keep friends….i liked what she had to say and I listened to her – but when i am down, depressed, or feel unworthy, or unloveable, or feel incapable of something that others are clearly better at, the Bit*hy me comes out and just Criticizes others, so i could look good and feel better.
    But now i have learnt to let her have her say, and let her say it when we are alone, let her get it out of her system and then tell her to pipe down. I tell her that she is better than that and give her comfort and love. And we (once again) become friends again, rooting for the same team!…. US.

    Reply
  20. Beth Herman

    Love this post, and I resonate with it. This behavior substitutes for intimacy in certain circles, as at the show barn where I keep my horse.

    A good strategy I’ve found is to develop got-to phrases and responses that are neither condescending to nor critical of the speaker but that make it clear that I’m not playing the gossip game.

    When people want to know more details about a person or horse, I just say, “I don’t know” in that vague way and that usually ends it. When names are being dropped–I learned this from a wise friend–I just say “Good to know” and move on with something worth talking about. When the gossip gets mean about someone or their horse, I just move off and get some real work done. 🙂

    The reason I am welcomed into this barn by the trainer and trusted to be on hand when the vet is there, sale prices are discussed, or anything sensitive happens is that she knows I know how to keep my mouth shut and protect confidences. Other places I am not so good at this, but I am working on it!

    You are right that noticing is the beginning, along with forgiving ourselves when we get it wrong. Practice, practice, practice–like every other important skill.

    Reply
  21. Claudette Wisdom

    I am in! I’d also like to add that I am making conscious effort to stop the labeling and polarization of my clients (as in low end, high end, articulate, inarticulate etc. etc. ) Because we are all divinely abundant!

    Reply
  22. Kellyn

    I take one day a month to refrain from speaking. Yup, one whole day with not one word out of my mouth. When I wake up the next morning I am hyper aware of what I say and how I say it. This practice has really taught me how I relate to others and how I project myself along with countless other lessons. I read about the idea from the book, “Listening Below the Noise” by Anne LeClaire. She practices silence every other Monday, but with 2 teenagers I feel more comfortable with once a month.
    Thank you Lissa for being just as you are.

    Reply
    • Sara

      This is so funny to see this now, because my hubby and I are planning our very first silent (at-home) retreat this weekend! We have a number of silent activities planned (journaling/writing, reading, meditation, walking in nature, working in the garden, and so on), and I’m really curious how it will go. 🙂

      Reply
  23. Lissa Rankin, MD

    Wow, Kellyn…a whole day without speaking! I can imagine doing that at a silent meditation retreat, but how challenging in the regular world, with my husband, six year old, and business obligations!

    I might just have to try it though. I can see how that could affect your speech in a powerful way.

    Thank you for sharing, all of you…
    Lissa

    Reply
  24. Rebecca

    Lisa This is great. Thanks for sharing your inner self without filter and yes it takes a lot of monitoring to rein in that less than better self. Definitely going to be more aware of my self, and outer talk for my victoria

    Reply

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