As I’ve struggled to rein in my ego (whom I call Victoria Rochester), 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 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 I was at a conference, and 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 guilty and juvenile. And motivated to stop using the privilege I have of close connection to “important” people to make Victoria feel more secure.
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, and her underlying sense of unworthiness creeping out and rearing its ugly head by making other people wrong.
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. 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 smack down 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 to criticize and 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 think 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 informing Victoria that her services aren’t needed at the moment and letting 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, and 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 Forty-Day Gossip Cleanse
They say it takes forty days to break a habit, so I’ve decided I’m going to spend the next forty 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 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 forty-day gossip cleanse and post how it’s going for you in the comments here.
Keeping my mouth shut,
*Photo by Jean-François Chénier.