Gossip, Criticism, Judgment, & Name-Dropping

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 badmouth 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,


Lissa Rankin, MD: Creator of the health and wellness communities LissaRankin.com and OwningPink.com, author of Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof You Can Heal Yourself (Hay House, 2013), TEDx speaker, and Health Care Evolutionary. Join her newsletter list for free guidance on healing yourself, and check her out on Twitter and Facebook.


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Milkah Savage
Past Member 5 years ago

People that gossip, tell stories about others and so on, are people suffering low self esteem. One must like themselves before others will.

Nancy B.
Nancy B5 years ago


wchi wink
.5 years ago

So true that name-dropping, gossip, judgment, and criticism isn’t without consequence! Practice being a role model and more and more people will follow!

Sue H.
Sue H5 years ago

Well, good luck with that.

Jeni Greenwood
Jennifer G5 years ago

Interesting stuff - thanks for the good read!

Sije Dijkstra
Past Member 5 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Star S.5 years ago

Thank you for this article. I am in total agreement, and I have discovered my two identities quite a while back. I call my ego my little dragon which can burn and hurts others as well myself. I don't try to reign in the energy of the dragon as it can be useful but simply redirect it. I talk to my little dragon, when it has got out of line and say, you have had your way, now its time to put all that negative energy to work in a positive way. Acknowledging my dragon, and saying that its oK to be "bad " at times and coaxing it into another direction is what works for me. Loving and acknowledging our negative traits, ultimately work in favour of controlling our ego

Nicole M.
Monika M5 years ago

I have no experience with gossip (I haven't done that since 5th grade), but this is so true:

"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.

(...) 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."

First I had to learn that I'm not worse than other people, and then I had to learn that I'm not better either. Two sides of the same coin, really.

Marie W.
Marie W5 years ago

Victoria has to change herself- you won't.