How a pink duck with a ‘fro helps me practice a different kind of self-talk

“How dare they cancel at the last minute? They’re supposed to give you 24 hours notice. Your time is valuable. How dare they waste your time, you could have scheduled 10 different things instead, your time is valuable, you know…”

Aargh, that’s what the yammering voice in my head sounds like when it gets on a roll. Around and around it goes in this endless loop luring me with the promise that eventually it’ll come to some kind of conclusion. After falling for that one more often than Charlie Brown fell for Lucy holding the football, I finally realized there was no end to the endless loop.

My rational mind, of course, understands that thoughts aren’t real. That it’s just my ego mind producing an endless stream of commentary — opinions, complaints, justifications, criticisms — like bubbles from a bubble blower. Still, the thoughts ring awfully true, they seem to know exactly what my insecurities are and the emotions they trigger definitely feel real.

One day, when the chatter reached a fever pitch, I desperately needed relief, some peace and quiet. So I decided to give my ego mind a whole different persona. I named her Matilda and found the perfect mascot…one that that would remind me that the ego may be misguided but it’s not evil. One that I couldn’t take too seriously.

This did two things: 1) it helped me take a step back from my thoughts so it was easier not to get caught up in believing they were true and 2) it gave me a sense of control. Now instead of identifying with the self-talk, I immediately recognize it as Matilda and have conversations with her, gently but firmly, like I might with a child. So I:

Acknowledge her. She earnestly wants to help and resisting just makes her more insistent. “Thanks for sharing, Matilda, I appreciate the input.”

Negotiate. When you start to change your behavior and leave behind old beliefs and coping mechanisms, the ego mind is afraid you’re going to leave them behind too (that’s why they’re always creating drama). “Hey, don’t worry, I’m taking you along on this journey. There are going to be some changes but they’ll benefit you too, I promise.”

Set boundaries. “Okay, Matilda, got it. I need to focus on my work now. Can we talk about this later?”

Call her out. It doesn’t matter how positive your circumstances, the ego mind will always find something to fret about. Matilda had been quite vocal in her concern about a client deal and when it came through, I swear, she was quiet for a moment, as if to regroup, and then launched into a tirade about something else. So busted. “Really, Matilda? Really?”

We’re not trying to get rid of ego mind – after all, it’s what gives us our distinct personality traits, habits and preferences. But it’s not the one in charge. You, your true core self, is. Remember that.