The other day, I was walking through a store picking up a few items and, as usual, I had on my yoga clothes as it was a day that I taught. As I strolled down an isle with my carrying basket on my arm, a lady gave me what I perceived to be a “nasty” or judgmental look. My first reaction (in my head) was “Excuse me?!” I could feel my face scrunching up as I walked past and thought, “Who are you to judge me??” And then after I took a few more steps, I thought, “I have no idea what that lady has gone through today. She may not have even been looking at me. Maybe she was envious. Maybe she was daydreaming. Maybe what I saw as judgment toward me has nothing to do with me.” Then, I was able to send peaceful thoughts her way and hope that she had a good remainder of her day.
In his book The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz shares ancient Toltec wisdom about the agreements that we make with ourselves that shape our reality and our lives. The second agreement is ‘Don’t take anything Personally’. He states that no matter what someone else says, does, or thinks, it has nothing to do with you. Don’t take ANYTHING personally. Other people are functioning from their own individualized form of reality, not yours, and everything they do is about them. They are dealing with their own stuff in their own way. And you may just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
In talking with the patients at work about this, one patient had a great view of not taking things personally. He stated that he tries to see the viewpoint that if he weren’t standing there hearing or experiencing whatever it is from the other person, someone else would be. That it isn’t about him, it is just that he is on the receiving end of what the other person is working through.
Ruiz goes on to state that taking things personally is a selfish act in that you are making the assumption that “everything is about me”. Frequently, patients express that they are very worried about what other people think of them. I just reply, “They aren’t thinking about you…they are worried about what you are thinking about them.” No one is thinking about you near as much as you think they are. (And that’s a good thing!) They are all just trying to get through their own stuff. What other people think about you is none of your business.
Not taking anything personally isn’t an easy thing to do- we are basically trained into it as we are growing up. But with practice, it gets easier…at least it happens a little more quickly. I seem to go through the defensive, angry, hurt cycle before I reach the realization that it has nothing to do with me. So, it’s a process. Your process may look a little different, but chances are that you have one.
When I find that my feelings are hurt and I start to get defensive, I have to check myself and remind myself that the other person is working something out in their own life. It has nothing to do with me and reminding myself of this helps me to slip out of the Inner Victim role and to recover my own power over how I feel.
When we take things other people do, say, or think, personally, we give them power over how we feel. We are handing over all control and stepping right into that Inner Victim role. We are making the choice in that moment to stop taking responsibility for our own lives. We can be free from all of this if we just practice this agreement and stop taking things personally.
We have to trust ourselves rather than trust others to tell us how to feel about ourselves, our day, our lives. We can only control ourselves and our reactions and when we are hurt because someone else doesn’t fulfill our exact need or expectations, it is unfair to both of us.
Try making this agreement with yourself to stop taking things personally. Feel the freedom that comes from letting go of making other people’s stuff about you. For the weekend, try to just start to notice when you are taking things personally. When we can start to notice and acknowledge it, then we can work to change it.
And you know I will be working on it with you.
You working on freeing you and I will work on freeing me.
Talk again soon,