We have most likely all been there. We receive what we perceive to be a judgmental look from someone as we are walking through a store. From there, we may begin to create a story in our heads about what happened and we have an imaginary conversation with the person questioning who they think they are and what gives them the right to judge us. However, this is all created from our experience in the moment based on our past, our biases, our assumptions, our expectations, and our imagination. Perhaps we misinterpretted what we saw. Perhaps the other person was daydreaming or was envious or was thinking about something else and not even really looking at us. In that moment, it can be helpful for us to remember that no matter what the situation really entailed, the other person’s reaction has nothing to do with us.
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 in the book 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 we may just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
If we can think of our personal interactions with others in a different way, it can help us to step out of the “taking it personally” viewpoint. Let me explain. If we can envision that ANY one could be standing in our place in a conversation with someone else, we can see that what is being said isn’t about us, we are simply on the receiving end of what the other person is working through in their reality in that moment. We are receiving information as feedback about the other person’s experience of life and it really is about them. This feedback we are receiving discloses the other person’s perspective and opinion. Even if the feedback is directed at us with judgment and criticism, it is still all about the other person’s experience.
Ruiz goes on to state that taking things personally is a selfish act in that we are making the assumption that “everything is about me”. We can get so wrapped up in concern about what other people think of us. But, if we can remember that that person is actually thinking about themselves, we can avoid taking it personally. No one is really thinking about us near as much as we think they are. (And that’s a good thing!) They are all just trying to get through their own stuff. Remember, what other people think about us is none of our 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, or it, at least, happens a little more quickly. We may have a tendency to go through the defensive, angry, hurt cycle before we reach the realization that it has nothing to do with us. So, it’s a process. Our individual processes may look a little different, but chances are that we do have one that we go through.
When we find that our feelings are hurt and we start to get defensive, if we can check ourselves and remember that the other person is working something out in their own life, we can find more ease in the moment. It has nothing to do with us and maintaining this perspective can help us to step out of the Inner Victim role and to recover our power over how we 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 can 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 work on freeing you and I will work on freeing me.
Chat again soon,