“Don’t take anything personally.”
Yeah, right, I thought, how is that even possible?
My entire life, I had heard I was too sensitive, too hard on myself and didn’t know how to take a joke. The advice to stop taking things personally seemed impossible, unattainable and frankly, crazy.
Then I started attending a women’s group called Inner Evolution. Their 16 Steps to Freedom have helped me in my quest to be empowered. More than empowered, it helps me remain peaceful.
Step 11, the one that says “Don’t take anything personally,” continues: “It’s about them, not you. And what they think about you is variable, out of your control and none of your business.”
The people pleaser in me could not relate to this idea at all. What someone thinks of ME is not MY BUSINESS? How can I control their opinion of me if I don’t know what it is?
Exactly the point. When you really begin to practice the idea of not taking anything personally, it completely frees you.
Think about it - a life Changer for me
Don Miguel Ruiz lists “Don’t take anything personally” as his second agreement in The Four Agreements: A Toltec Wisdom Book. He says that when we take things personally, we are agreeing with whatever is being said. As soon as you agree, the poison of negativity goes through you.
Taking things personally keeps you trapped in the idea that the world is all about you. That people are always thinking of you. That you have control.
If someone says “I don’t like Laura” how does this statement impact me? It may hurt my feelings, but is it true? Does it mean I am not likable? Does it mean I am not a valuable person? Does it mean anything?
What if someone doesn’t return my call? Does that mean they hate me, don’t want to work with me, are rejecting me? Maybe. Maybe they are just busy, their dog died or something else. It isn’t about me. It’s about whatever is going on in their life.
What if I completed a project and the client said they didn’t like the way I managed it?
Ouch, right? Does that mean I am not a good project manager? Does it mean the work I contributed did not have value?
Maybe. Maybe not. Frequently, a client’s dislike of what happened comes from deep within themselves, from unrealistic expectations or from some other arena that isn’t my business. I do need to take the time to hear what they have to say and learn from it, but the lessons I take away aren’t all about me.
Our view of the world is skewed. We make it about us—and our natural protective tendencies look for enemies trying to get us. This is natural, but in a big and complex world, it isn’t realistic. Viewing ourselves at the center of everything can cause us to feel like a victim, doubt ourselves and feel bad when we recognize we aren’t perfect.
Does this make sense?
I’ve tried to share this idea with others, especially when they have been criticized for something, and it usually flops. It seems pretty radical to not care. “Of course this is about me,” they say. “They are rejecting me!”
Are they? It’s hard to say what is going on in someone else’s mind.
The things others don’t like about us frequently are mirrors for the things they don’t like about themselves or how they are viewing the world at that moment.
Practice Makes Perfect
This is a hard one. You have to practice, and like crow pose in yoga, you don’t always get it right. It may help to try this new perspective by watching for it with friends or your children. For example, when my teenager tells me someone has said something rude to her, it is so easy to see how the speaker was jealous, angry, or just wanted to exert some power.
Why am I writing about this?
Focus Your Brilliance is about helping clients create their definition of success. It’s about clarity, vision and a plan. My goal with these blogs is to help eliminate anything that detracts from your ability to move forward, whether we’re working together or not.
Taking things personally causes suffering that isn’t yours. You take on other’s suffering rather than choosing to love and trust yourself.
Good luck and let me know how it goes!