Empowerment Part 3: Don't take anything personally.

Taking things personally steals your peace. We need all the peace we can get.

Taking things personally steals your peace. We need all the peace we can get.

“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!

Empowerment: Trust Yourself

Lake Superior at Sunset. A place to contemplate trust. Photo by Jeff Wooten.

Lake Superior at Sunset. A place to contemplate trust. Photo by Jeff Wooten.

I got new glasses recently. They are pretty cool—Tom Ford’s with a fancy detail on the hinge. When they came in, I had that scared feeling in the pit of my stomach “Oh no, what if I didn’t get the right pair of glasses?”

Well, luckily, there are no spectacle police out haunting the suburbs in Texas, ready to throw me in “bad-look- for-you jail.”

The only one coming down hard on my choice of glasses is me, myself and I.

In the big scheme of things, glasses are pretty minor. But the fact that I’d already bought them and was wearing them meant I should have put that decision behind myself and moved on. I should have trusted my decision in the first place.

This lack of trust shows up in so many ways. The other day, I had a meeting with a potential client and was getting some bad vibes. She seemed nice enough and clearly wanted to work with me, but I had a gut reaction that was saying no. My rational side was saying “Laura, her money is just as green as anyone’s,” but my intuition was telling me to run and hide.

Your Intuition Matters

Jen Sincero talks about intuition in 10 Secrets to Being a Baddass. She says “hone, listen and trust your intuition” and recommends asking for guidance from your intuition.

Personal friend, life coach, mojo whisperer and author of Little Book of Big Mojo says “When you learn how to trust your intuition, you learn how to trust yourself.” She warns that intuition whispers to us, it doesn’t shout and that when we ignore it, the results show up in bad jobs, unhealthy relationships, poor health and money problems.

Why is it so hard to trust yourself?

Truly, I believe we start out in this world trusting ourselves, sure of our position in the world and knowing exactly what we want to do. Yet we unlearn this quickly by the constraints of society and of loving parents who want to keep us safe.

We learn that pleasing others is the safe route.

That choosing money over happiness is the safe route.

That hiding in the back of the classroom is the safe route.

Ego is the culprit. Ego wants everything to be about ME, how I look, how I act, my reputation. It controls and manipulates us, judges us and can stop us from taking important actions to protect us from vulnerability, embarrassment, and shame.

Give Credit Where Credit’s Due

Take some time and think about where you trust yourself and where you don’t.

  • Do you drive a car? Check. You trust yourself to navigate to a location, through the elements and the other crazy drivers out there.

  • Do you swim? Check. You trust yourself not to drown.

  • Do you work? Check. You trust yourself and your abilities to get the job done.

  • Do you recommend a movie you like? Check. You trust your opinion and don’t fear judgement from someone who disagrees.*

  • Do you post on social media? Check. You trust that your comments are worthy.

While these may seem mundane, the nuggets of self trust are there. Start noticing when you don’t want to do things—and see if it is related to your trust in yourself. Then decide what you need to do.

There are times I don’t trust my ability to climb a ladder, to stand up for myself or to use the bbq grill (I have a fear of fire). Evaluate which areas of these are self-improvement projects and which are things you can work around. I can hire someone to climb a ladder, my husband is great on the bbq grill, but as for standing up for myself. I need to trust myself for that. It’s pretty important.

Empowerment Starts with Trust

To be empowered, you must trust yourself. You must know you’ve got what it takes. You must know that that inner voice, the one that whispers but doesn’t shout, is worth listening to. That inner guide will take you places your ego won’t — and who knows what you’ll discover on the way?

*True story. I used to never give my opinion of things out of fear of judgement. I didn’t trust my opinion and I cared too much about what others thought. That was before I became empowered.