“Don’t take anything personally.” This is the second agreement in Don Miguel Ruiz’s book The Four Agreements. (Last week we discussed the first agreement: Be impeccable with your word. Please see last week’s blog if you need to catch up!) Ruiz states:
“What causes you to be trapped is what we call personal importance. Personal importance, or taking things personally, is the maximum expression of selfishness because we make the assumption that everything is about “me.” … Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves.”
“Don’t take anything personally”… this is really hard for me! I seem to have a mental tape (agreement) playing in me that tells me I need to keep everyone happy. My guess is that this is from watching my mother take care of everything to keep us kids and my dad happy and the house running smoothly. It’s also from the wounded part of me that was rejected when I was a kid for not being pretty enough or cool enough. Not to mention the part of me that felt abandoned at 17 when my mom died.
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These, and probably more things get tapped when I take things personally. BUT THEY FEEL PERSONAL!
Ruiz says this is caused by our own sense of self-importance, otherwise known as ego. We make the assumption that everything is about “me.” Each person is responsible for his/her own words and actions and reactions. Taking responsibility for what someone else says or does is co-dependent and simply illogical.
To tie this into the first agreement… when I am impeccable with my word toward myself– when I use my energy in the direction of truth and love for myself – I dwell more solidly in a place of self-love and confidence in who I am. In this place, I can see others more clearly from a place of love and I can be objective enough to say, “Wow, that harsh comment really had nothing to do with me.”
When I’m in a place of fear, when I’m doubting myself, my worth, and my abilities, then I can’t be objective. I take everything personally. I end up saying, “Wow that was harsh. I must have screwed up again. I’m really sorry. What did I do??”
“The foolish cannot mask their frustration; prudent people ignore insults.” ~ Proverbs 12:16
When we take hurtful things personally it is like allowing someone else to poison us. That poison can live in us for the rest of our lives if we let it. It can eat away at our self-esteem, leave our souls battered and bruised, and undermine our self-worth. It hurts our souls.
“The simple believe anything they’re told; those of sound judgment weigh everything carefully.” Proverbs 14:15
HOW TO NOT TAKE THINGS PERSONALLY
Believe me, this is my own personal growing edge, and I know it is hard. But life is so much better when we treat ourselves with love and refuse to take in the poison that other people throw at us. Ruiz is right, the first step is to be impeccable with our word to ourselves, to put our energy in the direction of truth and love toward ourselves. With enough love for ourselves, it becomes much harder to buy into the negative things people say.
Another key to not taking things personally is to know ourselves well enough to recognize our triggers. What sets us off? Generalized comments about “how kids are these days” always set me off. I take it as a personal slam against my kids and a lot of other good kids out there. But underneath it all, it triggers my feelings of inadequacy as a parent (no matter how hard I’ve tried to be a good one, I still feel like I should have been better). Once we identify these things it is important we work on healing ourselves and understanding ourselves so we don’t get set off.
Third, seeking to understand where others are coming from can give us a more objective perspective. It doesn’t necessarily excuse the ugly things they may be saying, but it can help us to put the situation in a new light, so that we recognize more clearly it isn’t about us, but about them.
Remember the opinions other people give are in accordance with the agreements they have made and are upholding. Don’t take anything personally. Ruiz cautions that this goes both ways… if they tell you you’re wonderful, or you are horrible. Don’t get hooked on needing their approval for being wonderful. And don’t get sucked into their poison and allow it to feed your own self-doubts.
The bottom line is that what others think is not the truth of who you are. They don’t know all of who you are, they are only making assumptions based on who they are and what they believe. So, what they think about you is about them, not about you.