The One Piece of Advice I Wish I Knew When I Was Younger- Don't Take It Personally
A person I know introduced me to Don Miguel Ruiz many years ago when she gifted me "The Mastery of Love." I would consider this person a mentor in many ways: former colleague, at work Mama, friend, confidant, and support person. It wasn't until a couple of years ago that I read "The Four Agreements" by the same author. Let's just say the ideas and concepts in this book can be life changing, which they were for me. Now, as a former Catholic School girl, I was looking for something to help guide me in life. My mentor also introduced me to Co-Dependents Anonymous back in 2009, which helped me realize and overcome some of my unhealthy behaviors that I learned from my childhood.
The impact of this book made me realize how many people, myself included, take things so damn personally. I began to have "AHA!" moments all the time. I reflected on situations and disagreements with people in a new way. I realized I would project my own feelings and expectations on them and then I would get mad for their actions or words. It's a vicious cycle and until you realize the cycle, you are doomed to repeat it over and over again. With everyone. All the time. This idea very much aligns with Yoga and the Sutras. The concept of "Vairagya" which means attachment. When you have attachment, you have expectations of something or someone. Expectations show us that we are clinging to something and we are not wanting to let it go. All of this causes unnecessary suffering.
"Don't take anything personally" is the second agreement in "The Four Agreements." I wish someone had told me this when I was younger. Or actually, I wish I had really understood this when my Dad would tell me this. I heard it, yet did not internalize this concept until much later in life. So, as a 39 year-old, I'm going to offer this piece of advice to anyone who doesn't already know or live by this rule. DON'T TAKE ANYTHING PERSONALLY. No one has permission to offend you, unless you allow them to. Don't give away your personal power by allowing others to be in control of your emotions. If you react by taking everything people do and say personally, you will be on a non-stop rollercoaster ride. When you take things personally, it's always all about you. And that just isn't so. People are motivated by their own needs. We are all very selfish (not in a bad way,) but that's just how we are wired. I've learned to let go and not worry so much about what other people are doing, saying, thinking. It's a waste of time and energy to think about other's motivations and intentions. It's exhausting. Allow others to do and say what they want. Just know you don't have to act or respond in a similar manner. You can choose to respond with love and compassion. You view your life through your own lens. Perhaps that lens is covered with dust and needs a good cleaning. Your lens of life filters all you see. So, if your lens is cloudy, you may not see things clearly as they are. When you have a clear view, you'll know what people do and say has nothing to do with you, and it's more about how they are experiencing their life.
Learning not to take things personally takes practice and constant attention. When people say things to me, my initial reaction is to REACT. Instead, I pause, and I RESPOND. Sometimes I really, really want to give that ugly right back, but then I refrain. It doesn't help me or them to respond to them in the same manner they came at me. I cause my own suffering by thinking other people's actions and words have something to do with me. In reality, they have nothing to do with me. And likewise, what I do has nothing to do with you and all about me.
I have a little story as an example. I had really good friend who always took things personally. It was her birthday weekend and we had all arranged to go away and rent a house in the desert to celebrate. I hadn't been feeling well that week and I took Thursday off from work to help recuperate and hopefully feel better by Friday for the weekend trip. I headed to work Friday feeling awful and eventually bailing on the trip (which I had already paid for.) I had explained to my friend that even after trying to recover on Thursday that I just wasn't up to the trip and I had to bail. She became so upset with me. Here I was, sick as a dog, took the day off to try to feel better for the trip and she gets mad at me! I understand that she was upset, but me bailing had nothing to do with her or my loyalty or excitement about the planned weekend, it was about ME. I was sick. And I didn't want to have to turn around and come back on Saturday morning because I wasn't feeling well. This shows how little people think of others and only themselves. I understood her disappointment because I've been in her shoes. I have had expectations about others and when they didn't come through, my feelings got hurt.
When you are able to set aside your feelings for a moment and understand where that person is coming from, perhaps you will see it has nothing to do with you. Right now, I am currently in a situation where I am removing myself from because of how I feel and how the situation is affecting my mental health. It has nothing to do with the other party or how I feel about them. I am doing this to protect myself and my well-being. If they take it personally, that is not my problem. I am fully responsible for my actions. It takes understanding and maturity to see that what others do and say, has more to do with them than you. And if they are trying to hurt you with words or actions intentionally, why are they in your life? But let's save that question for another time and blog.
Stay well, friends!