How often have you heard “don’t take things personally?” In theory that seems simple and seamless. However, truly living and loving through such a neutral lens is challenging.
Don Miguel Ruiz wrote, “Don’t take anything personally. Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.”
When Ruiz published his guidance in “The Four Agreements,” I honestly retreated to my skeptical, analytic space. I processed and pondered this notion that we oughtn’t personalize others’ actions. I wondered how on earth this an attainable goal.
If a friend unintentionally hurts me, just let it slide away as if my heart is encased in a stoic, unfeeling cocoon? When a person attempts manipulation or deception, should I swiftly shrug it off because hurt people hurt people? I realize today’s post is replete with questions, and it’s only the third paragraph! But this is a concept with which I struggled until recently.
I choose to add my concept of grace to Ruiz’s sage, spiritual insights. And what is grace? For me, it is realizing and accepting that one’s behavior is a reflection of their own inner struggle. It is not about you or me. Living with grace requires one to to navigate the low and high tides of others’ actions with the calm confidence of an experienced captain.
When things don’t go as planned, we may need to promptly pivot. This is grace. When people disappoint us or don’t meet our expectations, it is often NOT about us. How we react is our responsibility. The way someone behaves is a mirror, which reflects who they are in that moment.
So I choose to view the “person” in the word “personally” with compassion and grace. I used to think that person was me. What did I do wrong? Why is he or she hurting my heart? How can someone be so selfish and cruel when I am trying my best to do the right thing?
I now know it is often not about me. And here’s what I’ve learned that has helped broaden my acceptance and practice of “not taking things so personally”:
- Know your worth. This takes months, years, and for some, a lifetime. You matter!
- If your reaction doesn’t match the action, take a break from the situation and breathe. It is quite likely the other person’s words or gestures are triggering you. Once you find your center, you will realize why this is not personal.
- Process your perspective with a trusted friend. When I’m really stuck, I glean clarity by talking about my feelings.
- You may not know why someone is behaving in a particular way. So it is irrational and unkind to take it personally.
- You are not responsible for other people’s path, decisions, or feelings.
- Speak up, be authentic, and live with integrity.
- If something or someone leaves, let go, learn, and move forward.
It is not easy. And some days, I find it impossible! But as Ruiz also writes, “When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.” Letting go, living with grace, and not taking things personally is liberating. And it is a gift of love to yourself and those around you.
“There is a huge amount of freedom that comes to you when you take nothing personally… Someone can intentionally send emotional poison, and if you don’t take it personally, you will not eat it. When you don’t take the emotional poison, it becomes even worse in the sender, but not in you,” Don Miguel Ruiz.
P.S. If you don’t dig today’s blog, I would still love to hear from you! And you have my word; I will not take it personally!