- The Second Agreement: Don’t Take Anything Personally
- The Four Agreements: #2 Don’t Take Anything Personally
- 08 Apr The Four Agreements: #2 Don’t Take Anything Personally
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The Second Agreement: Don’t Take Anything Personally
Don’t take anything personally.
That’s the second agreement of Don Miguel Ruiz’s classic, “The Four Agreements.”
I need a reminder today. So I open his book to that chapter and read:
Whatever happens around you, don’t take it personally… Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves. All people live in their own dream, in their own mind; they are in a completely different world from the one we live in. When we take something personally, we make the assumption that they know what is in our world, and we try to impose our world on their world.
Even when a situation seems so personal, even if others insult you directly, it has nothing to do with you. What they say, what they do, and the opinions they give are according to the agreements they have in their own minds…Taking things personally makes you easy prey for these predators, the black magicians. They can hook you easily with one little opinion and feed you whatever poison they want, and because you take it personally, you eat it up….
But if you do not take it personally, you are immune in the middle of hell. Immunity in the middle of hell is the gift of this agreement.
I’m not there yet. I am way too sensitive and way too vulnerable to the opinions of others. Where I HAVE made progress the last month is that I no longer read articles from a website that published material that upset me too consistently. I took a hiatus from that site. I also go through the equivalent of the FDA security process at the airport whenever I open a book. “Is this going to make me feel worse?” I ask myself, and if I can’t answer the question, or I find myself nodding, then I put it on the shelf to read when I reach a more resilient place.
But what I CAN’T control are the opinions of the people that I’ll run into during the day, those who haven’t managed a severe mood disorder and try to convince me that acupuncture, meditation, and yoga cure absolutely every illness. Or those that say the way I run my house is wrong because usually nothing is organized. I can’t control those situations.
So I sit down and try to soak in as much of Ruiz’s message that will penetrate the gray matter of my brain. He writes:
Even the opinions you have about yourself are not necessarily true; therefore you don’t need to take whatever you hear in your own mind personally…Don’t take anything personally because by taking things personally you set yourself up to suffer for nothing….When we really see other people as they are without taking it personally, we can never be hurt by what they say or do. Even if others lie to you, it is okay. They are lying to you because they are afraid.
There is a huge amount of freedom that comes to you when you take nothing personally. You become immune to black magicians, and no spell can affect you regardless of how strong it may be. The whole world can gossip about you, and if you don’t take it personally you are immune. 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.
As you make a habit of not taking anything personally, you won’t need to place your trust in what others do or say. You will only need to trust yourself to make responsible choices. You are never responsible for the actions of others; you are only responsible for you. When you truly understand this, and refuse to take things personally, you can hardly be hurt by the careless comments or actions of others.
If you keep this agreement, you can travel around the world with your heart completely open and no one can hurt you. You can say, “I love you,” without fear of being ridiculed or rejected. You can ask for what you need.
The Second Agreement: Don’t Take Anything Personally
The Four Agreements: #2 Don’t Take Anything Personally
08 Apr The Four Agreements: #2 Don’t Take Anything Personally
Posted in Uncategorized by Amber Allen
Imagine that you are in a gigantic mall where there are hundreds of movie theaters. You look around to see what’s playing, and you notice a movie that has your name. Amazing! You go inside the theater and it’s empty except for one person. Very quietly, trying not to interrupt, you sit behind that person who doesn’t even notice you; all her attention is on the movie.
You look at the screen, and what a surprise! You recognize every character in the movie — your mother, your father, your brothers and sisters, your beloved, your children, your friends. Then you see the main character of the movie, and it’s you! You are the star of the movie and it’s the story of you. And that person in front of you, well, it’s also you, watching yourself act in the movie. Of course, the main character is just the way you believe you are, and so are all the secondary characters, because, well, you know the story of you. After awhile, you feel a little overwhelmed by everything you just witnessed, and you decide to go to another theater.
In this theater there’s also just one person watching a movie, and she doesn’t even notice when you sit beside her. You start watching the movie, and you recognize all the characters, but now you’re just a secondary character. This is the story of your mother’s life, and she is the one who is watching the movie with all her attention. Then you realize that your mother is not the same person who was in your movie. The way she projects herself is completely different in her movie. It’s the way your mother wants everyone to perceive her. You know that it’s not authentic. She’s just acting. But then you begin to realize that it’s the way she perceives herself, and it’s kind of a shock.
Then you notice that the character who has your face is not the same person who was in your movie. You say to yourself, “Ah, this isn’t me,” but now you can see how your mother perceives you, what she believes about you, and it’s far from what you believe about yourself. Then you see the character of your father, the way your mother perceives him, and it’s not at all the way you perceive him. It’s completely distorted, and so is her perception of all the other characters. You see the way your mother perceives your beloved, and you even get a little upset with your mom. “How dare she!“ You stand up and get out of there.
You go to the next theater, and it’s the story of your beloved. Now you can see the way your beloved perceives you, and the character is completely different than the one who was in your movie and the one who was in your mother’s movie. You can see the way he perceives your children, your family, your friends. You can see the way he wants to project himself, and it’s not the way you perceive him at all. Then you decide to leave that movie, and go to your children’s movie. You see the way your children see you, the way they see grandpa, grandma, and you can hardly believe it. Then you watch the movies of your brothers and sisters, your friends, and you find out that everybody is distorting all the characters in their movie.
After seeing all these movies, you decide to return to the first theater to see your own movie once again. You look at yourself acting in your movie, but you no longer believe anything you’re watching; you no longer believe your own story, because you can see that it’s just a story. Now you know that all the acting you did your whole life was really for nothing because nobody perceives you the way you want to be perceived. You can see that all the drama that happens in your movie isn’t noticed by anybody around you. It’s obvious that everybody’s attention is focused on their own movie. They don’t even notice when you’re sitting right beside them in their theater! The actors have all their attention on their story, and that is the only reality they live in. Their attention is so hooked by their own creation, that they don’t even notice their own presence, the one who is observing their movie.
In that moment, everything shifts for you. Nothing is the same anymore, because now you see what’s really happening. People live in their own world, their own movie, their own story. They invest all their faith in that story, and that story is truth for them, but it’s a relative truth, because it’s not truth for you. Now you can see that all their opinions about you really concern the character who lives in their movie, not in yours. The one who they are judging in your name is a character they create. Whatever people think of you is really about the image they have of you, and that image isn’t you.
At this point, it’s clear that the people you love the most don’t really know you, and you don’t know them either. The only thing you know about them is what you believe about them. You only know the image you created for them, and that image has nothing to do with the real people. You thought that you knew your parents, your spouse, your children, and your friends very well. The truth is you have no idea what is going on in their world, what they are thinking, what they are feeling, what they are dreaming. What is even more surprising is that you thought you knew yourself. Then you come to the conclusion that you don’t even know yourself, because you’ve been acting for so long that you’ve mastered pretending to be what you are not.
With this awareness, you realize how ridiculous it is to say, “My beloved doesn’t understand me. Nobody understands me.” Of course they don’t. You don’t even understand yourself. Your personality is always changing from one moment to the next, according to the role you are playing, according to the secondary characters in your story, according to the way you are dreaming at that time. At home, you have a certain personality. At work, your personality is completely different. With your female friends, it’s one way; with your male friends, it’s another way. But all your life you made the assumption that other people knew you so well, and when they didn’t do what you expected them to do, you took it personally, reacted with anger, and used the word to create a lot of conflict and drama for nothing.
Now it’s easy to understand why there is so much conflict between humans. The world is populated by billions of dreamers who aren’t aware that people are living in their own world, dreaming their own dream. From the point of view of the main character, which is their only point of view, everything is all about them. When the secondary characters say something that doesn’t agree with their story, they get so angry, and try to defend their point of view. They want the secondary characters to be the way they want them to be, and if they are not, they feel so hurt. They take everything personally. With this awareness, you also understand the solution. It’s something so simple and logical: Don’t take anything personally.
Excerpted from The Fifth Agreement: A Practical Guide to Self-Mastery. Copyright © 2010 by Miguel Angel Ruiz, M.D., Jose Luis Ruiz, and Janet Mills.
- Be impeccable with your word – Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.
- 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.
- Don’t make assumptions – Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.
- Always do your best – Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.
A life-changing book. Don Miguel Ruiz’s simple guidance for life. This book – the original in the series – is widely available. Everyone should read it.
‘The Four Agreements’ summary is the intellectual property of Don Miguel Ruiz. No attempt is made here to exploit it – merely to review and inform.
More about The Four Agreements ideology, The Four Agreements book, Don Miguel Ruiz and Toltec philosophy at Don Miguel Ruiz’s website.
- CAREER OR BUSINESS START-UP/DIRECTION PLANNER
- WRITING A CURRICULUM VITAE (CV)
- CYBERNETICS – SCIENCE OF COMMUNICATIONS AND CONTROL WITHIN SYSTEMS
- DANCE AND DANCING
- ELISABETH KUBLER-ROSS – FIVE STAGES OF GRIEF
- GOAL PLANNING
- ASSERTIVENESS TECHNIQUES AND SELF-CONFIDENCE
- “I AM” – A SCRIPT FOR SELF-HELP AND PERSONAL CHANGE
- LIFE BALANCE
- PAY RISES AND SALARY INCREASES
- PERSONAL CHANGE STAGES – JOHN FISHER
- REFLECTIVE PRACTICE
- STRESS AND STRESS MANAGEMENT
- TIME MANAGEMENT TECHNIQUES, FREE TOOLS AND TEMPLATES
© The Four Agreements summary Don Miguel Ruiz 1997; review and contextual material Alan Chapman 2003-2009
Don’t Take Anything Personally and Learn To Listen!
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.
On the Toltec path, the First Agreement teaches us about the power and proper use of our own word, whereas the Second Agreement (Don’t take anything personally) gives us immunity to the words and actions of others.
It is all very simple: If you worry about other people’s opinions, if you are hurt by what others say about you, if you take personally what others say and do, you put yourself in a position to be wounded. If you don’t take anything personally, the words and actions of others can no longer hurt you. You have a shield that protects you.
In the words of don Miguel, “Immunity to poison in the middle of hell is the gift of this agreement.” Even after you master the Second Agreement, the poison will still be out there. People will continue to gossip about you and go against you. The arrows will still be flying. The difference is that they will no longer “get under your skin.” They will no longer affect your feelings. When you no longer take things personally, you will no longer be wounded, even in the midst of battle.
Cover the Earth With Leather, Or Wear Shoes
There is a Chinese proverb that says, “When your feet hurt, you can either cover the whole earth with leather … or wear shoes!” Most of us have symbolically covered the earth with leather. We spend an incredible amount of time and energy trying to make our outer environment safe, hoping people won’t say or do things that are hurtful to us. Almost every day, we make huge efforts to change others in order to avoid being wounded, in order to stay “safe.”
And what is the result? We are usually disappointed. In spite of all our efforts, others still manage to do or to say things that hurt us. Why not wear shoes instead? Why not use a shield? In other words, why not learn not to take things personally?
Why Do We Take Things Personally?
Why do we take things personally, anyway? Because when we were children we got used to being judged. We got used to believing what our parents and teachers said about us: “You’re too fat. You’re too noisy. You’re terrible at math. You’ll never make it. You’re a bad girl! You’re a failure.”
We also got used to competing for approval—for praise, good grades, athletic honors, and work promotions. For most of us, the net result of all this criticism and competition was an ingrained sense of anxiety, including the belief that we weren’t lovable or good enough. Sometimes we even got punished for it.
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Thus, beginning in our childhood and continuing into adulthood, we gave others—particularly family and authority figures—the power to judge and punish us. Since we gave others that power and then forgot that we were the ones who gave it to them, it became extremely important to “control” our outer environment, to “walk on eggshells,” to “pave the world with leather” in hope of minimizing the pain. We set up our lives in order to play it safe. We are very careful about what we say and do in order to avoid being hurt, to avoid having our wounds touched. Of course, it doesn’t work. The more we try to avoid pain, the more painful our lives become!
Remember: Everyone Is in Their Own World
Since this strategy of self-protection is bound to fail, the alternative is to heal our old wounds and take back the power we gave away. How? By realizing that what others say and do has nothing to do with us—and that it never did.
How is this possible? Just look around. If you do, you will soon see that others are in their own world. They are living in cocoons woven with their own beliefs and agreements. They don’t see you as you really are. If they did, they wouldn’t speak and act the way they do. If they were in touch with their own inner essence and saw your inner essence, they would show you nothing but love and acceptance.
One day, someone thinks you’re wonderful, the next you can’t win for losing. The fact is, though, you haven’t changed at all; you’re still the same. What the other person says or does is just a projection, and you are just a screen for the other person’s movie. So why should you take it personally? Why should you try to justify yourself? Why should you try to prove you’re right and they’re wrong? The truth is the truth, regardless of what anyone thinks.
No matter what anyone thinks, it doesn’t change a thing about what you really are. So, why fight it?
Caution: If you want to be able not to take anything personally, you have to be free of other people’s positive opinions, too! Think about it: if someone tells you, “You’re fantastic! You’re wonderful!” and you need to be acknowledged in this way, then you will also be open to negative opinions. To be free of other people’s opinions, to have immunity to poison in the midst of hell, means to free yourself of both criticism and compliments.
Recovering the Power to Be You
Just for fun, imagine for a moment all the things you say or don’t say in the space of one day, and all the things you do or don’t do in one day because of what others might say about you. If you wrote out a list, it might take a long time. Do you realize how much power you give to other people’s opinions? What if you could recover that power? What would you freely say and do, and how much room would you have to move around?
Now, imagine for a couple of minutes how your life would be if, no matter what other people said or did, nothing could hurt you any longer, if literally nothing could affect how good you felt about yourself. What would your life be like if you were totally immune to other people’s opinions? What freedoms would you enjoy that you don’t enjoy now? How much space would open up within you? What new possibilities?
Just feel that space, savor that possibility. The truth is, it’s yours right now. It has always been yours. The only barrier between you and total freedom is what you still take personally.
What’s Your SIQ?
When someone takes something personally, don Miguel calls it “personal importance” or “self-importance.” That is, the person affected feels like his “little self,” or his ego, has been attacked or threatened, and he feels the need to protect or defend that personal identify, that “little me.” Don Miguel estimates that most people use about 95 percent of their life energies defending and protecting themselves and only about 5 percent really living. Imagine what our lives would be like if it were the other way around—if those numbers were reversed!
If you want to get an idea of how strong your self-importance is, here are a few questions to help you determine your Self-Importance Quotient (SIQ). The more times you answer “Yes,” the higher your SIQ. The lower your score, the more freedom you probably enjoy.
- Do I often try to impress people or “look good?”
- Do I often look for other people’s approval?
- Do I often need to be “right”—for example, in a discussion?
- Do I often need to “win”—for example, a game or an argument?
- Do I often need to “help” people in order to feel good about myself?
- Do I often feel angry, resentful, or blaming toward others?
- Do I often feel angry, blaming, or critical of myself?
- Do I often feel victimized—used, abused, or taken advantage of?
- Do I often find myself explaining, complaining, or making excuses?
- Do I often feel fear, anxiety, or apprehension about the future?
- Do I have a lot of “drama” in my life?
- Do I often gossip or tell stories about others or myself?
There are obviously other questions you could ask yourself to get a sense of your Self-Importance Quotient; however, this should be plenty. Be aware of judging yourself for being self-important, however, because that is self-importance, too! Personal importance is a very subtle thing, which takes a lot of time and attention to root out.
In fact, there is probably not a human being on the planet who doesn’t have some of it. So as you explore this hidden realm of the psyche, just relax and treat it like a game. And remember the most amazing and liberating truth: Self-importance is based on a false “you,” a so-called “person” who doesn’t really exist!
The more you let go of this so-called “person” by not taking things personally, the more naturally you will come to know the radiant and eternal being that you truly are beyond mind and form, the universal consciousness that underlies and infuses all things.
Don’t Misuse the Second Agreement
Another important point about the Second Agreement is that often it is taken too far. Don’t take anything personally doesn’t mean, “Don’t listen to anything critical that people have to say.” At the suggestion of the Second Agreement, I have seen some people become impervious to everything, to the point that even constructive criticism and positive suggestions roll off them like water off a duck’s back. This is not what don Miguel recommends at all.
Not taking things personally means listening to people openly and honestly, taking their feelings and opinions into account. It means staying open to constructive criticism and honest disagreement in the hope that others can help you grow through expressing how they see you, through showing you your reflection in the mirror of life. If I don’t even listen to what you say, the Second Agreement is no longer a useful shield but a space suit that is impervious to everything, including expressions of love and goodwill.
Here we find an echo of the Fifth Agreement, which says, Be skeptical, but learn to listen! In other words, “Don’t automatically believe everything you hear, but don’t shut people out. Always stay open to learning and growing.”
The Second Agreement invites us to take back the power we have given others to hurt us, in order to free ourselves from the negative effects of other people’s opinions. Thanks to this shield, we can freely go forward in life, being who we are and daring to do what we want to do, without being afraid of what others might think or say about us.
©2012 by Trédaniel La Maisnie. All Rights Reserved.
Original title: Le Jeu des Accords Toltèques
Reprinted with permission of the English-language publisher,
Findhorn Press. www.findhornpress.com.
The Five Agreements Game: A Chivalry of Relationships
by Olivier Clerc.
In the book that comes with this game, Olivier Clerc introduces the Toltec way as an authentic ‘chivalry’ of relationships, allowing us to establish impeccable relationships with both others and oneself. Simply playing this game will lead you to use the five simple yet efficient agreements to fully accept yourself and others. Thus you will acquire self-mastery in three major steps.
About the Author
Born in Switzerland and living in France, Olivier Clerc is an internationally reknown writer and workshop leader, teaching in many countries around the world. After meeting Don Miguel Ruiz in Mexico in 1999, when he received the “Gift of Forgiveness”, Olivier translated and published all of Don Miguel’s books in French. Find out more about Olivier and his books at: giftofforgiveness.olivierclerc.com
All four of Don Miguel Ruiz’s agreements seem simple, but in practice they’re quite challenging. They all require resolute self-awareness and commitment to self-improvement. Like yoga, living this truth is a discipline, a consistent practice only reached through the genuine love of self.
Taking these principles beyond simple understanding to living, breathing, and walking the walk is easier said than done but more than possible and very, very worth it. It requires mental diligence, a keen observation of our patterns and conditions. We have to first take a step back and acknowledge the sources of our hurt, anxiety, stress, anger, frustration and unhappiness.
It’s imperative and helpful for each individual to take personal responsibility for their mood, their actions and reactions, their perception and interpretation, and ultimately the level with which they allow others to affect their internal state and well being.
I remember hearing a quote many years back, and I apologize for only being able to paraphrase, but it went a little something like, “People are not thinking about you nearly as often as you think they are.” That was actually very impactful and eye-opening. Of course they’re not! They’re thinking about themselves, as am I, as most of us are and should be. We are living, breathing, absorbing and striving from a singular, unique perspective.
Not only is there no way we can possibly control or influence how others think of us, it’s a tremendous waste of our energy to do so. I’ve found both when I was a sarcastic little cynic, and when I am an open loving soul, that there are people who like me, dislike me, love me, and hate me regardless. I can honestly report now that I feel better and have drawn kinder people and more opportunities through being loving, living from my happy place, over being a feisty pessimist, but that’s an individual’s call to make.
I’ve found both when I dress up swanky, like actually drying my hair and putting on make up, and when I’m completely casual and natural, that some people find me attractive and some do not. Yoga pants or fancy pants, it does not matter. There are those who will dig it and those who will not. I could kill myself preparing both physically and mentally to impress others and I could still never please everyone. And in the midst of it all I’d lose the passion, interest and love of the person in question: Me!
The truth of the matter is no one knows what makes you tick but you. You cannot possibly predict what pleases the masses or even very specific individuals, so why not release the need to please or to be validated by others and instead focus on what makes you come alive, what makes you tick, what makes you feel great? And then give that to yourself without a shred of worry in how you’ll be perceived.
The reality is a happier you leads to happier exchanges with others, less melodrama, less negativity, less what-ifing, less internal turmoil, better days and better nights.
So, how? How does this come about? I receive questions like these constantly from students and readers, fellow souls on the path to an awakened being. Similar to the questions on how not to think, how to manage stress and anxiety, how to draw more of what we want, the answer lies within us all. We must be still enough to recognize it.
Ask yourself what has brought you stress, anxiety, anger or unhappiness in the recent past and/or pervasively over your life? Does a rude server or store clerk produce agitation in you from the inside out? How long does a criticism from your boss or an argument with another stick with you?
The answer is not apathy, to simply not give a shit. No. When you operate from a very present state of mind, meaning you are not lost in thought or in the midst of repeating an old pattern, you communicate without a need to be right but also without a need to please the recipient of your message. You understand that how someone treats you is a direct reflection of them, not you.
When someone is rude to you, that’s on them. When someone lies to you, that’s on them too. Certainly you shouldn’t merely accept or condone this behavior, perhaps you might move on from that relationship, but the degree to which you allow it to soil your soul, to tarnish your mood and affect your energy state, that tells you how personally you are taking the actions of others. And the more you draw lines in what does and does not affect you, the clearer you’ll be in the life you want to lead, including the relationships you foster.
Neither the Universe, our parents, our government, our best friends, our significant others, nor anyone in-between owes us anything. We must take back the reigns of power and instead of focusing our energy outward, we need to turn back in, listen to that quiet but intelligent voice inside, the voice of consciousness, the calm presence that sits behind our hearts.
It often sounds schizophrenic or like Dissociative Identity Disorder (D.I.D. formerly Multiple Personality Disorder) but we need to find a way to mute the noise of the outside world, to sift through the many outside influences and return to the source. Eckhart Tolle writes beautifully of the duality in the mind. There is the thinking mind and the awareness above it. There are thoughts and the witnessing presence that surrounds them. We are not our thoughts, we are the awareness, the conscious presence watching everything.
We simply must begin to laugh at ourselves and our thoughts. That’s how I’ve taken a long road to a happier place, laughing at myself! No bullshit. I have some interesting thoughts, some worth putting energy into, others worth trashing immediately. I am now in better place to make proper distinctions. If a thought is not helpful, kind, insightful, funny, positive or encouraging, I let it go. Tolle calls this dis-identifying with the thinking mind.
We make the mistake in thinking we are our minds, we are our thoughts, opinions, our reputation, our image. Nothing could be farther from the truth and so long as we attribute these arbitrary and fleeting mechanisms to our self worth and value, we will keep finding ourselves in those same emotional states that keep us glued to our place.
We must break free and the first step is breaking free from the mind, even just a split second at a time. If we’re able to pause, have a little chat with ourselves, then when negative emotions arise we can bring an immediate awareness, answering the how’s and why’s and who’s, to realize, essentially, that no one can make us upset, only we can allow someone else to upset us. Don’t take anything personally, free others of the responsibility to treat you exactly right, and you’ll free yourself to live authentically as well, not worrying about how you’ll be judged or perceived, only about how you feel from the inside out each day.
Every moment we spend dwelling over the past, even minutes ago, we lose precious time Now. The cloud of negativity makes it impossible to see or hear new, positive opportunities and connections. By not taking anything personally, we can more easily dust our bad days and our unpleasant encounters off, having learned and accepted, ready to take a deep breath and see what awaits us in our future.
Nothing anyone else does has to do with us. Remember that, free yourself, and grant the permission needed to follow your own path to bliss. Let go of excuses and use your wisdom to circumvent obstacles.
Close your eyes, feel your heart, deepen your breath. There is no telling how the world could benefit from your potential, just don’t let it get in your way.
Do you take things personally?
I always have. My body and brain respond rapidly to the slightest hint of criticism, questioning, or doubt, tightening my muscles and pouring forth tears. All this happens far before my thinking mind kicks in.
One time a therapist said to me, in a nasty tone, “It’s not all about you, Sandra.” The conversation deteriorated from there with further verbal abuse.
I slid into confusion and distress, silently asking myself: “What is he doing? Why is he saying these things? What’s going on?” My gut screamed, “Get yourself out of here.”
It took a moment, but that’s what I did. I weakly announced, “You can’t talk to me that way,” got up and walked out. I continued to cry and tremble for quite a while after the encounter. It had aroused vestiges of trauma from early years.
The Four Agreements
Despite this therapist’s complete lack of skillfulness and the pain that ensued for me, to this day, when I find myself taking things personally, I sometimes hear his initial words in my head once again: “It’s not all about you, Sandra.” In fact, this happened recently and led me back to The Four Agreements, A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom .
In The Four Agreements, don Miguel Ruiz says, “Don’t take anything personally.” It’s the second of his four agreements.
I consider this book a tough love boot camp for brave ones who want to fully commit to finding emotional and spiritual freedom. I love the Toltec Wisdom contained in this book.
Let’s take a look at what Ruiz says about taking things personally and how to overcome this self-harming habit.
Don’t Take Things Personally
Ruiz says you take things personally because, on some level, you agree with them. You may not agree with them literally, but something in the words, the look, or the behavior hooks you. In my own example, it wasn’t necessarily the exact words, but the implication that there’s something wrong with me.
Ruiz claims that taking things personally is an act of selfishness because, like my ex-therapist said, it indicates you think everything is about “you.”
I find that a little hard to hear and maybe you do too. This is the tough love part, right?
It may be self-centered in that moment to take things personally, but it doesn’t mean you’re a selfish person. You might be a very kind and compassionate person who has deep wounds that have brought about your emotional sensitivity or reactivity. Which can, by the way, also involve lashing out.
Ruiz continues by stating what other people do isn’t about you, it’s about them. They live in their own dream, the one they’ve constructed in their own mind. Their dream is rooted in the programming they received as a child and the subsequent agreements – around feeling states, beliefs, and opinions – they made in their mind So what they say and do has nothing to do with you.
How you respond reflects your own dream and the agreements you made as a child. And that’s how it will be unless you take conscious steps to identify and change those agreements.
When you take things personally, it makes you easy prey for those who exploit and manipulate others. That’s why people who are naturally sensitive do best by avoiding people who drain their energy and those with narcissistic tendencies. The more you engage in such encounters, the more your sensitivity will be activated, and the more entrenched it will become in your brain.
That doesn’t mean the other person is at fault, you’re responsible for your own reactions. But you’ll need to learn how to strengthen your boundaries both energetically and psychologically to be able to withstand such behavior.
Read more about this: What to Do When Someone Robs Your Joy and Deflates Your Energy
The Alternative: Live in Love
Instead of taking things personally, Ruiz says to drop your fears and live from a place of love. When you live from love you find happiness, contentment, and a sense of peace that doesn’t depend on others.
Don’t take anything personally – even the good things. People flatter you because of something within them. If you live in love, you won’t need other people’s flattery. Your self-esteem will be in tact. You’ll already know you’re fine, beautiful, and wonderful.
You also don’t need to believe the inner critic or mean girl in your head. These critical voices come from the conditioning that you received as a child and have nothing to do with reality. You have a choice now to live under the thumb of your inner critic or to reject that programming.