In The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom (A Toltec Wisdom Book) by Don Miguel Ruiz, the second agreement is “Don’t take anything personally.” Ruiz writes:
“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….”
The reason why you would take something someone says about you personally is if the approval of the person you’re interacting with is important to you. You’ve been conditioned since birth into thinking that you have to be accepted by others. In our minds, we automatically translate “others” to “everybody.” The truth is, not everyone will like or accept you. (Truth-bomb.)
In addition, you can’t control what others think of you. Even if you follow all of the “rules” and do everything “right”, how others respond to you is outside of your control. It’s their business, not yours. If you accept yourself, and act authentically within your values and beliefs, you’ll attract people who will accept you for who you are.
I have to “coach thyself” on this almost daily. And I will tell you that the pace of improvements has a “three steps forward, two steps back” rhythm. The fact is that since “there are no straight lines in nature” (per my art teacher), there are no straight lines in personal development either. Sigh.
However, I have had insightful leaps forward in learning how to not take anything personally. Here, I share three tools/techniques that have made a monumental difference for me:
Tip 1: Become “Response-Abled”
Learn to create space between yourself and your reactions. This gives you time to decide how you want to react. For how to do this, consider Steven Covey’s 1989 book, “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and Habit 1: Be Proactive.
Being Proactive is about taking responsibility for your life. You can’t keep blaming everything on your parents, your manager, the dog who ate your presentation. Proactive people recognize that they are “response-abled.” They don’t blame genetics, circumstances, conditions, or conditioning for their behavior. They consciously choose their behavior.
Assume a nasty social media post is written about you (not that I’d know anything about this). You feel “dis-ease” (strong emotional reaction) in your body. What to do? Take a few deep breaths. Notice your reaction. Then, choose how you want to respond. Then, act accordingly. In this example, you choose to ignore the comment and move on.
Becoming “response-abled” takes practice but like any new habit, you will get better. Slow down and notice what you are feeling and thinking before you react.
Tip 2: Rule of Thirds
One of my coach mentors, Amy Pearson, classifies herself as a “recovering approval addict.” Can you relate? For years she’d turn herself “into a pretzel” for approval. No more. Amy realized that no matter what she did, there were always going to be people who hated her, loved her and ignored her. Hence, her “rule of thirds.”
Rule of Thirds: No matter what you do, 1/3 of population with love you. 1/3 of population will hate you. 1/3 of population will not even know you are alive. Knowing this, where do you want to spend your time and energy?
Tip 3: Stay in Your Own Business
Another life-changing technique comes from Byron Katie. Katie says there are three kinds of business: your business, other people’s business and God’s/the universe’s business. The way to live a happy life is to stay “in your own business.”
“As long as you think that the cause of your problem is “out there”—as long as you think that anyone or anything is responsible for your suffering—the situation is hopeless. It means that you are forever in the role of victim, that you’re suffering in paradise.”
― Byron Katie,
The concept of “staying in your own business” is the tip of the iceberg of Byron Katie’s work. She makes her materials free here: Tools to do The Work.
Becoming “response-abled,” remembering the “rule of thirds,” and consistently “staying in your own business” are practices that will help you to not take anything personally. Practice them and learn to rely on yourself. The more you know and respect yourself, the less you will seek others’ opinions. When you develop a life orientation that is based primarily on your own personal resources, rather than on external influences, your dependency on outside forces is diminished. Life just gets better and better.
CALL TO ACTION: Would you like to learn how to not take things personally? Let’s brainstorm strategies together. Schedule a Free 30-min Consult or email me at email@example.com.
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