Don't Take Anything Personally
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.