I’ve probably read Don Miguel Ruiz’s Four Agreements at least a few times. His four maxims consist of the following: 1) Be Impeccable With Your Words; 2) Don’t Make Assumptions; 3) Don’t Take Anything Personally and 4) Always Do Your Best. The rules are simple in construction, but monumental to integrate and practice in life.
I struggle to not take things personally. For instance, yesterday my daughter and I decided to stop for a yogurt treat after school. When we walked in, my daughter saw some of her classmates and squealed in excitement even though they only saw each other about 15 minutes ago. The mothers know me, but chose not to include me in their conversation. I hung out with my daughter and her classmates, wondering why I should even care if the mothers talked to me. I tried to dismiss my feelings and knew this was one of those moments that I shouldn’t really take personally. I only know these mothers because our children are in the same classroom. There is no requirement that we should be friends. In my head, I say, “Get over it! It really doesn’t matter.”
When I had an acquaintance label me as “being politically correct”, I cringed and took that comment to heart. I’ve never craved labels and for some reason, that statement struck me as being unauthentic. The truth is I really strive to live an honest and authentic life, attempting to immerse myself in meaning and character. I wondered for days why this person perceived my personality in this manner. Ultimately, I took it personally, but didn’t have any reason to. I sometimes forget that what people say or don’t say reflects their own personal insecurities and in reality has very little to do with me. I am not the center of everyone’s universe. This I believe is integral in realizing that many times other’s actions have really nothing to do with me, but some issue that is plaguing them.
I often think about all of the things I carry at the end of the day. The driver who cut me off in traffic or the evite invitation I didn’t get. I actively forget all of the goodness in my life. There are good things I can carry with me and take personally. For my birthday this past year, one of my very good artist friends made me a pottery mug so I could drink my coffee while I write. During Thanksgiving, another wonderful friend made my family pumpkin bread and cookies. Just because she wanted to. My daughter’s hugs and her I love you’s are another thing that I could take really personally. That kind of personal feels exceptionally good. And these are only some of the examples of goodness in my life and the ones that I’ve only chose to highlight. There is more sweetness that I treasure inside of me.
What I’ve realized is that the negative is really in the periphery. But because of my tendency to carry negative experiences with me, I’ve made the periphery my sole pathway.
It’s deciding what you want to carry. I am focusing on the highlights and it is one of the ways I am going to honor my hours. You can make that choice too. Take the goodness really personally.
Do you take things personally? What’s your way of putting a negative experience out of your mind? Any words of advice on focusing on what is truly important?
Wow, Rudri. I feel the resonance of this post in my heart and my stomach. I take everything personally. The slight at the yogurt place you mentioned? The rude driver? I would be thinking about those incidents for days, complaining about them, analyzing them. But you’re absolutely right: we are not the center of anyone else’s universe. What might feel like a jab to us was probably nothing to the others involved.
One of my personal commandments in my Happiness Project is “Don’t Take it Personally” and I would do well to remember the second half of your post while trying to live up to it. Why is it so much easier to carry the negative things with us rather than the good?
Thank you for this reminder and this piece of perspective today. xo
Nodded my way through this one. Yes, I take things personally. Way too often. I also have a hard time focusing on what is truly important. I wish there were a way to be more disciplined in my thinking and dwelling, you know? Because so much time is wasted on worrying about things that honestly don’t deserve us. Another gem here. Thanks.
I cringed a little as I read this because I am so guilty of this tendency.
I can’t remember who said it, but the quote stuck with me–some famous woman said, “People always say not to take things personally; I see no other way to take them.” It struck home because really, all of our experiences are filtered through our own lens–how can we not take things personally?
Still, I understand what you are saying. Taking everything personally is exhausting, and being introverted (I think) makes it even worse. Introverts overthink everything.
The mamas at the yogurt shop deserve a kick in the shorts. xo
yup, I definitely take things personally. And yes, sometimes, I even feel bad as I take these things personally. But I also get over things pretty quickly, most little things anyway. I’m a lot harder on myself when it comes to what I do to myself as opposed to what someone else does to me (perceived or real). I think that along the way, my limited energy began to rule out things I can’t do anything about i.e. other people’s actions.
When I taught in school and one of my students said or done something crazy, I would take it personally and feel really bad. Somedays, i would focus on the good things and somedays the bad behaviour would overpower the good one and I felt really bad. So, i would talk to my fellow teacher friends and see if i dealt with it okay or not. I really cared for my students and i felt really bad because i thought of them as one of my own children. But my principal would say, “You shouldn’t take it personaly” if I ever went to him to talk to him about it. So, i think to myself, “Am I the only one who cares?” If the student misbehaved or said something hurtful, he really didn’t care.
I always take things personally. Always. And it hurts. Always. I wish I knew another way. I’m embarrassed that I don’t know Four Agreements. I think I’ll get a copy and mull this over some more. What freedom to be able to just let it go!
Yes, I take things personally. I felt sad when I read how you felt at the yogurt shop. I also over analyze everything and I feel bad when people are rude without a reason. Life is too short for that! I am sending you an embrace and I hope that you realize that these moms are the ones that lost out!
I loved the ideas in that book. It’s hard not to take things personally. So hard. I spend time dwelling on the bad, but it is peripheral. The core of my life is filled with love.
I can really relate to this. I love your advice at the end “You can make that choice too. Take the goodness really personally”, but I feel that it’s easier said than done. Is there anything specific that you, or any of your readers, has found helpful in terms of not taking things personally?
Interestingly enough, I picked up a copy of the book The Highly Sensitive Person a few months ago. I still need to finish it, but a stastistic from one of its earlier chapters has really stuck with me. In a survey on sensitivty, 42% of the respondents described themselves as “not sensitive at all”.
I try to remember this when I find myself taking things personally. It helps to know that much of the world doesn’t feel things as deeply as I do, and they may not realize the affront. Or that they may even think they were acting a positive or helpful manner. For instance, the woman who called you politically correct may have meant it in a postive way and didn’t intend any harm. Yet at the same time I, as a senstive soul, totally get why you took it personally.
I’m going strive to follow your advice in the New Year. Here’s to thicker skin in 2011!
Oh, yes, I take things personally. Like you, I KNOW I shouldn’t, but it’s my nature and something I fight all the time. I really related when you said that you’re actively ignoring all the good, and carrying the bad with you to the end of the day. I’m inspired to turn that around and actively embrace all the good.
I wind up taking the wrong things personally as well. You’re so right. It’s time to flip it around.
To loosely quote one of my favorite guilty pleasures, the movie Pretty Woman, “The bad stuff is easier to believe.” I can totally relate to the experience at the ice cream shop. I constantly dwell on the negative, and I find it extremely difficult to accept compliments. Part of it is how I was raised and cultural factors and part of it is self-esteem issues. I love your attitude of taking the good personally, it’s just a matter of how to do it. Something for me to work on for sure. I hope you take this personally, you are a beautiful person inside and out and your writing inspires me.
I take EVERYTHING personally. I try really hard not to…but like you said it’s easier to say you should do that than to actually do it. If I was in that yogurt shop, I would have invited you over for conversation.
I read the Four Agreements for the first time last year, and I actually say all four agreements to myself often. As a mantra. Because they resonated with me. As did this post. I take it all personal. But I am consciously trying not to, I remind myself EVERYDAY. Have you read The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown. I suspect it will resonate with you as it has me. It takes this issue a little further, provides a few more tools to help with the struggle.
Wow. I wrote a post early this morning that touches on some of these topics, though from a somewhat different angle. (Won’t be published for another 45 minutes or so.)
“The negative is the periphery.” Yes. But some of us carry vulnerable places from childhood that make us more easily hurt by that negativity. Perhaps the best we can do is try to learn, and teach our kids to do better.
I love this. And it is such a poignant reminder for me right about now (after getting my panties in a bunch over not being invited to two parties over the holiday season — what about the parties I WAS invited to?) Focus on the positive. Always good advice.
It is sad, those Moms that didn’t let you in on their conversation. They missed out on you!
People can be so clueless.
Look at the humor in the situation. It is nothing personal. You have to know that.
If I had been in your situation, and I have, I would have just pranced right over to the Moms and inserted myself into their conversation. It becomes like a challenge to me. I would not let them be rude. I would smile brightly and not let them pretend not to see me.
They are just caught up in their own “BS.” You are aware of those around you and compassionate. Unfortunately not everyone is as evolved. No matter, if you want to you can be part of any conversation. Nobody could resist you.
Oh girl. You are speaking my language. The Four Agreements saved my life.
I actively practice not taking it personally. For instance, just this morning I saw where many of the women in my community were invited to be part of a new group of “movers and shakers” … yet I wasn’t. I struggled, intensely, with that for at least an hour. And then I decided that not being invited didn’t mean I wasn’t important, it meant I just wasn’t invited. I could invite myself or I could move on with my life. I chose to move on. In years past, I would still be struggling with my worth after not being “chosen.” It’s sooooo hard to not take EVERYTHING personally.
Your post, again, resonates.
Sounds good—especially when we try to follow these agreements together, in some loosely affiliated but caring social context; honoring the good and taking it personally to heart seems nourishing, as does trusting that people who feel good about themselves will generally be kind (thus beyond not taking cruelty, indifference, etc. personally we can muster a little compassion for those of us who won’t even join us in admitting they/we are insecure). Here’s to looking out for each other and trusting that we are all included in our way. Namaste
I, too, used to take things really personally until I realized that like you said what they say has more to do with them than me. I still find myself on occasion pondering others perception, but deep down I know that those who know me have taken the time to know the real me, and the other opinions don’t really matter in the big scheme of things….most excellent post, Rudri.
I naturally take things very personally – the positive, yes, but particularly the negative. I’m aware of it, and I resist it; but it is hard to fight the self-conciousness, self-doubt and even anger that can result from being cut off, snubbed or ignored. The social stratum of playgrounds and playdates and birthday parties has opened up a whole new world of awkwardness and frustration. But I, like you, am trying to let the many wonderful experiences overwhelm and overshadow the annoying. And to let them be just that – annoying – rather than hurtful or worrisome.
I’m the mom at the yogurt store. Not literally, mind you, but I am the woman who is immersed in some conversation about something-or-another and who is so clueless to what is going on around me that I inadvertently fail to invite someone else into conversation with me.
I had a friend say just the other day that she “didn’t quite know how to ‘take’ some things I say.” I was stunned. “Well, first, you listen to what I say and accept it for that and nothing more.” Okay, so I didn’t actually say that, but it is what I wanted to say. I choose to believe that the people with whom I interact regularly do not wake up in the morning with the intention of slighting me, hurting my feelings, or “getting my goat.” Okay, so perhaps Plaintiff’s lawyers DO get up in the morning with those intentions, but I digress. Once you convince yourself of that fact (and it is a fact…people are generally too self-consumed to intend to cause a problem for you), you will find yourself living in a lovely world of cluelessness.
Come, join me in that world!
OOOhhh….so well written! I know we have had this conversation in person, but I am so impressed by your artistry with words, Rudri. You should write a book.:)
Isn’t it amazing how many people share this problem? Just when I thought I was the only one, struggling to let something go, battling a rude comment in my mind, pleading with myself and God to help me release it, it is refreshing to see I’m not alone. I don’t know Don Miguel Ruiz but I like his ideas. They fall in line with my favorite quote for 2010…”Believe the best in people”. And now a new quote for 2011…”Take the goodness really personally.”
I’ve experienced that feeling of being on the outside as conversations flow between two or three people. You can’t really contribute because you don’t understand the topic or the topic doesn’t concern you. I don’t think people mean it. I think the moms simply got caught up because they may be friends and probably have walls of their own where outsiders are concerned. Maybe keep on smiling and step forward to say a few words like, “How are you? I remember seeing you at____. What did you think of ____ ?” This introduces a new conversation.
I hope you don’t let it get to you. Our pastor used to say most of the time it isn’t about us.