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 Miguel Ruiz
The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz always sits on my desk. I’ve referenced this book many times after feeling slighted or hurt by another’s actions. His agreements are simple: 1) Don’t take anything personally; 2) Always do your best; 3) Be Impeccable with your word; and 4) Don’t make assumptions. Intellectually, his advice is sound, but in the throngs of a difficult situation, is it possible to not take something personally?
I am not sure. Over the years, through my own experience and from conversations with family and friends, I realize over and over again, how often we take everything personally. I am particularly inept at dealing with petty slights. When the mom who refuses to say hello even though we’ve intersected a half-dozen times, it pinches my insides. I ask, “How hard is it to smile and say hello?” This one question spirals into looking inside myself, questioning, “What offends her so much that she cannot say hello?” The unanswered text, email, or phone call, will sometimes fuel a litany of speculation that ultimately leads to one place: nowhere. My all time favorite scenario is the exclusion from the party that “everyone” is attending, but you are still looking for the Evite in your spam inbox. Being left out often fuels intense questions of “Why didn’t he or she invite me? Why was I not included?”
I witnessed this feeling in my daughter. A few weeks ago a friend held a slumber party to celebrate her birthday. The little girl asked three friends and my daughter was not included as a part of this group. My daughter asked me, “Why did she not invite me? My feelings are hurt.” I addressed her hurt feelings and tried to comfort her. “Honey, you won’t be invited to everything. That is ok.”
Eventually she moved on and focused on her own weekend plans, which included playdates, other birthday parties, and a movie night with me. The point is, that for every one of these small losses, there are countless other people and events that affirm us and say that, you matter. Why not channel our focus toward this light? I am lucky for every person who does not understand or slights me, I can name at least three people who include and uplift me. For most, it is about affirmation.
Taking things personally, eventually, always turns me toward the light and goodness in my life.
And I am reminded again and again, how much I am loved.