This calls for a cup of coffee!
And this is the second part of The Four Agreements book I’ve committed – joyously – to read and blog about over the next four weeks. This book is compelling enough that I know it will be well broken-in and loved even after I am done with my first read through.
The author, Don Miguel Ruiz, summarizes this chapter: “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.”
Wow. Just, WOW!
Why do we take things personally? If someone random dude on the street yells, “hey, you stupid bitch,” without even knowing me, it’s not about me, it’s about them. If I were to take that random mudslinging personally, then perhaps I believe I am a stupid bitch. I might even wonder “…how does he know? Is he clairvoyant or does everyone else out there see how stupid – and bitchy – I am?” The minute I choose to agree with this I’ve taken the ‘poison’ as Ruiz calls it, and I’m trapped…trapped in a dream of Hell.
Why eat others’ emotional garbage? Emotional garbage…ah, love that term too.
Oh man, I remember getting teased a lot as a kid. Painful. Kids can be absolutely verbally brutal to one another, don’t you think? I’d come home in tears sobbing about this and that, crying on my Mom’s shoulder. And I in turn picked on others I saw as ‘weaker’ than me. I remember my Mom saying stuff like, “Just ignore them and it will go away,” or even the doozy, “Don’t take it personally.” That’s a LOT for an 8 or 9 year old to process…when you’re young all of that playground politics IS your world and nothing else matters.
What if someone insults us, truly hurts our feelings deep down to our core? Ruiz responds by saying, “…it is not what I am saying that is hurting you; it is that you have wounds that I touch by what I have said. You are hurting yourself.”
So THAT’S it. Oh, and how did I come across this book, on a side note? Remember the “Two Surprising Ds” post I did recently? I am really enjoying this new friendship with D, the woman I used to see ‘squatting’ in a building cafeteria where we worked – as did I. (Consultants without official workspaces get to eek out space wherever we can!) Thank you Michael Kors for getting us officially acquainted – she recognized me waiting in line at the store in Bellevue Square and I am so glad she said hello!
One night at a happy hour I was venting to her and a few of her friends about how I got my chops busted a little at work. I was still fuming a bit and feeling taken down a notch or two. Vulnerable. I strive to be open minded, open to feedback from co-workers around me, but when it’s delivered in front of another consultant I have just met, well, that’s NOT OK in my book. The energy in that small meeting was jacked up and just overall way off. And I felt cut off at the knees, embarrassed, and in my defense, got, well, admittedly, defensive. Hate to admit it, but I did. There, I said it. So D immediately cut to the chase and said ummm, you took it personally and oh you SO need to read this book!
There’s something about a double whammy back at me when people tell me to not take things personally. I get stubborn and feel like lashing out with well hell I will feel however I want to, so NEENERS. Yeah, that’s mature, right? It’s been a lifelong process for me to shed that, grow up, and even take things to the next level by reading this book. Nope, it’s not about me. Nothing is. Not even when people get mad at me. My truth is only my perception – no one else’s. I let someone push my buttons and I fell off my ‘stance.’ I got defensive when someone told me to not be defensive! Whoops.
Now I can breathe and learn through that recent experience and let it go. And it feels fantastic!
What about the flip side, say when someone says “you are wonderful.” Ruiz explains: “…they are not saying that because of you. You know you are wonderful. It is not necessary to believe other people who tell you that you are wonderful. Don’t take anything personally. Even if someone got a gun and shot you in the head, it was nothing personal. Even at that extreme.”
OK wow, I had not even taken it that far in my mind but alrighty! But let’s back up to the compliment of “you are wonderful.” What’s wrong with acknowledging a compliment like that with a genuine THANK YOU in return? I was always taught to appreciate compliments and not brush them off. I’ll have to keep mulling over that one. Perhaps he means that – let me read my paragraph above again – that if we already feel that way we don’t need others to tell us?
When we take things personally, we set ourselves up to suffer. To suffer for nothing. Ruiz even talks about abuse: “…if you have the need to be abused you will find it easy to be abused by others. Likewise, if you are with people who need to suffer, something in you makes you abuse them…they are asking for justification for their suffering.”
If we don’t take things personally, we will never be hurt by what other people say or do. How freeing is that? We are not responsible for the actions of others…we’re only responsible for ourselves.
So my goal is to really, truly incorporate this mantra into my daily living and breathing, even moreso on top of my tough lifelong journey to shed that old skin. I know I can do it and I won’t judge or beat myself up when I slip either. Onward!
Next week’s post: Don’t Make Assumptions.