Don’t Take Things Personally
“Whatever happens around you, don’t take it personally. Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves.” –Don Miguel Ruiz
I delivered a presentation related to my next book – suggestions for finding joy in every day living, including on our worst days. ‘Cause we all have bad days. One of the topics was “Don’t Take Things Personally.”
Being unattached to what other people say or do is much easier said than done. This means not allowing other people’s words or behavior to affect you or make you believe that they have anything to do with you. When you work toward this, you will be much more fulfilled in everyday living. You will be happier because you will stop thinking that others’ bad moods, rude comments, or disrespectful behavior has anything to do with you. People’s reaction to you is really not about you. It is about THEM. Each person has their own history, experiences, hurts, and wins. Their behavior is based on their own histories and hurts, not on you. Our childhood and past experiences influence shape our personalities and have a great influence on our functioning in our adult lives.
Not taking things personally is easier to do as you get older, because experience teaches you that other people’s behavior is not about you. You may even learn YEARS later that someone’s negative behavior that you THOUGHT was about you had absolutely nothing to do with you. When you have the benefit of this knowledge, it helps understand the concept. Of course, some situations may make this more challenging, such as being in a co-dependent relationship, or having frequent interactions with a narcissist.
When someone insults you or does some other hurtful behavior (that you interpret that way), let those feelings remind yourself, “Do NOT take this personally, smart self. This is about her, not me. This is about the way she sees the world, not me. This is her problem, not mine.” You are then protecting yourself emotionally, and over time with practice, developing immunity to intentional and unintentional hurtful words and behavior of others.
You may also take it a step further and understand that often someone’s hurtful words stem from feeling hurt themselves. Then instead of turning anger into neutrality, you could use it as an opportunity to experience something positive – to feel compassion. This not only frees yourself from hurt feelings, but you can turn it around by experiencing the wonderful feeling that you get inside when you have compassion for another human being.
- If changing this habit is challenging, don’t worry; it is for most people. That is why Ruiz chose it as one of the four agreements to write about. So remind yourself that this is not easy; it will take effort and practice, every single day. Give yourself some slack about how hard it is at first.
- When you first notice that you are getting worked up about someone’s behavior or words, that is your cue for some self-talk. Simply tell yourself, “Do not take this personally. This is not about me. This is about them. I am okay.” Or if you want to inject some humor, think to yourself, “Not my circus. Not my monkeys.”
- Don’t wait until you are in the moment to address this common habit; be proactive. Put little signs around your house, your car on sticky notes. You can write the serious mantra, “Do not take things personally,” or the silly one, “Not my circus. Not my monkeys.” Or if you want to keep it private and in code, write “DNTTP,” (do not take things personally), “NAM” (not about me), or print out an image, serious or funny, associated with this mantra. You could even contact me to have a custom bracelet made with your mantra!
- Another way to be proactive is to use positive affirmations, such as “I am impervious to other’s hurtful behavior. I am aware enough to understand that others’ hurtful words are not about me. It’s about them.”
- Start the day with a brief meditation or deep breathing. Set your intention for the day to shift taking things personally.
Many more topics related to finding joy and cultivating happiness in my next book – stay tuned!