DON'T TAKE ANYTHING PERSONALLY
Well, it seems that some wanted me to finish my thoughts about "The Four Agreements" (Cheryl), so I will. The second agreement is "Don't take anything personally," and I will admit that this is most often the toughest of the four for me. I seem to take a lot of things personally. When I was in school I used to cry if a teacher told me to stop talking! I thought it meant he/she didn't like me. I know, very sad. But even as an adult I have a tough time with this one. If my kids misbehave in a store I internalize that it's my fault because I didn't do something right. (I know, maybe they're just being kids.) But it's hard. My mother used to say I was a "backward" kid, that I was very shy. I think I was scared; scared that people wouldn't want to be my friend, so I hid in the corner to avoid the rejection. That fear is with me a lot still.
But Ruiz says that all of this is not necessary. Not only does he want us not to take negative things personally, but the positive as well. If you believe in yourself. If you're comfortable with you are and you allow yourself to speak your truth - you won't need reinforcement and validation from others. Therefore, it doesn't matter if someone tells you you are ugly or someone tells you that you're the smartest person they've ever met. You know who you are and it doesn't matter if anyone else does. Their perceptions are filtered through their own experiences and agreements with themselves and they cannot possibly know you the way you know yourself. In turn, their judgements are useless.
If you are like me and find it difficult to separate yourself from the words of others, then Ruiz says it's because there is some part of us that believes what is said to us. For example, if someone tells you that you look fat and your feelings are hurt - you must think you are fat. If you didn't, why would it bother you? In the same way, if someone tells you that they think you're smart and you suddenly feel elated at their observation, it's because you believe you are smart, too. But taking things personally opens us up for abuse. When we take things personally often outsiders will pick up on that and will use it to try and make themselves feel better by putting us down. Although none of what they may say is true, those of us who can't separate our view of ourselves from what others see will take those words to heart and create false agreements with and about ourselves. And often times we will pass that poison on to our loved ones.
Your ability to not take anything personally is not arrogant or callous - it is in fact the opposite. Because when we take things personally we are saying that everything is about us. It's my fault that my husband is angry with me. It's my fault that little Joey did poorly on his test. It's my fault for not going on that diet. However, other people have not had the experiences that each of us have had. We share commonalities, certainly, but every human being's journey is unique and therefore no one is in a place to judge anyone else because we can never truly know someone's motivations or reasoning. By not taking things personally we are releasing others from judging us, we are saying that we understand that they cannot comprehend who we are and thereby have no influence on the way we continue to experience our own lives. Taking that power of judgement away from others, and from ourselves, is quite a liberating experience and allows us to be happy with ourselves and others. When we do not hold grudges for what people say or do to us we are more able to show them love and understanding when they may make otherwise hurtful comments.
"Whatever people do, feel, think, or say, don't take it personally. If they tell you how wonderful you are, they are not saying that because of you. You know you are wonderful. It is not necessary to believe other people ... As you make a habit of not taking anything personally, you won't need to place your trust in what others do or say. You will only need to trust in yourself to make responsible choices." -- Ruiz
Isn't that empowering? It's not that we don't need relationships with others - this is not a solitary action. However, we don't need others to make us happy. We are happy because we are us. And that kind of knowledge and self-satisfaction will open our hearts to all kinds of wonderful experiences, while filtering out needless suffering.
So this is the one I really need to work on. I have made great strides in the last year or so, but I have a long way to go. I like it when others validate what I'm saying or thinking. When I have a decision to make I am often at a loss unless someone else weighs in. But only I can make the right decisions for me because only I know who I am and what I truly want. Others may have great insights, but they don't have the answers. I cannot look to them any longer. Just thinking about that kind of freedom and self reliance makes me happier already and makes me think that I want to instill such independence of thought and deed in my own boys.