Don’t Take Anything Personally

Don’t Take Anything Personally. Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements

Ever feel hurt by something someone said or did? You took it personally?

He or she may have actually said, Don’t take this personally, but…—and you still did. Or the opposite: This time…It’s personal. So, of course, you took heed. (But maybe that only happens in the movies.) (It’s the tagline to Jaws: The Revenge, to be specific.)

How can you actually practice Miguel Ruiz‘s wise and strong advice in The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom (1997)? Specifically, “Don’t take anything personally,” as he states as one of those four agreements. “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.”

Several other related quotes from The Four Agreements:

There is a huge amount of freedom that comes to you when you take nothing personally.

But 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. There is no way I can take this personally.

…Nothing that your partner does is personal. Your partner is dealing with her own garbage. If you don’t take it personally, it will be so easy for you to have a wonderful relationship with your partner.

Matthew D. Della Porta,The Huffington Post, offers further explanation of the downside of not understanding this premise:

If you take things personally, you make yourself a victim of anything that others say or do. This is like riding bumper cars and feeling outraged that others are colliding into you! Some may hit you because they are being careless or they have no control over their car. Others may crash into you deliberately. It would be quite silly to feel upset about this because we know that when we ride bumper cars, we are going to get hit.
Likewise, in our lives, we will inevitably be struck by the criticisms and oversights of others. Will you be disturbed and flustered by what other people do? Realize that it makes no sense to give people such power over you.

Another resource worth a peek is psychiatrist Abigail Brenner‘s Psychology Today post aptly titled “How to Stop Taking Things Personally.” Her three key points on this issue:

  • …[D]on’t allow another person to tell you who you are
  • …[I]t helps to reflect on how important the relationship with the other person really is.
  • It can be helpful to ask for clarification before responding.
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