We all wish there was some magic formula to feel good all the time, live less fearfully, and attract more love, money, and peace into our worlds than we could dream of. Just me? Didn’t think so.
There are, of course, plenty of ways to use manifesting and the law of attraction, self love, and healthy habits to improve your life.
But what if there was one phrase you could have in your tool box to pull you out of a funk, help you face your fears, and keep you from spiraling into the place of slow (or no) return?
Don Miguel Ruiz wrote a book called The Four Agreements, and it is a must read if you want a simple guide to freeing yourself from the constraints we create with our thoughts. He breaks down life into four rules-to-live by that essentially make life easier, better, and smoother.
The one golden rule, that Ruiz illustrates in his book, that can ease relationship drama, soothe heartbreak, create resilience and persistence in the face of failure, as well as taming our fears is this:
Don’t Take Anything Personally
I know, I know, you might be saying. It’s not about me, I get it. But hear me out: I knew not to take things personally consciously for at least ten years. I knew I shouldn’t take things personally. Why would I? Logically, it made no sense. But it took me about ten years to actually apply it, and to actually feel it. In other words, sometimes it takes years for our subconscious to catch up to our conscious mind and apply the lessons we’ve learned.
That’s the thing about lessons. We can read about them all we want, plaster them in ink or blood or lipstick all around our house, and have the shiniest, most state-of-the-art toolboxes around, but it will always be experience that teaches.
Know the tools. Have the tools. Write the helpful phrases in lipstick on your mirror, and post-its in your wallet. Be prepared to use them, turn to them, and re-read them, and re-read them, and re-read them again. It might take a while for it to set in.
The day you learn to “feel” and believe that nothing is about you (sorry to burst your bubble!) instead of just hearing it and understanding it, your life will change.
Why We Think It’s All About Us
See, as human beings we can be quite self-involved. Part of it is the influence of our individualized, Western culture that celebrates independence and individuality, and part of it is how our brains have evolved to survive.
In a sense, self-involvement benefits society because we can only control ourselves in our actions, and we can only help others heal if we can heal ourselves. We need to know ourselves to express ourselves fully and share our gifts with others.
We get in our own way, though, when we take the behavior of others personally because they are too busy thinking about themselves to be worried about us!
Even if someone is consciously thinking about us, other people are always acting out in a way that has to do with their history, their insecurities, their coping mechanisms, their perception of the world, and trying to benefit themselves. People are thinking about protecting and serving themselves! They’re not thinking about us, even if it seems like it.
It’s. Never. About. Us.
When we don’t get a job, or we get romantically rejected, or when we’re the subject of office gossip, it’s not about us, even if it seems like it is.
Hearing this isn’t enough. You have to feel it. You have to learn to apply it in the moment when someone is criticizing you, or saying something hurtful to your face. You have to internalize and believe the message that nothing other people do is about you.
So when someone calls you a “whiny bitch” to your face, take a moment before reacting and ask yourself why that person might say that, and what their motives might be. Could it be to prop up their low self esteem? Could they be struggling with addiction or mental health issues that you know nothing about? Could they be judging a part of you that they can’t bare to witness in themselves?
The point isn’t to psychoanalyze all the people you meet and figure out why they do the things they do, but instead to consider all the reasons YOU yourself do the (sometimes shitty) things you do and offer that perspective and compassion to others. You don’t have to make a list of a hundred possibilities, but take a moment to consider possibilities that have nothing to do with you.
When you consider explanations for people’s behavior beyond “they hate me, I’m unworthy, I’m bad, I did x, y, or z wrong” you make it about them, which it is, without fail, every time.
When you don’t take things personally, you can experience an insult without feeling it, or believing it, or hurting from it, and it is fucking magic.
If you don’t take things personally, you are resilient. You know that even if your lover leaves you for someone else, it is not a reflection on you. You know that person was doing their best to fulfill something inside them, or tend to some wound or void that had NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU!
When you catch your coworker talking shit about you, you know it’s not a reflection on your work ethic, or who you are, but that it speaks to something inside of them, whether it’s a way for them to feel superior, or how they choose to connect with others. It doesn’t mean anything about you, it means something about them.
When people say or do hurtful things to us, we can’t control that. We can control how we respond. And if we don’t take anything personally, we protect ourselves from unnecessary hurt and wasted energy stewing over why so-and-so did that thing.
When we don’t take things personally, we can try and fail and not internalize that and have it mean that WE are failures. Most things take a few tries.
If we are scared, and we try something, and someone laughs at us for trying, it’s not about us. Some people laugh nervously. Maybe they think you’re cute in your vulnerability and it was an endearing giggle. Maybe it’s the only way they know how to get a boost of confidence.
I get it. We want it to be all about us. Maybe we secretly like the illusion that the universe revolves around us. And of course, maybe our own mini universes’ do revolve around us. That’s ok.
The sooner we can accept that the universe we inhabit does not, in fact, revolve around us, the sooner we free ourselves of the optional shackles of internalizing other peoples behavior.
People aren’t thinking about you. They’re thinking about them. They’re acting out their childhood wounds, their insecurities, their hopes, their dreams, their fears. They don’t know that they’re pressing a hot button for you. Or if they do, it’s fulfilling something in them. Let them have it.
Let people do as they will, because trying to control others is a straight up waste of time. Then, when they inevitably don’t do what we want them to, and we feel hurt by their actions, we do ourselves a disservice by wasting our time feeling not good enough, flawed, unworthy, and hurt by something that literally has nothing to do with us.
Do you see how this pattern wastes your precious time and energy?
It’s ok to feel your feelings. I’m saying when we don’t take things personally, we avoid a lot of unnecessary hurt and drama. It’s like wearing a bulletproof vest.
Perhaps you know not to take things personally, but still find yourself hurting over the actions of others. Maybe you can’t get work done because your thoughts are hijacked, or you don’t want to get out of bed because you’re sad, or you can’t sleep because you’re ruminating over what someone did or said. This doesn’t have to be the case as soon as we can allow ourselves to feel and believe that what others do has to do with them and not us.
I implore you to keep practicing not taking things personally, and give yourself the opportunity to question why people act the way they do. Ask yourself why someone might act in a certain way, and leave yourself out of the picture.
Then, when something happens, choose to not take it personally. Let it bounce off you and reflect back at the other person where it belongs. That’s their stuff. Don’t burden yourself with the weight of other peoples stuff. You have your own stuff to worry about.