Last month I began going through the book The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz by talking about the first agreement upon which all else is built: Be impeccable with your word. Today’s article is on the second agreement: Don’t take anything personally.
A few years ago I was in charge of the Ashby Pumpkin Festival and I had to decide whether or not to move the festival to the next day because of the weather. I called a man from the National Weather Service and he advised me to postpone it. So I left the message for everyone to know that it had been postponed and in the morning I went to the Common to see if anyone had not listened to the recorded message. I was met by a very angry woman who told me I was an “idiot” for moving it as the weather was sputtering and overcast but not raining. She stomped off using some very strong curse words, promising never to return. Then the wind increased and the rain poured out of the sky before noon and the verdict came in: I was a “genius”. I had to laugh. It was not about me, it was about the facts of the weather.
On a secret level, we take personally what we agree with. If someone tells you that you are stupid, ugly, lazy or any of the hurtful things people say to each other, if you secretly think the same of yourself, you will feel hurt by these words, you will take them personally. And if someone says something positive to you that you agree with, you will take these words personally and feel happy. But both sets of feedback are the perceptions of other people who do not know your real truth. Only you know you. Everything else is positive and negative guesswork on the part of other people.
Not taking things personally alleviates suffering. It allows us to know who we are and to live our lives regardless of what other people say to us. It is empowering to live our authentic lives and not be battered by the beliefs of others.
Try to go through your day seeing how you take things personally (the driver in front of you, the lady at the checkout, a glance from your neighbor) and see if you can separate your self-focused fantasy from the reality (It’s not about you).