How To Not Take Things Personally

How To Not Take Things Personally

Stop Stewing and Brewing Over Old Conversations

I've been told that I need to develop a thicker skin. I needed to be able to at least bounce back from being offended as quick as possible, as opposed to letting it stew up inside of me. Then I realized that I needed to figure out how not to take things personally. To this day, I find myself still brewing over a negative comment someone has made to me about my personality, physical appearance, or abilities. There is a very high possibility that the person who said these things isn't thinking about that instance at all. They are probably stewing over something someone said about them, and the cycle just ripples onward in a continuous pattern. The key to living a little bit of a happier life is coming to the realization that people may project how they feel about themselves on to you. You must know how not to take things personally. 

“We are dying from overthinking. We are slowly killing ourselves by thinking about everything. Think. Think. Think. You can never trust the human mind anyway. It’s a death trap.”
— Anthony Hopkins

Projections: They Are Taking It Out On You

Often, things that people do to offend you aren't actually about you. Even if someone is being mean, it is because they are going through something on their own. This is projection. They are taking it out on you, working to push themselves up by bringing you down. I believe this to be learned behavior. Someone did it to them, and now they are doing it to you. There is also a chance that you may consciously or even subconsciously do it to someone else, but you don't have to live this way. You don't have to be affected by the thoughts of other people. You do have a choice on what you allow into your beliefs.

“If you were easier on yourself, you wouldn’t be so tough on everyone else.”
— Kate McGahan

Know Yourself

When you know yourself, you are more likely to be able to reject the attempted projections people place upon you. What I want you to do is visualize a shield surrounding you from every angle. It is a 360 degree force field that encloses you within a sphere created completely from the energy of self-belief and confidence. The more you know about who you are, who you are not, your strengths, weaknesses, and purpose, the stronger this force field becomes. If the faith you have in yourself waivers, so does the strength of the shield. This shield serves the purpose of protecting you from the arrows shot out by people who are either intentionally or unintentionally offensive. You can even visualize this globe-like shield growing in circumference and diameter, larger and larger. How large is the circumference of your force field? Does it stretch a mile? Is is barely reaching off the surface of your skin? Become strong in the knowledge of yourself and expand the shield across two galaxies so that even those pesky extraterrestrials can't get to you. 

The Four Agreements

Don Miguel Ruiz's book The Four Agreements very wonderfully covers the topic of how to not take things personally. This book is a staple in my collection and has provided me with lovely tools of insight and perspective that I nestle safely in my conscious tool belt. For the record, the four agreements are:

  1. Be Impeccable With Your Word
  2. Don't Take Anything Personally
  3. Don't Make Assumptions
  4. Always Do Your Best

Don Jose Ruiz, co-author of The Fifth Agreement, is the son of Don Miguel Ruiz who wrote The Four Agreements.

In this book, Don Miguel Ruiz shares his understanding of Toltec philosophical explanations on where self-limiting beliefs originate and gives us insight on how to free ourselves from large scale pre-programmed ways of thinking that result in lots of personal suffering. The second agreement, don't take anything personally, shows us that we have inherited mental programs that make us feel like everyone is attacking us. This type of thinking has been a means of survival over the last couple thousand years, and does not need to be the way we think today. Don Jose Ruiz (Miguel Ruiz's son and co-author of The Fifth Agreement) states in this interview that if someone says something mean to you, know that it is a symptom of their suffering and is actually a cry for help. 

Don’t Take Anything Personally. 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.
— Don Miguel Ruiz

Stay Focused and Busy

When you are truly on the path to accomplishing your goals, you should not have that much time to sit idly by thinking about what other people have said to you in the past. Sure the thoughts will find a way in sometimes, but the key is to stay busy doing things that you are passionate about. This is where knowing yourself comes into play because if you know who you are, what you love to do and what your purpose is in life, then you won't have time to be bothered. Instead, you'll be eager to complete your life's work while you still have the time to do so. 

Your life should be consumed by passion and purpose. You should know that the more you shine your light into the darkness, the more other people will be inspired and find their own way. Remember, those who offend you are probably lost themselves. Stay on your path, know your purpose. This is really how to not take things personally if you ask me. I'll say it one last time, dive deep into your passion, and be a guiding light for those who are dark and critical. They have no other role model that is strong enough to shift their perspective. Of course this is not your job, but it is a great side effect from living in your purpose and light.

The heart of human excellence often begins to beat when you discover a pursuit that absorbs you, frees you, challenges you, or gives you a sense of meaning, joy, or passion.
— Terry Orlick

Opportunity For Personal Growth

Seeing and experiencing the faults in others is a golden opportunity to examine yourself to see if you may have some of those same characteristics. The areas of yourself that you bypass subconsciously are blind spots. So here you are, deeply affected and hurt by someone who has offended you, and you have not yet even realized that you did the same thing to someone else yesterday, last week or last year. You weren't even aware that you offended someone, and if you think about it, they could be over in their own mental world rethinking that moment just like the time you spend rethinking. This brings up a very important notion that the person who offended you most likely is unaware of their trespasses. We are all mirrors. A reflection can be a very powerful tool, as it can be used to see areas that our natural sight is often limited to. 

He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.
— Fredrick Nietzsche

Shift Your Perception Or Accept Their Judgement

You are going to have to disregard the negative words from others because the only other option is to accept what they say about you and to live your life to please everyone else. The reason that won't work is because that negative-speaking person has so much work to do on his or her own self, that no matter how much you yield to them, they will still find a reason to push negativity your way. It's not about you. It is this shift in perception that allows you to realize that your ego is wired into having you believe that you are the one they must be talking about. The shift in perception allows you to see that others are suffering and sleeping in their own dreams of delusion. You can't take another's delusional dream to be your reality. You get one chance at life, and it is not fair to hand it over to someone else to control when they don't have a clue what to do with their own consciousness and time on earth. Stay focused on your goals and your purpose. Shield yourself. Be a light.  

Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves
— Carl Jung