Is it Just Business or is it Personal?
“The greatest hazard of all, losing one’s self, can occur very quietly in the world, as if it were nothing at all. No other loss can occur so quietly; any other loss – an arm, a leg, five dollars, a wife, etc. – is sure to be noticed.” ― Søren Kierkegaard, The Sickness Unto Death
When I was little my dad told me about a trip he had taken with his family. The details of the trip are really fuzzy but the point was very clear. He was traveling through an area where there were a lot of people all around doing all sorts of activities, “I suddenly wondered, if I was not here would these people be here doing what they are doing?”
Realization of self on a more grand scale is shocking to a kid. Where once a child thought that he was the only person that mattered he now realizes that he is not alone and so special. As children we are so used to the “knowing” that all of life revolves around us only. As we come to realize that life goes on even when we don’t see it we lose a bit of ourselves to the grandeur. It happens slowly and quietly and sadly can become a pit of depressing questions and thoughts that we just keep falling into. Questions like, “Do I really matter at all”, “How can I get noticed in such a big world”, “What makes me so special”.
The moment we have the revelation that the ME in us is somehow smaller our world view expands to limitlessness but in such ways at first perhaps as competition, fight for survival, overwhelm, or uncertainty. It can become so overwhelming at times that we find ways to pull back into ourselves and make each day all about us again. We become sensitive to criticism as well as compliments although the criticisms are decidedly more impactful and we judge ourselves so harshly. We lose a piece of self as we strive to learn how to gain more self each time we take something personally and allow the judgments and summaries of what other people think of us.
In his book The Four Agreements, author Don Miguel Ruiz writes that we internalize and take into our hearts the negatives, the insults from other people because,
“We agree with whatever was said about our character; we have already made an agreement in our hearts to accept the negatives that people supposedly believe about us. As soon as you agree, the poison goes through you. This trapped feeling is what is called personal importance or taking things personally, the maximum expression of selfishness because we make the assumption that everything is about “me”.
“If people make fun of you, it probably means you’re doing something right.” –Amy Lee
People have a hard time understanding other people who are different from themselves; lives lived outside of what we each personally believe to be truth. When people don’t understand something they try to fight it by poisoning it with humility and shame and insult. If you are getting that much negative attention toward something you said or did then you hit a nerve with the insulter and that means you did something right, something that person wishes he/she did instead of you. Once you show your outward agreement to the insult you give permission for anyone to do it again and again. By building internal immunity toward the negatives people will throw at you, about you, becomes a gift you not only give yourself but also to those that admire you and respect you.
How then do we build immunity? The answer to that question is very personal. For me, my internal immunity comes from knowing that God loves me. There are times when I have to repeat that to myself especially during really weak life moments but when I can start my every day believing and knowing his love of me then I have put on my armor and can move about my life with immunity toward the negatives. What are some ways that you choose to help build immunity toward preventing taking things personally?
Each of our daily successes and failures are so temperamental. We are subject to the whims of being the goat or the hero on any given day. Learning not to take things personally, whether in good or in bad perspectives is a way to build immunity against negative personal thoughts and to know that the goat or the hero outlook comes from how others are seeing us based on the agreements we made inside of ourselves. It really has nothing to do with us at all. The people that put themselves in a position to judge our actions and thoughts are just trying to build themselves up by putting us down. Why would any individual ever agree to that?
Don Miguel Ruiz says,
“Don’t take it personally. I may touch a nerve inside of you with what I say but that means that you have wounds inside of you that I have touched on with words that I have spoken. You see the world with different eyes than mine. Your personal truth has nothing to do with me.”
As a little boy my son would lie. In his mind if he didn’t tell the truth about what happened then he wouldn’t get in trouble. The “trouble” he feared was a lie he told himself and then believed to be true. If I allowed myself to take it personally that my son is learning to lie because I am a bad mother then I wouldn’t be able to see that he is in the middle of learning a life lesson for himself. If I allow myself to take it personally then I would equally believe that I am a bad mother to my other children as well, all the time, in all circumstances even if their life lessons are different. The downward spiral of despair within me would take its toll on everyone in my life. Thankfully I stepped back, way back from that kind of negative agreement of being a bad mother and realized that my son’s life lessons are his to learn and mine to guide, not take responsibility for. If I am to judge my mothering so harshly then I should equally judge any goodness the children display with harshness too.
“You are who you are when nobody’s watching.” ― Stephen Fry
Is there ever a time when you are alone that you are content and happy with who you are? If so, then why can’t you bring that person to every situation outside of home?
Here is Don Miguel Ruiz:
“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 yourself to make responsible choices. You are never responsible for the actions of others; you are only responsible for you. If you keep this agreement, you can travel around the world with your heart completely open and no one can hurt you.”
So what are some steps we all can take to get in the mindset of not taking things so personally?
Assume the best in others: When you meet someone for the first time you are on your best behavior. There hasn’t been a reason or enough time to form judgments or attitudes about the person you are meeting or vice versa. Continue to assume the best in the people you meet for the first time as well as those you know for a while. When you raise others to a better level of existence through how you choose to see them then they will reflect that “better” inner person right back.
Stay in the moment: When you get that initial prickly sense in your gut that says “this sounds personal” stay in the moment and see it through before your attention changes from who you are with to only you and your feelings. Notice things going on around you. Are you the only person being targeted? How well do you know this person? Is this normal behavior from him/her to be so insulting? Have you had problems in the past with this person when he/she starts to feel insecure? Concentrate your attention on that person and try to see what he/she sees. See that person as you would like to be seen. Compassion and kindness are contagious and can only win the moment when we switch to empathy.
Mentally review your own agreement: Do you tend to always take things personally? Do you self-reject before anyone else has a chance to reject you? Do you always make other people’s actions and comments only about you?
Are you always the victim?
Remember that the person doing the insulting might have had a bad day and doesn’t want to draw attention to their own insecurities and sense of failure so that person will target anyone else in order to draw attention away from them. If you know yourself well enough and like what you know then your own mental agreement will not be able to accept any insult from other people.
Don’t let hurt feelings live on forever: What does the relationship mean to you? Pull that person aside and verify that the insult he/she made was truly about you. Let that person know that it wasn’t cool at all to pull you into that moment like that. Making other people accountable for their behavior will not only boost your respect level up in your eyes but also in the eyes of others. Teach people how to treat you by taking back the power you give away when you let the negative inner agreement come through.
It’s a good habit to form within your mind to ask yourself, “What else could be at play here?”
It’s not only the bad things that count: Compliments can be as dangerous to your self-worth as insults. Make an internal agreement with yourself right now that people who say nice things to you or about you have no effect on who are or how you behave. You know who you are, you know who you want the world to see and your self-worth is not solely based on the good word from others.
Be kind to yourself and others, always: It is soooo normal to get upset when we feel like we have been verbally attacked or that the universe is “out to get us today.” Forgive yourself immediately when you realize you are behaving as the victim. Take a deep breath and let it out slowly. Apologize to yourself for getting so self-absorbed and practice patience and tolerance of yourself.
Call to Action
How often do you find yourself having a good or bad day based on the approval or disapproval of other people?
What would happen throughout the course of your day if you started every single day saying something positive to yourself?
How well do you know you? The more you know for sure about you the less likely you will be to take things personally.
Where is one place in your life you can start to build your truth and your immunity?
Image by bing.com