Don’t take things so personally!
Have you ever heard or given this advice to others? I sure have, many times. But, what does this statement truly means?
The other day, I listened to a friend express her anger and frustration over having been stood up the night before. She went back and forth from calling him every name in the book, to saying,
“Maybe there’s something wrong with me?”
I’ve heard her tell others, “Don’t take things so personally” many times. Yet, she had spent that whole day thinking about the previous night and couldn’t bring herself to do the things she had planned to do.
This is probably something we have all done, right? We have an idea of what this statement means yet, in certain situations, we believe that others’ actions, attitude or opinions revolve around us. I know I have been guilty of this on a few occasions.
Let me share a personal experience which opened my eyes to grasp the core essence of this valuable advice.
During the time I lived in Argentina, one of my dear friends invited a few friends for a (BBQ) and asked that everyone arrive for 7:00 PM. When I got there at 7:00 PM sharp, the first thing she said to me was, “What are you doing here so early?”
I was stunned!
Turns out that in Argentina, 7:00 PM means not before 8:00 PM.
That evening, the first guest, besides myself the early bird, got there at 8:30 PM. By the time everyone arrived, it was 9:30 PM. That’s 2.5 hours later!!! Actually two people didn’t show up, without as much as a phone call.
I thought surely this would have the host or the other guests who were waiting anxious or angry. Well, not there. Everyone was more interested in talking, laughing, and dancing together, until we sat at the table at 10:00 PM.
Here’s my eye opener, aha moment!
Because their attention was not focused on the waiting, they enjoyed the present moment. By having awareness that other’s behavior had nothing to do with them, their actions were dominated by positive thoughts, which led to everyone having fun.
It’s something I always remembered, particularly because, like my friend, there have been events which I let consume my thoughts and probably missed out on other opportunities.
Here’s an example:
About two years ago, I really wanted to do a story on Jean Beliveau, the man who had just returned from an 11 years walk around the world. I sent him a request for an interview to share on my website. I waited impatiently for 2 weeks before getting a reply. That whole time, I kept checking my inbox constantly and wondering what was taking him so long to answer. When I got his reply, he declined my request. I was crushed. I felt I wasn’t worthy enough from him to take time for me.
A year later, after my aha moment, I thought about Jean Beliveau again. This time with the awareness that maybe, just maybe, his response had nothing to with me. He had just returned, maybe he was swamped with the media. So, I sent him another request. Something I never would have done had I not reassessed my thoughts. Wouldn’t you know it, this time he accepted!
Turns out, he was booked solid with media interviews and writing a book. Because I created a drama in my mind and made it about me, I didn’t see the big picture.
I believe that it’s also important to always be willing to take a step back and look at what we’re putting out there with our own actions, attitude or behavior. If we want to continue to grow and improve, we can learn from gaining awareness about ourselves and become a better person in our personal and professional lives. Once you have your foundation about who you are strongly built in and solid, don’t let anyone take it down by holding on to anything they throw at you.
One of my favorite authors, Don Miguel Ruiz, speaks about not taking things personally in his book The Four Agreements, he says,
“Even when a situation seems so personal, even if others insult you directly, it has nothing to do with you. The truth is that this person is dealing with his or her own feelings, beliefs, and opinions. If you take it personally, then you take that poison and it becomes yours.”
I know it’s not easy. But, if you remind yourself of this everyday, it will eventually bring you closer to having awareness.
Ruiz also says,
“There is a huge amount of emotional freedom that comes to you when you take nothing personally… the whole world can gossip about you and send you emotional poison, and if you don’t take it personally, you will not eat it.”
It takes practice. I still practice regularly. But, if you commit to practicing, I promise it gets easier and you’ll enjoy the change that this freedom will bring in your life!
I would like to hear from you. Have you ever looked back on a situation where at first you let it control your thoughts and actions, only to find out later it had nothing to do with you?