Living the Four Agreements: Tips on How To Not Take Anything Personally Part 1
“We don’t set ourselves up for failure by saying “I’m never going to take anything personally again.” Instead we say, “I am going to do my best to not take anything personally.” And then we use our awareness to be really curious about what the next thing is that we will take personally.” ~ From Starting with Agreement #0
The best way to embark on our exploration of not to taking anything personally is to understand that we are learning a new skill. Not taking anything personally is a practice, like playing the piano or running a marathon or learning to walk. All practice takes dedication, perseverance, and lots of falling down and getting up again.
The truth is we will stumble and fumble our way to embodying the truth that everyone is dreaming their own dream. Sometimes it is easy to know that another person’s action has nothing to do with us. And at other times a person’s action can feel like an arrow shot directly into our heart. It just seems too painful, too pointed, too wounding, to not take personally.
But this wound we feel when we take something personally does not come from the outside; it is a wound within us that when touched causes pain. To help us not take things personally we want to remember that it is not the touch that causes the pain, but are own inner wounds and false beliefs.
Here is an example. Imagine that your entire life you were told that you were smart. Let’s say your family held intelligence as being incredibly important, and you were always rewarded and respected for being brilliant.
If you knew without a doubt that you were a smart person and someone said to you, “You are so stupid!” how would you react?
Since you wouldn’t have any inner resonance with their statement, you wouldn’t take it personally. It wouldn’t matter if they felt you were stupid, because that was not part of your reality. You simply wouldn’t believe their words.
But now imagine that as a child you were repeatedly told that you were dumb, while your sibling was praised and rewarded for being smart. Imagine covering up the pain of not being loved and supported by studying really hard and trying to do well in college so you would be seen as smart (and therefore loveable…)
If someone came up to you one day after class and said, “I can’t believe you said that, what a stupid thing to say!” how would you feel?
Most likely the old wound from your childhood would be touched, and you would take their words personally. When we take something personally we have an emotional reaction, but it is not the words that we take personally, but the painful false beliefs the words touch within us.
While learning to not take anything personally is a practice, it is also a healing. When we take something personally, instead of making the other person wrong or justifying our upset we can become curious. Every time we take something personally it is an opportunity to explore what exactly has been touched within us. By becoming aware of old beliefs that cause pain, we take responsibility for healing past hurts. When we are aware of taking something personally it becomes a gift, for it leads us to let go of false beliefs.
Take this week to increase your awareness of what thoughts, behaviors, and words you take personally. (Also notice the ways you take your own thoughts personally.) Bring the healing salve of compassion to any inner wounds that are uncovered. The practice of not taking anything personally begins with a foundational attitude of curious exploration. Enjoy, and do your best!
Heather Ash’s apprenticeship with don Miguel Ruiz, author of The Four Agreements, began in 1994, and she now teaches with the Ruiz family. She is the author of The Toltec Path of Transformation and founder of Toci, The Toltec Center of Creative Intent. www.toci.org