I wonder what amount of freedom one can get by simply not taking anything personally. Miguel Ruiz (The Four Agreements) speaks about four important agreements you have to do with yourself in order to be free and happy. Not taking anything personally is one of them.
What does it mean to stop taking anything personally and how do you achieve it?
To get back to the initial idea of not taking anything personally let’s see what it really means.
Miguel Ruiz explains it this way:
It is not important to me what you think about me, and I don’t take what you think personally. I don’t take it personally when people say, “Miguel, you are the best,” and I also don’t take it personally when they say, “Miguel, you are the worst.” I know that when you are happy you will tell me, “Miguel, you are such an angel!” But, when you are mad at me you will say, “Oh, Miguel, you are such a devil! You are so disgusting. How can you say those things?” Either way, it does not affect me because I know what I am. I don’t have the need to be accepted. I don’t have the need to have someone tell me, “Miguel, you are doing so good!” or “How dare you do that!”
No, I don’t take it personally. Whatever you think, whatever you feel, I know is your problem and not my problem. It is the way you see the world. It is nothing personal, because you are dealing with yourself, not with me.
In my understanding and following Ruiz’ words not taking things personally means:
- You don’t depend on other’s opinions, approvals or disapprovals. The opinion of others says something about them, not about you. When someone praises you it’s fine, but you don’t depend on these words. When someone tells you something bad it’s the same neutral approach: You accept it but your mood does not get affected.
- You believe in yourself. If you really do, you will never depend on other’s words.
- You don’t blame yourself. You learn from your experiences, but you don’t blame yourself for anything.
- You don’t pity yourself. You don’t see yourself as a victim of “bad” circumstances.
What is the freedom you get?
It’s difficult to grasp the freedom of mind you get if you really unlearn to take things personally.
From a sailboat that moves according to the wind of others you become a rock.
You follow your own heart and you do what you think you should be doing, which is freedom.
You avoid many upsets in life, many sudden bad moods.
You live in peace with yourself.
You… (be creative and imagine yourself).
Is it really possible to unlearn this?
When we’re born we don’t take anything personally. But soon we learn to do it, just as all our surrounding is doing it. Mom takes things personally, dad does, and soon you will too.
So stop doing this is s a matter of unlearning and re-learning. We know how to do this, but no doubt it’s difficult. When you start learning a language on your own it’s likely you’ll learn to pronounce a word incorrectly. You start saying it wrong and it takes a long time until a native speaker has the guts to tell you: “Ehmm… that’s actually pronounced differently.” First you can’t believe you’ve been saying it wrong for such a long time without noticing. Then you start pronouncing it right, but it takes some time and effort to internalise this change and not fall back into the incorrect pattern. But there comes a moment you just get it right.
Our brain has the capacity to learn, re-learn und unlearn things. The longer and the more often we repeat something, the stronger the connection in our brain. Still, our brain knows how to do it.
So, what am I supposed to do now?
Start with just bearing in mind that you won’t take as many things personally as you did until now.
When someone judges you think that this is part of their world, not of your reality.
If someone tells you something positive about yourself, appreciate it, but don’t change anything in how you do things in order to please this person.
When you’ve been unlucky think that it’s nothing to do with YOU.
And then, let the magic do its work :-).