Don't Take It Personally

“It’s not all about you.”

“Nobody’s thinking about you that much.”

“You don’t have that much power.”

At first glance: rude statements, right? I admit, I’m a sensitive soul, but I think most would agree that these quotes seem to come with a little sting.

Well, sometimes when we are spiraling downward into a black hole of negative self-talk and harsh self-criticism, we have to be a little blunt with ourselves.

If you live with symptoms of depression or anxiety, you might be (all too) familiar with ruminating thoughts. Rumination comes up for people after a stressful event, a negative interaction, or even just an awkward situation. You think about how whatever you just did or said was so (dumb, rude, wrong, bad). You think about how your co-worker looked at you some type of way so she must (hate you, think you are bad at your job, find you stupid, wish you would leave). You think about how you didn’t get into that school, so you (won’t ever get a job, must be unintelligent, have no hope, will never get anywhere in life).

You know, those kinds of pleasant thoughts.

That thinking gets us nowhere except in a bad mood and a sea of self-hatred. So these are the moments, then, when we might want to consider using those snappy quotes up there to fight our rumination. We know our intentions, so we know it’s coming from a place of love.

The thing to remember is this: Don’t take it personally.

In Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements, “Don’t take anything personally” is the second agreement. On page 48, he writes:

“Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves. All people live in their own dream, in their own mind; they are in a completely different world from the one we live in. When we take something personally, we make the assumption that they know what is in our world, and we try to impose our world on their world.”

It reminds me of a thought I had frequently when I spent the summer in Chicago with my best friend. We were in a gorgeous condo right in the heart of the city, and the long and lean buildings were all packed closely together. I’d sit on the ledge along our window and stare at the building next to us: the lights weaving on and off in different rooms, the shifting colors of TV blurs, the differently shaped shadows of bodies moving fast, moving slow.

And I’d think about how amazing it is that we are all living these unimaginably complex lives simultaneously, right next to one another, and we are somehow unaware of it. The stranger in the apartment across the street – she has dreams, she has goals, she has family problems, she has a an amazing best friend, she has childhood memories, she wants a tattoo, she just got a job promotion, she can’t get over her ex-boyfriend, she loves green tea, she hates Tuesdays. She is the star of her own movie, just like you’re the star of yours. She can’t ever fully understand your world, and you can’t ever fully understand hers.

When someone says or does something to us that is hurtful, whether it is real or perceived, we don’t have to take it personally. We can remember that the person we were hurt by has a life of his or her own – a life that includes bad moods, personal insecurities, and emotional distractions. They’ve got so much going on in their lives. You’re not the star of their movie. So take a step back. Don’t let yourself fall down into the self-hate black hole. After you’re hurt, notice the feeling you have and let it go. Everyone’s got their own stuff going on. It’s not all about you. Don’t take it personally.

And I say that with so much love.

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