It's Not You It's Me
“Not taking things personally is a superpower”
– James Clear
In his book of Toltec wisdom ‘The Four Agreements,’ Don Miguel Ruiz teaches us four simple and yet profoundly life-changing rules by which to walk our path.
The first agreement is:
‘Be impeccable with your word.’
This is about clarity and aligning words with intention and we have, ourselves, shared our own views about this in the following articles:
This week we would like to focus on the second agreement:
‘Don’t take anything personally.’
Living by this rule allows us to appreciate that whatever in going on in the external environment is never about us – even when this appears to be directly the case.
When someone behaves in a negative way towards us it is their behaviour. They are responding to events with their own thoughts, feelings and behaviours which are driven by their core beliefs and are unlikely to be rooted in truth.
Core beliefs exist within the psyche as part of our unique model of the world. This is made up of information learned from and experienced in childhood and throughout life and our unique genetic processing. No-one shares a world view, not even if they were brought up in the same household. Their experiences will differ because of their unique place within that household as will their genetics. This means that all of us will view every situation through a unique lens and so will perceive it differently from everyone else.
If you judge someone for the way that they are behaving, it is useful to remember that, with the same set of experiences and genetic make-up, you would be doing exactly the same thing.
As children we are born with a drive to survive. This means that we create our personality as a set of characteristics that gain approval or attention from those around us. This assures our acceptance within the tribe and reduces the risk of rejection which is perceived by the psyche as very dangerous indeed. Approval and acceptance are the opposite of abandonment which is synonymous with death to a helpless infant.
Throughout life we hone the characteristics that gain approval from the tribe and put away those which cause distaste. They form our Shadow and will come back to bother us if we do not seek to gain balance.
When we see characteristics in others that we like and approve of, we are seeing those things that we like about ourselves reflected in the other person. Likewise, when the characteristics of another person make us feel uncomfortable, we are seeing our Shadow. This is reflection,
How does reflection work?
The Universe is infinite, and we are constantly bombarded with stimuli. There is far too much information in any given situation for us to notice everything about it, so because the primary drive within us is one of survival – we see in others those things about ourselves which are relevant to that. This is why two people can go and see the same movie and have a totally different experience.
What does all this mean for us?
It means that our perception of every experience is coloured entirely by both our unique model of the world and whatever in that situation is reflecting us back at us.
Our version of a situation is entirely about us!
This is the same for everyone. Whatever is going on for someone will entirely dictate how they process what is happening. This means that it will dictate how they respond to another person’s actions – unless they are conscious and can appreciate that those actions are not about them.
Flip that around now.
It means that whatever is going on for you will entirely dictate how you respond to the behaviour of another – unless you become conscious and appreciate that those actions are not about you.
Another person, just like you will be processing everything according to their model of the world. Just like you they will be seeing themselves reflected in your behaviour and just like with you, that experience will influence their thoughts, feelings, and actions.
They are creating a story about the situation that fits for them.
In some circumstances it may create conflict.
But it is never about you!
When you assume that someone is behaving a particular way towards you because they dislike you or are upset with you, you are practising distorted thinking because of your internal stuff. This influences your feelings by creating negative body chemistry which can be perceived as sadness, disappointment or even anger. These feelings drive the negative behaviours that are designed to make it all go away such as being short with someone, shouting, sarcasm or complaining to another person. Not only do those behaviours cause conflict, but they also provide a perfect negative reflective mirror for the other person to gaze into, perpetuating those destructive cycles for them as well.
When we understand that nothing anyone is doing is about us, but our perception of it is, we can appreciate reflection for what it is – a tool for growth. It is a gift from the Universe of information that can be used towards our healing and understanding of Self.
When we appreciate that someone’s behaviour is not all about us, we can press pause on our cognitive behavioural cycles. In any situation we can challenge our thoughts about it, process our feelings giving ourselves what we need, and choose our behaviour to affect the best outcome for all.
Give yourself a limited amount of time to try the next exercise. For example, a week.
Agree gently with yourself that for this week only you will not take anything personally.
That you will completely avoid judgement or analysis of any situation however personal it feels.
That you will give up the need to seek reasons as to why anyone is behaving as they are.
Agree that you will graciously accept that everything is reflection.
That you will receive all information as a gift from the Universe and use it to do the inner work and bolster you in your journey towards enlightenment.
Be kind to yourself and others.
We are all walking a path.
For more insights and a host of tools and techniques for exploring the Self and improving your
human experience see our book: