Taking other people’s judgments personally undermines your self-worth.
Far too often, we let our emotional well-being be dictated by the words and actions of others. It’s time for everyone to follow their own true path and stop chasing after the compliments and expectations of others.
In Don Miguel Ruiz’s inspirational book, The Four Agreements, he discusses this human flaw of taking things personally. According to Ruiz, nothing other people say or do is because of you. Rather, it has everything to do with their own reality. It says much more about them than about you.
Let’s say you have a co-worker who constantly puts you down. Maybe he or she does it subtly, but they nonetheless seek out ways to undermine your confidence. They roll their eyes when you speak up in a meeting. They make fun of what you’re wearing. And if you confront them about their behavior, they chastise you for not being able to take a ‘joke’. Hopefully, this isn’t your experience, but I think you know what I’m talking about.
Take a step back and think about why this person is acting this way. As a general rule happy, confident individuals don’t behave like this. Not at all. People who exhibit this type of predatory, cruel behavior are actually miserable, lack confidence and essentially project their negativity onto others.
Chances are you’re the target because this person knows that their continuous little digs get to you. It gives them power and makes them feel better (temporarily). As soon as their comments and actions have absolutely no impact on you, they’ll stop. Guaranteed.
In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt: “No one can make you feel inferior without your permission.”
Here are three things to keep in mind:
1. Compliments are just gravy
Compliments are lovely aren’t they? But here’s the thing: If you’re hooked by the compliments, you’re hooked by the criticism. You need to get to a place where both credit and criticism can’t touch you. Compliments can’t be the source of your strength, because what if they dry up, what then? They’re just gravy – extra dressing, but no real substance.
2. Stop colluding
Let’s say you perceive a situation as negative. For example, a friend chose to spend the evening with someone else instead of you or you received a curt e-mail from your boss. You’re hurt. What do you do? One reaction that is temporarily soothing is to call someone, unload your hurt and anger, and get them hooked into your story. This is a big energy investment and utterly not worth it. Inviting others to collude in your story only perpetuates the pattern of taking things much too personally. Collusion is rounding up individuals who believe your own illusion. Not good!
3. Always keep the larger goal in mind
Who you become on your life journey is far more meaningful than what happens to you. When you learn how to get beyond taking things personally by observing and then choosing an alternate response, you will eventually become unshakable. You can lose your job; you can be broke; you can be forced to leave your home. But no one can take away who you are – your essence. As you become a person who is clear and centered, you will have the tools to succeed in life no matter what happens in the external world.
Here are two exercises from T. Harv Eker that are designed to help you move past taking things personally. To get the most out of these exercises you must put all your energy into them. Go beyond understanding them on an intellectual level, really feel the intention behind them.
To do these exercises, find a friend or a partner to help you out. In the first exercise you’re going to insert the name of someone who has hurt you in the past. Now say the phrase out loud and do it with as much intention as possible. Repeat it as many times as is needed until you feel the hurt dissipating.
For the second exercise, you’re going to insert your own name. Say this phrase over and over with positive intensity (not anger) to the person who is helping you with this exercise. Look them right in the eye and say it. If you’re not comfortable using the word ‘f*#k’, insert a word that has a lot of energy for you. (Harv was big on having us use this word because it can be rather liberating.) Also make sure you use the word ‘and’ (don’t use ‘but’), because you both love them and you don’t care what they think about you. Keep repeating this phrase until you feel a surge of personal power.
__________, I now understand that what you did and said had nothing to do with me and everything to do with you. You were projecting your own mental baggage and bad programming onto me. I unknowingly let in your poison. I now choose to let that poison go and fully release myself from this hurt.
Hi, my name is __________. I love and respect you, and I don’t give a f*@k about what you think about me. Have a nice day!
How did you feel after doing these exercises?