I like your advice columns on KSL — they really make me stretch and think. One thing that has always bothered me though is the statement you use, "Don't take things too personally." What do you mean by that?
“Don’t take things personally” means you should not let other people's comments, actions, attitudes, opinions or choices affect how you feel about yourself or your life, even if they are a direct and personal attack.
(Yes, even direct and personal attacks do not have to be taken personally.)
You have the option of saying to yourself, “This person has the right to feel this way if they want to, but I don’t have to agree with them, own their feelings, or let them affect me in any way. That is my right.”
One of my favorite authors, Don Miguel Ruiz, in his book "The Four Agreements," says, “There is a huge amount of emotional freedom that comes to you when you take nothing personally … the whole world can gossip about you and send you emotional poison, and if you don’t take it personally, you will not eat it.”
You can simply decided not to be affected by the event.
Events don’t mean anything until you apply meaning to them anyway. In the past you have applied meaning that caused you pain and suffering, but you have the option of changing how you experience these situations.
You could decide to understand that other people's problems are not really about you. This is an important principle of human behavior (so make a note of it) — Most bad behavior is motivated by their own fears about themselves. It is rarely really about you.
This means most of their attacks are driven by their own fears of failure or loss, and those fears are their problem. Their fears may cause them to feel threatened by you and even cast you as the bad guy, because it makes them feel safer. But just because they cast you as the bad guy doesn’t mean you are. That is just their story.
You do not have to believe the story. You do not have to take it on, adopt it or own it, because doing so will only create unnecessary suffering in your life.
Unless, you really are behaving badly. You should always be willing to take a look at yourself and honestly assess if there is any truth to what they say. If there is truth, you may want to learn from this, commit to do better, and then let go of the offense because holding on to it won't serve anyone.
If there is no truth behind their attack, you must develop a thicker skin so you can stay in a place of truth, love and peace no matter what anyone says or does around you. You must be able to hold on to the truth about who you are and not let anyone take it from you.
Don Miguel Ruiz calls a thick skin “immunity to poison in the middle of hell.” When another person throws their hate, anger and bitterness all over you, you can just peacefully let it slide off. Nothing sticks unless you decide to pick it up and carry it.
Don't pick it up and carry it. Don't take it personally.
You do not have to stand there and take abuse from anyone, though. I physically remove myself from these types of situations post haste. But if you can’t remove yourself, you are still bulletproof because this person cannot diminish you without your permission.
You are bulletproof because you are an infinitely valuable, eternal being whose value cannot be diminished. You do not need to defend yourself, because offenses are only an illusion. They are an illusion because you cannot be diminished. You are the same you no matter what they say or do, and if there is no diminishment possible, there is really no offense possible. If there is no offense, there is no need to defend.
You are too bulletproof to need any defense.
Superman doesn’t defend himself (or get offended) when people shoot at him because their bullets have no effect. He just stands there and smiles. Why waste the energy being offended?
You must know who you are and let that truth override everything else. If they tell you you’re horrible, you can honor and respect their right to think what they think, but you don't have to take it personally and waste energy thinking about it.
If our children say, “Mom, that kid says I’m dumb,” my husband always asks, “Well are you dumb?” “No.” “Then what’s the problem?”
If you own the truth about who you are, what other people think is irrelevant.
Ruiz also says, “by takings things personally, you set yourself up to suffer for nothing.” Don’t sign up for unnecessary suffering. “Your anger, jealousy and envy will all disappear, and even your sadness will simply disappear if you just don’t take things personally.”
If you remember this (and stand firm in this truth) you can remain unaffected by anything anyone dishes out, but getting this strong will take some practice. If this is a challenge for you, you might want to get some professional help, from a counselor or coach, to help you improve your self-worth.
It will take a little practice, but you can do it.
Kimberly Giles is the founder and president of ldslifecoaching.com and claritypointcoaching.com. She is a life coach and speaker who specializes in repairing and building self-esteem.
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.