Taking other people’s judgments personally undermines your self-worth.
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.
You need to 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.”
Don Miguel Ruiz also describes taking things personally as the “ultimate act of selfishness.” Huh? Well, when you take things personally, you assume everything is about YOU. It’s not. Again, what people say has so much more to do with them than it does about you.
Dr. Wayne Dyer also weighs in on the idea of taking things personally in his book The Power of Intention. Dyer says that when you allow the opinions of others to be more important than your opinions of yourself, you lose self-respect. Why would you put your opinions of yourself below those of another person? Rather, you deserve to believe you’re valuable and worthy.
A few more kernels of knowledge on the subject:
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.