Don't Take Anything Personally

be happy now Feb 17, 2021


Don't Take Anything Personally

February 17, 2021

We are continuing our journey to explore the deep meaning of Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements and the path to personal freedom. 

I like to transform The Four Agreements into a personal statement using the word “I”, creating a prayer which explicitly incorporates freedom and a positive intention. What I say:   

  1. May I Be Impeccable with My Word.
  2. May I Be Free from Taking Anything Personally.
  3. May I Be Free from Making Assumptions.
  4. May I Always Do My Best.

This month we dive deeper into The Second Agreement: May I Be Free from Taking Anything Personally. As Ruiz 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."  

What other people say is more about them. Try saying this out loud: May I be free from taking anything personally. Can you feel the personal freedom that comes when you don't take things personally?  

At its essence, the Second Agreement is all about Letting Go. It means learning to be immune to gossip, to other peoples' opinions, other peoples' judgments – and also your judgments about yourself.  

As it happens this is where I started my journey inward many years ago. I titled Chapter 6, Let Go and Take Control in Be Happy Now!  Yes, it appears paradoxical. In this chapter I talk about my personal experience of learning to let go of anger, resentment, and my drive to control. I learn that I can choose my emotions – and choosing a new emotion usually means I must let go of the initial thought and emotion. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said:  

"For every moment you are angry, you lose sixty seconds of happiness." 

Another way to convey the impact of realizing we always have a choice is this strong and beautiful quote by Eleanor Roosevelt:   

" No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” 

Letting Go is a very deep and complex concept. I have worked on this issue for years – and my work is never done. 

First, let us understand what Letting Go does NOT mean. In my opinion, it is not about putting on a suit of armor and it is not about not caring. (Apologies to my English teacher friends for the double negative.) Rather it is more about letting go of expectations and attachment to outcomes which we do not control. 

I offer this beautiful poem by an Unknown Author as a start to explore what Letting Go does not mean:  

To Let Go… Author Unknown 

To “let go” does not mean …  to stop caring, it means I can’t do it for someone else. 

To “let go” is … not to cut myself off, it is the realization that I can’t
    control another. 
    is not to enable, but to allow learning from natural consequences.  
    is to admit powerlessness, which means that the outcome is not in
    my hands.
    is not to try to change or blame another, it is to make the most of

To “let go” … is not to care for, but to care about. 
    is not to fix, but to be supportive. 
   is not to judge, but to allow another to be a human being. 
    is not to be in the middle arranging the outcomes, but to allow
    others to affect their own destinies.

To “let go” … is not to be protective, it is to permit another to face
    is not to deny, but to accept. 
    it is not to nag, scold, or argue, but instead to search out my own
    shortcomings and to  correct them.
    is not to adjust everything to my desires but to take each day as it 
    comes, and cherish myself in it.

To “let go” … is not to criticize and regulate anybody but to try to
     become what I dream I can be.
     is not to regret the past, but to grow and to live for the future. 
    is to fear less and love more.” 

I love this last line, …"to fear less and love more.” Indeed, the last line in Chapter 6 where I discuss "Ali's List of Changes and Choices" is, "I have started choosing love, not fear. 

So, what does Letting Go mean? The Unknown Author is constructive on both what Letting Go does not mean as well as how we can choose a constructive response.

I will put it in my own words. Fundamentally, being free of taking anything personally is all about accepting yourself exactly as you are – an Exquisitely Imperfect Being on a journey. Some people would say it is about self-esteem and emotional intelligence. I say," Yes" to all of the above.  

The first step is always about Awareness. For starters it means being more aware of our negative emotions such as worry, blame, discouragement, anger, revenge, hatred, jealousy, guilt, unworthiness, despair, depression, grief and fear. Once we are more aware of our negative emotions and limiting beliefs, then we must learn to forgive ourselves, embrace our fears and realize we always have a choice. Sometimes it is helpful to give a name to the emotion. Sometimes it can feel overwhelming.

Another alternative is simply to be aware of what and when we are resisting -- the underlying cause or pattern of the emotion. Awareness of our resistance is powerful as well.

The key is … we all have a choice. How do I want to respond? How can I choose love over fear... always? For me, the answer is a deep and abiding practice of gratitude. A daily gratitude ritual, which continues to morph and evolve, has been foundational to my learning experience of Letting Go. 

These are deep waters. Exactly why I observed earlier that learning how to let go has taken me years – and why I expect I will continue to learn how to Let Go for the rest of my life. I embrace and am grateful for the challenge and the learning experience. 

Sarah Blondin, one of my favorite teachers on Insight Timer has a new 10-Day Course, The Deepest Self.  In Lesson 6, "The Art of Letting Go," she says: "My practice of letting go begins the moment I wake and ends when I lay my head down to sleep. I have learned the most important act of my day is using every experience of my resistance, both subtle and fierce, to learn to let go."  Check out her new course here: The Deepest Self

Another course I would like to call your attention to on Insight Timer is by Lou Redmond, Learn To Stop Caring What Other People Think. A high level outline of the Lessons is as follows:  

  1. Giving Yourself Permission
  2. Stop Comparing Yourself
  3. Jealousy
  4. Letting Go of Self-Judgment
  5. Letting Go of Others Judgment 
  6. A New Relationship with Fear
  7. The Confidence Lie 
  8. Imposter Syndrome
  9. Sharing Your Gifts with the World
  10. Trusting Your Process

Does this sound intriguing to you? Lou Redmond is a down-to-earth teacher and freely shares his life experiences in learning these lessons. I have also found his exercises and meditations valuable. Just last week as I was preparing for a minor procedure, I went back to Lesson 6 and did the exercise he recommends. Here Lou Redmon uses the beautiful quote from Joseph Campbell, “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.” We are encouraged to embrace our fear, breathe in positive affirmations of strength, hope, growth and then open the door and look to see what is on the other side of our fear.  

When I started my journey to Let Go. I started with anger and my need to be in control. From there, I took it one step at a time. Wherever you chose to start your lessons on letting go, just get started. Be kind to yourself.

Finally, it is important to examen the conjunction of The First Agreement and The Second Agreement. Let’s consider how May I Be Impeccable With My Word works together with May I be Free from Taking Anything Personally.  

When I don't take anything personally -- no one can hurt me. These are the words which make me more aware that I am taking something someone said or did, personally. I stop—or at least catch myself—when I think or say, “You make me feel,” because I now understand that my emotions are my choice. No one can make me feel sad. The only person who can hurt me … is me. When I hear myself react that way, I hit the pause button and process – process what is going on inside of me. For me, when I "process," I am learning -- again and again -- not to take anything personally. Please see my previous Blog for more examples: Be Impeccable With Your Word

Don Miguel Ruiz wisdom on the conjunction of the First and Second Agreements is: : 

"Just by practicing this second agreement you begin to break dozens of teeny, tiny agreements that cause you to suffer. And if you practice the first two agreements, you will break seventy-five percent of the teeny, tiny agreements that keep you trapped in hell." 


I trust our exploration of The Four Agreements is adding to our practice of how we learn to be more aware, how we learn to train our mind, and how we learn that we have the power to choose.

 Till next time, stay well.  

May you be happy now and always


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