I think most of us know not to let what others say and think affect us. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”. Really? Life would be so much easier if that were not only true, but we could actually do it! If you’re like me, you may have been able to rationalize things that ignorant people say to you or about you. However, even after we explain to ourselves and others why we shouldn’t be hurt or upset by what a dumb person says, let’s be honest; sometimes we still are.
Then let’s take it another step. What if it’s someone that’s close to you? Someone you love and value the opinion of greatly? Or what if someone criticizes you regarding a topic you are insecure about? In these examples it’s not as easy to explain it away.
Now think about what you do or don’t do in case someone may criticize you. When do you decide to do something because you believe it will appease? Or do something because it will impress? Or don’t do something, because it will upset or disappoint?
That seems like a lot to juggle. A lot of people to please. A lot of differing opinions and perspectives to cater to. It seems very complicated. Dare is say; downright impossible? You’re right; it’s totally and completely impossible!
That’s the good news. If you agree with the premise of what I just said, you are now open to explore some new possibilities with me. I’m so excited!
For guidance on this topic I lean on the “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz. If you’ve never read the book, I highly recommend it. It’s short, packed with ancient wisdom and small enough to fit in your pocket or purse. It’s the second of the four agreements I’d like to draw your attention to;
“Don’t take anything personally”.
“Nothing others do is because of you. What others do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering”.
This has become a tenant of my life. For six years I had to put this agreement into practice every day at my job. I had to recite it many times a day. I held a position where I was responsible to field questions, complaints and concerns of a large number of people every day. Sometimes it was just annoying, sometimes it was personal. Some days I maintained a healthy perspective, sometimes I floundered. Regardless, I never let my belief in this agreement falter. It was shown to be true, over and over again. It truly took me six years of being in the trenches to understand and practice this concept. As I look back on that time, I am thankful for it. While I am not completely unaffected by what others say and do, I definitely have a solid handle on it, and am in a much healthier place. As I interact with others I am able to see where they are coming from, what their motives may be, how they may be hurting, what they are needing, and why they are responding to me the way they are.
I have also started to live the truth of the flip side of this agreement; if I am believing others are fully responsible for their words and actions to me, then I must be fully responsible for my words and actions to others.
I’m sure I will spend the rest of my life uncovering the layers of just this one agreement. It is dense and packed with truth on many levels.
I encourage you to pick up a copy of “The Four Agreements”. Whether you’ve read it many times or it’s your first exposure to it, you will be the better for it. I promise.
with love and belief-emilie