Agreement #2: Don’t Take Anything Personally
“Personal importance, or taking things personally, is the maximum expression of selfishness because we make the assumption that everything is about ‘me’.”
— The Four Agreements, Chapter 3
Yes, taking things personally is all about ourselves; our ego. We think the world revolves around us and everything people do is specifically targeted to us.
How We Personalize
Ruiz believes that nothing other people say or do is because of us. It is because of themselves. How other people relate to us often depends on their mood, so if we base our self-image on how someone else treats us, we will most likely experience many difficulties. If we take things personally, we will be upset, insecure, and unhappy most of the time.
Personalizing Can and Will Destroy Relationships
This happens in relationships all the time. Let’s say you recently started dating someone who usually texts every day. One day, you get no text, so you automatically think you did something wrong. Did you say something to upset him/her? Did he/she meet someone else? You start to feel insecure and fill yourself with anxiety.
Ruiz explains, “Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves. All people live in their dream, in their minds; they are in a completely different world from the one we live in. When we take something personally, we assume that they know what is in our world, and we try to impose our world on their world.”
Why Do We Personalize
Personalizing keeps your focus outside of yourself, so it’s a great way of avoiding your feelings. It also works really well to confirm your own negative beliefs. You’re not doing any of this consciously; it is all on auto-pilot. The first step is to notice when it happens so you can catch yourself in the moment and shift your perspective.
Personalization Is Not About You
People are going to do and say whatever they want—you can’t control that. But you can control how you respond. According to Ruiz , “Whatever people do, feel, think or say, don’t take it personally… by taking things personally you set yourself up to suffer for nothing.”
First, write this down and stick it somewhere you’ll see it every day: Don’t take anything personally.
When someone says something that I take personally, this is what I hear: (examples: I’m not good enough, I’m not lovable, I’ll always be single, )
Jot these down in your journal without commentary or judgment. Use simple bullet points, writing down what happened and how you personalized. For example:
Now, go back through each scenario and list three possible reasons for the action. Using the first example above, you might write:
I was giving a presentation and someone walked out (what happened)
Remember: your perception of reality is based on your beliefs, and theirs is based on their beliefs. Neither is right /wrong, they are just different.