“The same way that you are the main character of your story, you are only a secondary character in everybody else’s story” – don Miguel Ruiz
“2. Don’t Take Anything Personally
Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and 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.” – don Miguel Ruiz “The Four Agreements”
The first time I read The Four Agreements I thought it was complete new age garbage. I spent a few more years doing my job and living my life. And then I happened upon the book again. The second pass differed from the first. The concepts Ruiz spells out in the agreements resonated with me this time and now I frequently refer to the text. I encourage you to read the book.
The four agreements are as follows:
- Be Impeccable With Your Word
- Don’t Take Anything Personally
- Don’t Make Assumptions
- Always Do Your Best
All the points he makes are relevant and applicable in our lives, but Don’t Take Anything Personally transformed my life. He proposes that what people say or do to you has everything to do with them and nothing to do with you. Each person goes through life on his or her own path shaped by their values, history, perceptions, faith, expectations, health, and etcetera.
I encourage you to spend one day just listening to people around you. You will find that people will talk about politics, faith, family, work, money, stress, hopes, and dreams. Some will be cynical and some will be hopeful. The people around you will show you who they are if you pay attention.
Maybe during this exercise one of the people in your world will give you advice or feedback. You have options when this happens: believe them entirely, believe some of what they say, or believe none of what they say. Take a moment to decide if the feedback they are providing is useful to you or not. If not, politely let it go. This applies to the feedback we receive from the people we love the most.
This agreement requires us to trust ourselves. However, when consistently told to listen to our parents, our teachers, our pastors, and our supervisors, trusting ourselves can be challenging. This is your life and only you know the best way to live it consistent with who you want to be.
I think when I am feeling my best I am able to step back and see how this agreement works. The internet is a faceless bully factory and some people feel the need to spread their misery around. When I am at my best, I know that mean people are usually the ones scared and suffering. I think it’s hard to not take it personally when people are unable to be happy for me when I do well or when they say “I told you so” when I struggle.
The times that I have acted cruelly were times when I was not happy in my life. I know that when I treat people poorly, it is because I am not taking care of myself. When I feel compelled to convince someone that “I’m right” or I get defensive about a topic, I am not trusting myself and my life experiences enough not to need their validation.
I try to remember that we are mirrors reflecting our own hopelessness or hopefulness onto the world around us. It is my favorite agreement and the one I struggle with the most.
“If someone is not treating you with love and respect, it is a gift if they walk away from you. If that person doesn’t walk away, you will surely endure many years of suffering with him or her. Walking away may hurt for a while, but your heart will eventually heal. Then you can choose what you really want. You will find that you don’t need to trust others as much as you need to trust yourself to make the right choices.”
― Miguel Ruiz