Let´s Not Take Things Personally
One of my students asked me last week: „OK, I understand I should not take things personally, but how am I supposed to REALLY DO IT in the moment when my emotions are triggered and I do feel like it is personal?”
If this question ever came into your mind, here is my answer.
1. We need to REALLY understand this idea of “not taking things personally”
2. We need to BE AWAKE in the very moment of the encounter with another person to be able to not act like an automatic machine but choose a conscious reaction instead.
Viktor Frankl once said that "Between the stimulus and the response, there is space. And in that space lies your power and your freedom".
So, let me share a bit more to both.
This idea of “not taking things personally” is a wonderful gateway to freedom in our life and it is deeply rooted in how we perceive the world. If you and I look at the same situation, we do not see the same picture.
When I am looking at any situation, my eyes transfer the information to my brain and my brain immediately creates interpretations of it based on my previous experience, my personality, my current mood etc. I create a story about what I see. And I can be pretty convinced about it. But what I see is not the objective reality, it is only my view, my story about this situation.
The fun thing is that this story is changing all the time. I tell the story differently when I am 20 years old and it would be completely different at 50. I tell a different story when I am happy and another one when I am sad. And it changes if I tell it to my mother or if I tell it to my husband or my boss. So, the story itself is not solid, it is pretty much an illusion.
Whatever I see, feel or say, is MY VIEW of the reality at this moment, it is my opinion and it is very much about me. Some say, that this is the dream I live in.
On the other side of this, there is a very strong pressure of culture we live in, a culture that is supporting our egoistic performance in this world - the idea that you have to create a certain type of persona to be successful. Create some image of yourself. Carefully choose how you dress, behave, what you achieve, to earn the approval of other people. Based on this pressure, many of us are naturally building an image of personal importance and become very vulnerable to any kind of attack to the persona we create.
And here we are, somebody who has been building the image of personal importance in a culture where “ME” matters so much and on the other side another human being with their own view of the situation and their own emotional wounds – telling us something that hurts.
How can we not take it personally?
In a situation like this, we basically have 3 options:
- OPTION 1 React the way we are used to – get insulted, get hurt and maybe even start a fight
- OPTION 2 Be present enough to remember that whatever they say, is more about them and less about me; remind ourselves that whatever the other person says is part of their story, it is their perception of the world and it is much more about them than about you
- OPTION 3 Look at the other person with compassion. If they say something that hurts, they may have a lot of their own pain and insecurity inside and maybe they just do not know how to do better. That is not an excuse and it does not give them the right to treat us badly but it can release our own pain. We can see them with more compassion. And we can then react with more dignity, freedom and respect.
So, the next time you feel it is personal, catch that moment in your body, take a deep breath and choose the reaction that is most meaningful to you and is going to serve you best in your life.
Good luck! :-)
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