Don’t Take Anything Personally – The Second Agreement

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Do you ever just get home at the end of the day feeling drained from having to deal with people? All the dumb things they do, the way they drive, hell the way they talk? Why can’t they be more like you?  Awesome all the time.

There is a way to deal with all these people, but the answer isn’t changing them, it is changing you. Read on to learn the invaluable concept of don’t take anything personally.

This article is part of our Catalyst For Change series that is covering don Miguel Ruiz’s book: The Four Agreements.

This features an in-depth review of the second of The Four Agreements, Don’t Take Anything Personally. For a review of the entire book, check out What are the Four Agreements of Life? Ideals That Will Make You Better.

The Four Agreements

  1. Be Impeccable With Your Word
  2. Don’t Take Anything Personally
  3. Don’t Make Assumptions
  4. Always Do Your Best

Whatever people do, feel, think, or say, don’t take it personally. – The Four Agreements, don Miguel Ruiz

The second of the agreements has to do with acceptance of yourself. This agreement can be hard for us sometimes. Why? Because to really do this, we have to let go of our ego and start taking responsibility for ourselves.  

We have to learn to admit we have feelings of vulnerability, and this vulnerability causes us to lash out.

Learning to accept we are wrong before we get angry is a hard thing to get used to. Another tough part is learning to walk away and not get mad even when you are right, in the end it doesn’t matter who is right or wrong. 

When we take things others say or do personally, we are allowing their opinion of us to override what we think or feel. In essence, we are allowing their reality of us to replace what we think or feel about ourselves.

We deceive ourselves

I know this is really hard for me, I take most things personally that happen in my life.  I am especially bad with this while driving, you know when everyone around you is just driving stupid to piss you off?   

I know that they are not, but in that moment it sure feels like they are.

Ruiz gives the example of seeing someone on the street that you don’t know, and they call you stupid. If you take it personally then perhaps you believe you are stupid. When someone says something to you, and you take it to heart it is because somewhere inside your mind, you actually agree with what is being said to you.  

When taking what is said to you personally, you are unconsciously agreeing with what is being said. You allow the poison of the words to enter into your mind. 

By taking things personally, we are creating our own version of hell inside our minds. We trap ourselves with these negative thoughts that play over and over in our heads. 

Personal Importance

If someone else is having a bad day and they say something negative to you, and you take it personally; you are not only hurting yourself, you are in effect making it about you.

Our minds are very selfish things, we want everything to be about us. This can create anger in our hearts for the other person.

We want to fight and argue back, we are not stupid, they are the stupid ones. By taking their words personally, you have made the problem yours. What was just a small comment by someone has now turned into a bigger problem for you!

When you try and fight back with the person, you are now trying to force your beliefs, your version of reality on them. You want to be right, in your desire to be correct you may say hurtful things back to the other person, hurting yourself more in the process.

Change Your Perspective

So now imagine the same situation when someone calls you stupid, and this time you don’t take it personally. You just walk away and let it go. What do you carry with you now? Nothing. You are free to go your own way. You have left the poison of those words behind, you are not angry or sick about it. Now you are free and at peace with yourself.

This is the value of not taking things personally; you are a happier person.

Why do we take things personally?

This process starts from our early childhood and the domestication we learned then. When our parents and teachers were mad at us, we perceived it as our fault, and we got punished. When our parents were happy with us, we got rewarded. We view their happiness and anger as being about us and carry these feelings all through life.

We carry this with us as adults as well, we just do it with everyone now. If someone else is angry, we make it about us. If they are hurt or happy, we try to make their state of being all about us.

When in reality everyone is living in their own dream; their own version of what is real. While you are making the situation about you, they are making the situation about themselves. Every human creates the reality they see by the agreements they have made throughout their lives.

We have agreed with the dream of the world we were taught as children and anything that threatens this dream causes us discomfort. By making the situation just about ourselves, we are taking on the responsibility of others’ thoughts and feelings, adding more chaos to an already overwhelmed mind.

The Two Minds

Our own mind is often not in agreement with itself. I often find myself talking to myself.  One part of me is saying you should do it this way and the other part is going no you are wrong, you need to do it another way!  

[Hopefully, if you do this yourself you don’t talk out loud as I do, people laugh at me at work for having conversations with myself.]

The mind can talk and listen to itself. The mind is divided as the body is divided…the mind can talk to itself. Part of the mind is speaking, and the other part is listening. It is a big problem when a thousand parts of your mind are all speaking at the same time. –The Four Agreements, don Miguel Ruiz

So even the opinions we have of ourselves in our own minds we can not take personally. We have listened to our personal account our entire lives, so how can we not believe what we are saying to ourselves?

Self Deception 

Say you see yourself as not being overweight, no matter how much or what you eat . Sure you have some joint pain, and you get out of breath walking a short distance. Everyone does at your age. Maybe you had to buy new clothes, but that was just updating your wardrobe.    

You go to your doctor, and he tells you that you are overweight; in fact, you are obese. Now you are wondering if your doctor really knows what he is talking about.

He is younger after all, and kids these days are obsessed with weight and looks. Hell, next, he will be wanting you to become a wimpy vegan. You know 100 percent in your mind you are definitely not fat.

Facts? What are those?

This agreement you made with yourself that you were not overweight is still with you. No matter the reality of your situation, you will refuse to believe the truth. Your mind keeps insisting you are just fine the way you are.

We make excuses for ourselves so that we are right.  I did this for years about smoking, despite all the evidence that it was bad; I kept telling myself it was not bad for me.  

This kind of behavior is the power our old agreements have over us. Despite the facts, we will continue to insist that our mind is right.

Unnecessary Suffering

Humans are addicted to suffering at different levels and to different degrees, and we support each other in maintaining these addictions. – The Four Agreements, don Miguel Ruiz

Have you ever known someone that just seems to always end up in a bad relationship? They are a good person, but they keep ending up in an abusive relationship. You often wonder why they can’t find someone who treats them right.

They can’t find the right person, because long ago they made an agreement with themselves that they deserve to be abused. This is an un-conscious agreement they have made with themselves. Other people can look at the person they are dating and know it is going to end badly, they can just never see it themselves.

They are addicted to this suffering until they can see their behavior as harmful.  Until they make a new agreement with themselves to end the pain, it will continue on.  

We all do this every day to some extent or another. Maybe your suffering is not an abusive relationship with a person, but with food, or self-harm. We all take and seek the pain to the extent of what we believe we deserve.

Until you choose to end your suffering, by making a new agreement not to take things personally, this self-destructive behavior will stay with you.

In conclusion – Accept Yourself and bring peace and happiness to your life

Are you starting to see how accepting and following The Second Agreement, not to take anything personally, could bring peace and happiness to your life?

By not allowing the hurtful words, feelings, or actions from others to enter into our minds, by not accepting the poison they are offering, you can begin to heal yourself. To start listening to the new agreement that you do not have to take someone’s hate and anger and make it your own.

When you let these words and actions pass you by, you will become responsible for the only person you should be accountable for— yourself.

Owning your own actions and feelings and not worrying about how others see you, will bring you a sense of freedom and joy previously unknown to you before.

If you keep this agreement, you can travel around the world with your heart completely open, and no one can hurt you. You can say, “I love you,” without fear of being ridiculed or rejected. – The Four Agreements, don Miguel Ruiz

Don’t take anything personally.

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