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How to Not Take Things Personally: The Second Agreement

I recently shared my own struggles and joys with the process of being a friend. Additionally, I have reflected on the topic of friendship with my community via IG polls, chats over coffee, sessions with clients, in my therapist’s office, and so on. Through this process, I keep returning of Don Miguel Ruiz’ powerful text The Four Agreements. The language and perspectives he shares provide a powerful lens for healing, particularly in the context of relationships. 

Check out last week’s piece about how to apply the first agreement to friendship. Then, come on back and learn about the second agreement. 

Don’t Take Anything Personally

Part of me wants to just write this sentence, credit Don Miguel Ruiz, and hit publish. Because this is SO SIMPLE, right?! Just. Don’t. Take. Anything. Personally. 

Whatever happens around you, don’t take it personally. Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves. All people live in their own dream, in their own mind; they are in a completely different world from the one we live in. When we take something personally, we make the assumption that they know what is in our world, and we try to impose our world on their world.” – Don Miguel Ruiz

The second agreement invites us to acknowledge that we are all working through the perspective of our own unique experiences. My perspective is different than your perspective, and while we may share a multitude of commonalities and connections, your actions, thoughts, and words are not about me. Whatever a friend posts on IG, says to me over coffee, or thinks about the way I dress, for instance, IS NOT ABOUT ME. (Emphasizing because this is still quite hard for me to realize, and my guess is that I’m not alone.) When I take something a friend does personally, I am centering myself, using limited information to jump to conclusions, and ignoring their experience and perspective. Additionally, I am telling myself untruths. 

When I take things personally, I ask myself (painful) questions like:

  • Are they mad at me?
  • What did I do?
  • Are they doing this on purpose?
  • Am I being excluded?
  • Why don’t I belong?

Ruiz’ words remind us that we are all doing the best we can in any given moment and that another person’s thoughts, behaviors, and actions are about them and their experience, rather than a reflection of our worthiness.

But What About Impact?!

This is a good time for me to acknowledge that I do believe that we all impact one another energetically, including through our thoughts, words, and actions. For example, if a friend raises their voice towards me, I will likely experience sadness and fear. If a friend lies to me, I may feel angry and disappointed. When a friend offers a hug during a time of need, I may feel warm and relieved. So, yes, I trust that we all have the power to influence one another and our communities.

AND I believe that Ruiz’ teachings on de-personalizing can help us live with a greater sense of peace. 

It is possible to understand that we share collective energy, and we can each work on personal healing, which will contribute to collective healing. 

All of this said, if you are in a friendship with someone whose words or actions are harmful to you, it’s healthy to set limits, create boundaries, and honor yourself. You may experience big feelings, and these are all real and valid. Feeling hurt does not imply taking something personally. In the healing process, it will be important, however, to practice this agreement, reassuring yourself that the person’s actions were not about you and/or your worth.

How to Implement The Second Agreement with Friendships

  1. Dedicate time to your self-love and self-acceptance practices. The time you spend getting to know and love yourself supports you in showing up more fully in your relationships. If we all hold ourselves in the HIGHEST regard, we are enter friendships with love and care for ourselves and one another. 
  2. Explore your locus of control. Create a list or mind map and name the parts of your love you have no, some, and total control over. I invite you to post this somewhere you will see it regularly as a reminder that so many elements of the human experience are out of your control, and, yet, there is so much power in knowing the parts you do have responsibility for. 
  3. Name your emotions. If you have an emotional reaction to something a person says or does (or your perception of them) , it is helpful to internally name that feeling and notice how it feels in your body. 
  4. Take pause. When (not if) you feel charged by someone’s words or behaviors, offer yourself a pause. This may look like physical space (leaving the room), asking a curiosity question, such as “Can you say more about that?” to give yourself time to listen instead of reacting, or naming emotions (#3). 
  5. Check in with your expectations. Practicing this agreement involves acknowledging your own perspective. This perspective can come along with a whole lot of expectations and assumptions. For example, are you expecting your friend to text as soon as school gets out? That your friend will invite you to a party they are going to? When you allow your personal perspective to become the default, you might assume that you know how a situation should go. However, this sets you up to take any result (whether we code it as positive or negative) personally. 
  6. Share your emotions bravely. In the context of a friendship you are invested in, it can be helpful to be vulnerable. If and when it feels right, share your inner experience. As you do this, it’s important to not expect a specific response from them. Instead, share for the purpose of helping them understand where you are coming from.

De-Personalize Your Day

You are loved.

You are whole.

You are worthy.

Being human is beautiful and amazing, and it is also complex. I am right there with you, learning how to show up authentically and ready to connect while allowing others to have their own process. When you take something personally, I invite you to meet yourself with compassion and gently begin to remind yourself that you are loved and worthy inherently. Again, through this process, you may enjoy documenting your support system, reminding yourself of the many people and places you can turn to for connection.

Read about the third agreement and friendship here!

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