It’s not you, it’s me.
“Don’t take anything personally.” It seems so basic, but this is probably the hardest of the of the Four Agreements for me to live by.
It seems that at a cellular level I need to be liked; I need to be accepted; and I need to be right. It’s usually not enough for me to “just” be any of those things, I also have to be the best. I have to be the most liked; I have to be totally accepted; and I have to be completely right.
Of course, I don’t actually think that in my logical brain, but somewhere in my lizard brain, I must think these things, because when any of them are lacking, I feel a tangible dis-ease inside me.
This becomes most evident in my relationships.
The problem with basing your sense of well-being on these types of external factors is, well, just that: they’re external. If I need to be liked, it means I need other people to like me. If I need to be liked by everyone, then I need everyone to like me. And if I need to be the best, I need to be everyone’s best friend. No pressure. If I need to be right all the time (because how will anyone like me if I’m *gasp* wrong?) that means everyone else needs to be wrong. It’s a hot mess.
Recently, I was on Facebook, feeling a bit unsettled in regards to a new friend. Said friend was interacting with another friend more than she was interacting with me. True story, this bothered me. I actually had an uncontrollable emotional and physical reaction to it that could best be described as a feeling of rejection. It’s the way it felt in school getting picked last for sports, only I’m 30ish and it’s Facebook, so I had an added level of shame at my reaction.
Then I did what any sane, rational adult would do: I Facebook stalked both of them. I’d like to blame this on my period or some other bullshit, but really it’s just good ol’ fashioned insecurity and this impression I have that everything is about me. You know, because then that whole inner dialogue starts (the one you don’t tell other people about, but I’m totally just going to put it all out there).
“Oh, Jane doesn’t have time to acknowledge that I tagged her in that post but she’s all the hell over the place on Julie’s wall? Does she think I can’t see that? Of course I can see that. She knows I can see that. Did I piss her off? Should I message her? Should I tag her again? Maybe she didn’t see it? Who am I kidding, of course she saw it. Maybe I did something to piss her off. Maybe she found out I told Jamie she was being kind of a bitch the other day. Maybe I should apologize. Well, I don’t want to start something. Let me check Jamie’s wall.”
And it’s not just Facebook. I do this in person, too. The number one fight I have with my husband is almost entirely based on this (at least, my half of the fight is). He gets quiet (because he’s a quiet guy) and I instantly assume he’s upset with me or something I did and I need him to like me and be happy with me all the time and so I push and push and push him to talk to me and it explodes.
I even do this with people I don’t know.
“What was with the dirty look that woman just gave me? Did I say something to upset her? I didn’t mean anything by that joke but maybe she didn’t think it was funny? Well, screw her! She needs a better sense of humor. That’s not my problem, it’s hers. Dumb bitch.”
See how I made it about me being liked by her and about making her wrong so I could be right all at the same time? It’s a borderline sickness.
I’ll tell you this: It’s exhausting reading into other people’s behavior all the time, and it’s disgustingly arrogant.
Don Miguel Ruiz hits the nail on the head when he says, “Even if others insult you directly, it has nothing to do with you.”
That’s so true. As if living with this feeling of rejection wasn’t sad enough. Often times, I make something out of nothing because my outlook is one that creates conflict instead of promotes peace. (Of course, I feel justified. I knew that poop face didn’t like me).
If my happiness is contingent on being right, or on being liked and accepted, I’m giving other people all the power. Instead of taking responsibility for myself and my own happiness, I just blame others for my hurt feelings and my bad days. Not the best way to make friends, ya know.
Yoga and meditation are teaching me to create space in my life and to hold that space. So, instead of responding to my friend out of rejection and hurt and creating a problem where there was none, I was able to take a deep breath, process the situation, and separate my “feelings” from the “truth.”
Turns out she wasn’t rejecting me at all. Facebook has this way of only putting certain things in a person’s news feed at any given time. She really didn’t see my tag. I would’ve made a total asshat out of myself, and possibly chased at least one friend away, if I hadn’t taken the space I needed. Even if she had seen it and chosen not to respond: who cares? What in my life would’ve been hurt by that?! How would that have changed anything that mattered at all? It wouldn’t.
It’s the ultimate egotistical vision—the quest for perfection. I can say “I want to make everyone happy” but I’m not really doing it so they’ll be happy. Not really. I’m doing it so they’ll like me. If they don’t like me they must be hateful because look how hard I’m trying to make them happy. I’m feeding my ego, not their spirit.
So, how do I take the intellectual knowledge that it’s not about me and turn it in a whole body knowing?
How do you just stop taking everything personally?
I think it’s all in the space. The more you hold space for yourself in yoga and meditation, the more space you’re creating for yourself off the mat.
At first, you must bring constant awareness to the space that exists between circumstances and your responses to them. You have to find that space and then guard your tongue and your heart. You don’t have to say the first thing you think. Thinking and feeling aren’t truth.
Early on it will seem like a challenge, just like learning a new pose. The more foreign it is to you, the more time you must give your body, mind and spirit to grow into it. Keep looking for that space and using it. Continue to get on your mat and to sit on your cushion and create it. If you mess up, don’t judge yourself or the process, just acknowledge it, take a deep breath, and get back into alignment.
Eventually, it will get easier. It’s not easy for me, yet, but it’s easier. The more time I spend on my mat or in meditation, the less attached I am to my initial emotional response to my circumstances. I’m aware that emotions aren’t truth and I’ve felt the peace and ease that lies in that space I create in my practice.
So, I’ll stick with it and I know one day the space will come easily.
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Apprentice Editor: Brandie Smith/Editor: Rachel Nussbaum
Photos: Courtesy of Author, elephant archives / bio photo from Christina Karst Photography