Doesn’t it feel good to get a compliment? It kind of brightens your day, right?
But guess what… don’t take it personally, because that compliment has nothing to do with you.
“Huh,” you ask?
Let’s say you are standing in line at the grocery store check-out and you notice the woman standing in front of you has an awesome Michael Kors bag. You may say to her, “Wow, I love your bag!” – but most likely, you are saying that to her because in that moment, you are feeling good, and you may be in a good mood. By complimenting her, you are extending to her how you feel about yourself, in that moment.
But what if you’ve had a bad day? What if you’re running late and nothing has gone right the entire day? Would you compliment her then? Most likely not. In fact, you may look at her full grocery cart and wonder just how anyone can buy THAT many Cheetos. You will likely be irritated that she is slowing you down and think, “Great, just what I need, a Cheetos lover who can’t move quickly!”
You see, whether you compliment her or not has nothing to do with her – it has everything to do with how you feel about yourself.
Conversely, when someone is treating you poorly, your first reaction is, “What did I do? Why did he say such awful things to me?” Our instinctive reaction is to absorb the poison that person just gave us. But if you remember the analogy above, you will know that his harsh words and behavior has nothing to do with you, so by absorbing the pain allows him to have great power over you.
Furthermore, when someone is feeling so bad about themselves, and they treat you poorly, it is often their goal for you to absorb their punishment – it’s how they elevate their power and their lame attempt of trying to feel good.
In Miguel Ruiz’s book, The Four Agreements, he explains that the second agreement you must have with yourself is to never take anything personally. He writes:
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.
Imagine the incredible freedom you could have if you were to never take anything personally! But I know it’s not that easy, because, as Ruiz writes, we are actually addicted to suffering:
Humans are addicted to suffering at different levels, and to different degrees, and we support each other in maintaining these addictions. Humans agree to help each other suffer.
This is why toxic relationships last way longer than they need to – in a way, we allow them to happen. We give the toxicity oxygen to survive. And the big reason for that is because we take everything personally. We make it all about us – we take the blame, we validate our existence by their harsh words – we have very little trust in ourselves to realize that we ought to be loved and not treated poorly.
So if the relationship ends and you are rearing from heartbreak, anger, and confusion – essentially, you are making this about you. One of my favorite quotes from Ruiz’s book sums it up perfectly:
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. You will find that you don’t need to trust others as much as you need to trust yourself to make the right choices.
When you stop taking things personally, you may feel lighter, less burdened by the world around you, and a deeper connection with your inner source. It’s okay to end your addiction to feeling crappy all the time – nothing bad will happen if you do. Today, you no longer need to absorb every insult or attack thrown your way – because it has nothing to do with you!
Bless the person who tried to make you feel bad, and hope they end their suffering soon. And then be on your merry way, feeling happy, light, and joyful!