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Have you ever heard the advice “Don’t take anything personally”? You might have heard of or read about the fourfold agreement of Don Miguel Ruiz, where the second of his four life wisdoms is to not ever take anything personally, because nothing other people do is because of you. But what does it actually mean, and why is it so hard?

When you take other people’s opinions and actions personally, you are welcoming hurt feelings, anger and unhappiness, making yourself a victim of needless suffering. You are giving other people more power over you than they deserve. If you instead choose not to take anything personally, the words and actions of others can no longer hurt you. This does not mean you should stop listening to others, but just see that they are living in their own worlds, interpreting everything according to their own subjective beliefs and thoughts.

But learning how to stop taking things personally requires some time and effort. Since childhood we have been judged by others, and forgotten that we ourselves unknowingly gave others that power over us. When we feel angry, insulted or hurt, we can’t just sweep these feelings under the carpet. Here are some ways to learn how to not take things so personally:

  1. Ask yourself why you are allowing words and feelings to hurt you.
  2. When you feel upset, angry or insulted, take a walk or exercise. This will help you calm down and the problem might feel smaller.
  3. Avoid thinking over and over about what upsets you. Instead, try to think of something useful, or something that makes you feel happier.
  4. Try putting yourself in the other person’s shoes. This will help you understand him/her and see that other people have their reasons for acting the way they act.
  5. Don’t jump to conclusions too quickly when you are being confronted. It might not have anything to do with you at all.

This is not easy, but when you are able to step out of your own subjective bubble of reality, you will see that anything others say or do have nothing to do with you, but everything to do with themselves. There is a great freedom that comes with not taking anything personally.

This article is written by our in-house trainee Jasmine Östlund.