On Taking Things Personally

Don't take things personallyI used to take every thing personal.  If a girl at school called me ugly then I believed her and thought that I was ugly.  If someone told me my skin was pale then I’d make sure to do something about it.  I would also take positive things personal.  I felt myself get high off of compliments.  When someone says, “Amy, you have such beautiful eyes”, I feel my dopamine levels rise.

I have been working on this issue for quite some time now.  I know I’m not alone in it.  Humans tend to be sensitive creatures.  I am in the highest spectrum of sensitivity.  It helps me marvelously in counseling people because I feel so deeply, but when I’m overly sensitive about matters that have absolutely nothing to do with me, then what?  I’m left feeling hurt because someone pointed their negativity in my direction.  Just because someone is having a bad day and goes around saying mean things with my name attached to the sentences does not mean what they are saying is true.

So what have I done to overcome this?  First, I recognized that it was a problem in my life.  I noticed a pattern of interjecting other peoples energy and moods into my being where they didn’t belong.  Then, I started noticing what effect it had on me when I let people do that.  I noticed that I lost my serenity and a switch in my brain flipped that made me feel less than others.  My confidence would plummet and I’d be left not knowing how to handle the situation.  Often times I’d freeze, many times I’d react, and other times I would avoid that person as much as possible.

A book was suggested to me by a friend who is also in recovery called The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.  The second agreement in his little, miniature, easy-to-read book states: “Don’t Take Anything Personally”.  He gives an example of a person walking down the street and they turn to you and call you stupid.  They don’t know you so it is about them not you.  Unless, he says, you believe that you are stupid and then you agree with what they have said.   He says this “personal importance” is the highest form of being selfish because we assume everything is about us. He suggests taping a piece of paper on your fridge that says “Don’t take anything personally” to remind you.

This relates to the AA notion that the core problem of our addiction comes from self-centered fear.  Every resentment I have ever had and have worked through doing a tenth step includes [fear].  It’s bracketed because that’s what it says to do in the big book.  Usually my fears involve: fear of not being liked, fear of getting fired, fear of failure, fear of being alone, etc.  My fears come from taking personally the things people have done that have hurt me.  When working through the resentments with my sponsor I have to “cut out their part entirely” and “look at where I am to blame”.  This was really hard for me to do at first, but now I see that it’s only through this practice that I have been set free from the power I let people have over my life.

God is the director of my life today.  When I try to run the show, or run around hurt because I feel like others took over the show, I have to remember that God is in charge.  When I surrender to His will and live from a place of service and love to the people around me, then I feel so much better.

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