It’s Not About You!

I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again. The behavior of others has far more to do with them, not you. Repeat after me: do not take it personally.

Easier said than done!

Recently, I read a column that listed ten questions to ask elderly relatives about their life. Amongst them was the question, “What would you say you know now about living a happy and successful life that you didn’t know when you were twenty?” While there are many answers to this particular inquiry, I believe that not taking things personally ranks pretty darn high up there in terms of keeping yourself happy and satisfied with your life situation.

Recently, I was chatting with some friends about this. It’s challenging not to take a person’s behavior personally when this same behavior impacts you directly, but oh, what a mighty instrument you have in your hands if you can see past the personal impact and recognize that their behavior is about them, not you! If I could bestow a gift to each of you, it would be this. It’s not about you. Truly. It isn’t.

Repeat this to yourself as you grapple with how to answer, think about, or react to another’s ill or obnoxious treatment. Whatever it is that’s prompting them to target you, is actually about themselves. This realization may not make withstanding their conduct any more pleasant, and it may not diminish your attempts to bring it to a halt, but it does make things easier.

Years ago, a close friend had the great misfortune of falling out with someone very important to them. They had seen a pattern of bad behavior demonstrated by this person, but always told themselves that there was no way such conduct would be directed at them; they were too close and it was inconceivable that the relationship could sour like that. My friend believed that they had demonstrated their loyalty and friendship so completely that this person would never turn on them.

My friend was naïve and oh so very wrong. It was painful to witness.

When a wise colleague commented that this person’s behavior wasn’t even personal, that they did this to everyone, well, at the time, my friend was furious—even indignant–they couldn’t wrap their mind around such a concept. Of course it was personal! It was happening to them! How could it be anything but deeply hurtful?

With time, they began to see things more clearly. And as “unspecial” as they confessed to feeling once they understood the truth of the colleague’s observation—that they just happened to be the next victim in a long line of people who got treated this way—that the bad actor’s actions really were about them, not my friend, it made a world of difference. In time, my friend grew to recognize and accept that they just happened to be the person who presented a threat, but it could’ve been anyone. Their ability to put this entire, painful episode behind them and even extend the tiniest glimpse of compassion for a person so wrapped up in their own sick narcissism is due entirely to being able to not taking their behavior so personally.

What about you? To what painful situation in your life might this truth also apply? The holidays are a potent time for such conflicts to arise, so if you can somehow manage to see your distressing situation is a less personal light, your experience dealing with them may be a whole lot more serene.

Think on this awhile and get back to me…

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One Response to “It’s Not About You!”

  1. grasshopper Says:

    this is so true! not taking things personally is a HUGE life lesson to learn. Probably one of the most useful! Got a perfect book for you on this topic….:)

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