Many of us grew up hearing the phrase, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
I recall hurling this defense at the response of cruel words of bullies and schoolyard tormentors, not truly realizing the impact of removing their power and satisfaction of bringing me down.
But despite the immediate refuge this saying would often provide, the verbal daggers to which it was drawn would still sometimes linger and cause hurt.
I’m sure many of us can relate and recall moments in our lives where the words of others caused us pain and suffering. These painful memories can make mastering the art of not taking anything personally, more often than not, easier said than done. But with earnest practice nourished by an ever-growing confidence and self-love, let me reassure you it’s a path worth pursuing.
By embracing these truths and understanding, you are one step closer to cultivating immunity to the projections and judgments of others.
1. We are All Mirroring
Everyone is living in their own world, their own dream and reality.
And the sooner you realize others interactions with you is solely based on their point of view, a relative truth, the sooner you’ll become immune to their judgments, pointed fingers, rejections or disagreements.
When others treat me in upsetting or disagreeable ways, I remind myself that their actions are merely a reflection of their own beliefs and not a true assessment of who I am.
The more we recall that everyone is simply projecting their own subjective perception of reality and truth, the more we can deny perceptions of ourselves that are not aligned with our value and worth.
2. Let the “Dogs Bark”
Meaning you can’t change what people are going to say. Let them them talk. Choose not to listen.
Just as the old childhood rhyme suggests, remember that you always have a choice… the choice to not let the words and attitudes of others’ to hurt you and in doing so, refuse to drink their emotional poison.
When we take something personally, we accept another’s reality as our truth, neglecting the fact that the offender has no true understanding of what we live, navigate, hope and know of.
Stand confident in yourself, knowing of your immense worth in the face of those who gossip about you, put you down, and use their words to hurt others.
3. Live to Your Own Standards
Close your eyes and picture a life where you granted yourself the personal freedom of living only to your dreams, expectations and standards. Envision yourself actively choosing a life driven and shaped by your desires, passions and dreams alone. In this fantasy, you make no room for the fear of disappointing others’ expectations of your life.
In this dream, you abandon all fear of what others’ will think of your path and choices.
This is the ultimate personal freedom. And it is all within your reach to practice each and every day. When we give ourselves permission to live our lives to how we see fit, embracing the knowing that we are the only one to live it… not your parents, your friends, your lovers, but you… you are empowering yourself as the best suited captain to sail your own ship.
4. Making the Fantasy a Reality
Perhaps you’re thinking to yourself, “But I’m too sensitive. I feel vulnerable and deeply impacted by assessments from others.”
Most of us do.
As you cultivate this habit, you will learn to not take what others say to heart. You will replace your trust in the words and actions of others with a deepened trust in yourself, making the careless comments or actions of others easily swept from your view.
Grant yourself this ultimate gift of personal freedom. Live by your own definition of what your life is and who you are. Don’t take anything personally.
Inspired by Don Miguel Ruiz’s “The Four Agreements.”