Back in the days when I was a jerk (read: drinking), I recall a rainy day on the subway train when I stomped on a lady’s foot because she was laughing. Not just because she was laughing, mind you, but because I was convinced she was laughing at ME.
I remember feeling like a total loser that day, even before I stomped on her foot. I had just made it onto the subway train, rushing on with wet hair, a nasty full-body hangover, and glasses that were wet, steaming up and skewed on my face. When her laughter began the moment I boarded, I was sure her mirth was because my glasses were skewed.
“I’ll show her!” I thought, eyeing her stark white, super clean Keds. Shoes that would look pretty nasty with my muddy boot print on the top of one of them.
So I waited until right before my stop, threaded my way through the rush-hour commuters, and stomped firmly on her foot right before I exited the train. She let out some weird noise as I scrambled off the subway, slipping and nearly falling along the way.
Yeah, I really showed her! Showed her how ridiculous some people can act when they end up taking things personally.
Don’t take anything personally
“Don’t take anything personally” is one of the Four Agreements, a book I highly recommend if you’re not already familiar with it. It’s also the agreement that many find to be the toughest to follow in our daily lives. Here come some things to remember when you feel yourself falling into the trap of taking things personally.
The world doesn’t revolve around you
Yeah, I know. I hate that fact, too. But it’s true. And it can be a relief when you feel like everyone in the world is laughing at you, whispering about you, or turning its steely glare in your direction.
Chances are they’re not. Heck, people may not even notice you entered the room (or boarded the subway train) because they are waaay too busy thinking about themselves – and that the world revolves around them.
You can’t control other people’s reactions
True, you can attempt to manipulate folks, or press certain buttons to get a charge out of someone. But the reactions folks have are largely based on their own memories, beliefs and other factors already ingrained in their psyche. That’s why two different people can have two totally different reactions to any given thing. Let’s say you tell a joke about, I don’t know, a bunny rabbit that falls off a bridge.
- One person laughs.
- Another person groans.
- A third person actually gets upset and leaves the room.
WTH? Their reaction to you joke is not based on the joke itself. It’s based on stuff in each person’s mind and memory bank. Perhaps the person who laughed always enjoys lighthearted funny jokes with her best friend.
The one who groaned grew up with an uncle who told corny jokes, so he gives none of them a chance to be funny. The person who left the room remembers a sad childhood incident during which her bunny rabbit was nearly hurt.
Your joke per se has nothing to do with their reactions, other than triggering whatever feelings and thoughts were already lingering inside.
That’s also why you can’t technically make anyone mad. They make THEMSELVES mad by drudging up stuff in their own minds.
It’s none of your business what other people think of you
Did you know fear of public speaking actually ranks higher for folks than the fear of dying? No kidding. And fear of public speaking comes right down to fear of being judged, or being worried about what other people think of you. It’s also the trigger than led to my jerky foot stomping more than 20 years ago.
How other people feel about you is not as important as how you feel about yourself. If you love you, that’s all that matters. Not everyone is going to love you. Not everyone is even going to like you. Don’t waste your time trying to change their minds. Instead spend your time and energy on those that appreciate and deserve it.
Thankfully I am not a jerk anymore (or at least I consciously try not to be). And I don’t have to worry about wet, skewed glasses since it barely rains here in Tucson. I’ve also come a long way since my hungover days of foot-stomping on the subway, as well as with the art of not taking things personally.
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I help courageous souls who want more out of life than sleep-work-sleep get their dazzle back so they rock their world.