I read the book “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz about 3 years ago. It’s a super-fast read and if you have never read it before, I recommend it highly. Though the book begins a little “out there,” it quickly becomes more concrete in its 4 “agreements” or lessons about life. They serve to help us feel a deep sense of personal freedom and fulfillment…essentially, how to be happy regardless of the situations and circumstances life throws at us.
This month in my coaching group, we are getting into the mind-body aspect of the program (the 12-month mentorship spans the physical realm, the mental-emotional and also business) and the book of the month is The Four Agreements, hence I went back and read it again.
As I was reading, one agreement stuck out to me more than the others in its relation to the physique world in general: Don’t Take Anything Personally. Besides the fact that this lesson is obviously applicable to all aspects of life, it is particularly relevant in the physique world where egos can run high, carbs often run low and feelings can get hurt (even when we do it to ourselves). Got me to thinking…
Whenever the physique is involved, inevitably there are emotions involved. It is hard to take criticism of your physique lightly (say in getting feedback from judges at a show, or coming in dead last). It is easy and normal to want to defend: “But I worked sooooo hard! I never cheated on my diet! I came in harder/smaller/bigger/tighter than so-and-so…WTF!” and on and on. Whenever we put out loads of effort, we uphold certain expectations. We feel we “deserve.” And when those expectations are not met, we take it personally. How could we not?
But, I challenge you to do this: literally take nothing personally (as Ruiz wrote in his book). Making this one switch can change your life. How nice would it be to be free to be you, and do what you need to do for you. And then also give others the benefit of the doubt and assume that they, too, are only doing what they need to do for them. Consider that what other people do has nothing to do with you. Could you see things that way?
Here’s an example: You urge a friend to start exercising with you so that you can have a workout buddy. She is similar in fitness level, shape and body fat. You workout together, eat the same clean meals and her body starts to respond a lot faster than yours. She wants to do a competition, but you are nowhere close to being able to start a contest prep. She starts the process, gets really lean, starts getting more and more attention at the gym and around town. You are still at it too, but for various reasons are not attaining the same results. She gets up on stage, wins her class, is the envy of all the fit crew and essentially leaves you in the dust. Now, picture these events taking place in your mind.
Questions: Can you be happy for her? Or do you experience feelings of abandonment? Besides, you started this journey together. Can’t she see that it makes you feel bad when she parades around in a sports bra and short-shorts? Doesn’t she understand that you deserve more credit? Besides, you were the one who urged her to get a gym membership in the first place. Or can you put your ego aside and realize that all she did had nothing to do with you? She didn’t do a show in spite of you. She did it for herself. She didn’t get into amazing shape to deliberately make you look bad or make you feel less than. Right?
Now, for many of you, this probably feels like a petty example. I get that. But the truth is, when emotions are running high as I am sure they have for you in various situations in your past, our egos can get in the way and we play the victim. We begin to attach personal meaning to other people’s actions. We make them about us. This is natural. However, it is also not liberating. In fact, it keeps us locked in a personal hell where we feel like everyone is out to get us and we take everything personally. We make things mean whatever we want them to mean, and for some reasons, as women, we always default to the “I’m not good enough” position. We make other people’s actions mean we suck. And the unfortunate part of this is that often we don’t even know we are doing it! So, I am here to tell you that…you are probably doing it without even knowing it. Don’t get defensive :) I did it for years without knowing! All I knew was how to play defense.
Of course, we don’t do it all the time with every person we meet, but for some reason we do it to the people closest to us. I have done it to Jade over and over, as he has to me. When our own insecurities manifest, we default to the defensive position where we are always the victim because someone else is doing something TO us. Ruiz challenges us to see nothing as happening TO us, but instead to see that things are just happening. There’s no attachment to be made. People just do what they do, and we are crazy to make every little thing about us. In fact, to assume people are going about their lives deliberately doing things to offend us is SELFISH! :)
Try this: Give people the benefit of the doubt. 99% of the time, people are doing for them with no thought to the fact that you might take it the wrong way. Allow people to be themselves, without expectation, and you be you, without apologies. See, aren’t we all just egos waiting to be liberated? Skip the middle man and just give yourself permission to relax and just be right now. Don’t take anything personally. You will be that much happier for it, I promise!
Would love to hear your thoughts and experiences with this. I think we can all relate to taking things personally and making a big deal out of nothing. In the end, it is about your journey and for the other person, it’s about their journey. And isn’t that the way it should be? :) Let me know, below in the comments section! ox Jill