Don’t Take Things Personally – A Lesson Learned

I just recently traveled back to Wisconsin and have not had a chance to sit down and write. Although there were many occasions where I should have made the time to, but I didn’t. Going back home made me realize just how different I have become over the last year. I never noticed how much I used to allow other people to control me. Most of the time unintentionally.

Coming back with a fresh view of the situation caused me to have a very necessary revelation about of myself. I always knew that I was an oversensitive person and sometimes I tend to over react. Which is why I have been making a conscious effort to keep myself from internalizing the actions of others. In most cases the way people react to a situation or behave a certain way is based on some internal conflict of their own.

For example, when I am critical of others or put them down in someway, it is usually because I myself am self conscious about something and it makes me feel better about myself to pick out the flaws of others. It is hard to admit this, but even though I do this unconsciously most of the time, it’s the harsh truth and it is something I am not proud of; something I am working to change.

If I am being honest, the first half of my trip was pretty stressful. On my last visit, I neglected my family a bit due to time constraints, so this time I wanted to make the 1st priority. I would be working remotely the entire time and I knew I wouldn’t physically have the time to see everyone individually, so I tried to get everyone in one place the first full day I was in WI. I knew I would be going down to visit my family the next day and I wasn’t sure what day I would be able to come back up. Not to mention, I was low on funds so I really didn’t/couldn’t be driving back and forth from WI to IL (about an hour each way). Great idea right?

In theory. Unfortunately, there was some internal drama (I’m not going if she is) going on, along with a cold that everyone was stricken with. I’m not complaining, I completely understand and I was really thankful I was able to see the people who were able to make it 🙂

The only thing I was frustrated about was that I still wanted to see the folks that were not able to make it and I knew it was going to be virtually impossible with the time I had. Someone was going to get left out and someone’s feelings were going to get hurt and I would end up feeling horrible.

See what I did there? The night of the gathering, when I had this realization, I set myself up for this negative possible outcome. And because I am a worrier, my mind just fixated on it until I completely stressed myself out.  I didn’t realize it then of ‘course.

That week I was able to see my family during the day, which was so wonderful considering I have not seen them since I moved to Colorado and it had been quite some time before I left as well. The only draw back to our day visits was that I had to then make up the time I missed working in the evening, which limited my hang out time then. By the third day, I was pretty stressed about the limited time I had left.

I could feel the physical effects of the stress on my body and mind.  That is when I stopped myself for a moment and asked myself, “how did I get here?”

This is not me. I am a person who has faith that everything will work out as it should. I am a believer that one way or another what is meant to be will be. That life is too short to stress and worry about things we can not change. I could go on and on, but you get the point. If I have such strong faith in this, then why was I doubting everything now. Why was I stressing myself out trying to please everyone? What was it in me that was making me behave this way?

After some soul searching, I believe my doubts were stemming from my own insecurities. I am about to publish my memoir. I will be putting my story out to the world. There are things in my book that I have not shared with anyone. So I guess it is only natural that my issues with self-esteem would start to rear their ugly head.

This is something I have been struggling with for a very long time. In my post The Journey Part Seven – Don’t Take Things Personally, I wrote:

After reading The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz, I have been making a conscious effort to make these new agreements with myself that he says will change my life. My favorite of the four is “Don’t take things personally”. For me, this is also by far the most challenging.

For many years, I have taken everything personally. The words of others shoot directly to my heart. I internalize them as absolute truth. In many cases, this is my biggest mistake.

The truth is people are inherently selfish and unintentionally self involved. The actions of others are a reflection of themselves and no one else. Therefore nothing they say or do should be taken personally.

It’s a hard concept to wrap your brain around, but once you do I would imagine the feeling to be freeing!

For example, in love we would hold no expectations, allowing us to appreciate the moments we shared without worry of what will or will not manifest. There would be no fear of rejection, because we would know in our heart that should our love not be returned, it is not our fault. It is nothing we have done or not done well enough. The feelings of others are beyond our control.

It was clear to me that this was a lesson that I still needed to learn. And sooner than later. With the release of the book in February, it has become even more important to master the skill of not taking things personally. I know I will have critics, everyone does and I need to be able to not take everything to heart.

So what did I do next?

I decided to take control over the situation. I sat down and planned out the remaining days of the trip. I found every gap available and let anyone I had not visited with yet know about the time I still had free. Everyone was completely understanding, except for one of my closest friends.

There was a misunderstanding about whether we had tentative or definite plans to hang out on a certain day, but unfortunately that was the day in question. It was the day I had the above grand reflection. I still had hours of work ahead of me that night and I had plans early the next morning, so there was just no way it was going to work out. I had thought our plans that day were tentative, considering I did not know how long I would be down in IL, but they took it as a definite commitment on my part. When I sent my messages out about when I would be free, they became very upset with me and didn’t respond.

The next morning I received a very cold, hurtful response. My first instinct and reply was a little harsh I admit. Well, maybe not so much harsh as direct. I was clear and concise about the confusion and I apologized, but it came across as a bit unremorseful.

I had just had a  heart to heart with myself the day before about not feeding in to this type of stuff and it was as if I was being tested. I sent my reply and told myself not to allow this to ruin my day; life is too short!

Still, I was very hurt. I thought we were better friends than to not be able to move past an honest misunderstanding. If this person was truly my friend would they really let pride get in the way of spending time together? I guess time would tell, but I decided that I needed to apologize a bit more wholeheartedly than I had. Sure it was a misunderstanding, but I understood how I would feel if I had been on the other side of the table. And so I did. I ended my reply by putting the ball in their court and making sure they knew that I hoped we could move past this and that I loved them.

And then, I let it go. I said what I needed to say and I was not going to dwell on it anymore.

I have received no response to this day, but that is okay.

I am not going to take it personally 🙂

Friends come and friends go. Its the ones that stick around no matter what that are worth keeping. Those who accept you for your faults and love you for your imperfections. Mistakes and misunderstandings mean so much less when you truly care for someone. None of us are perfect, especially not me!

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3 thoughts on “Don’t Take Things Personally – A Lesson Learned

  1. I love this post. I totally relate to it.
    However, I find it interesting that you describe yourself as an “oversensitive” person who “overreacts.”
    I have considered this about myself and came to the determination that I am sensitive and definitely need to think things through prior to reacting. No doubt there.

    When considering my expectations of others – it boils down to, the requite of respect.
    It can be as simple as returning a smile or as specific as refraining from initiating verbal insults.

    I will continue to expect to get what I give in my interactions. If there is unbalanced sensitivity, it’s usually not an overage. No point in dismissing it, why deem it acceptable and risk repeating it? That sounds like the fast track to an even crueler world.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for your insight. Point well taken, “No point in dismissing it, why deem it acceptable and risk repeating it?” Sometimes the best lessons learned are from reflecting on our own actions. I have been trying very hard to think things through before I react and doing some major self reflection when I do not is definitely worthwhile in the goal for self improvement.

      Liked by 1 person

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