Don’t take it personally.
Whatever “it” is, it’s not about you. Even if it’s directed right at you, it’s still not about you. It’s about whoever is doing the directing.
We are all the directors and producers of our own little drama called, “the story of my life.” We’re also the star.
There are lots of supporting actors and actresses in our story. They all have their own opinions, preferences, and foibles. Just like me. And just like you.
“It is better to be making the news than taking it; to be an actor rather than a critic.” – Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)
Whenever one of the other actors expresses an opinion about you, don’t take it personally. Why not? Because, it’s really not about you. It’s about them.
Their comment, whether it’s good, bad or indifferent, is a reflection of their story, their drama, and the way they relate to their world. Their way is different from your way. Way different.
Their way is determined by a lifetime of experiences, thoughts and feelings. You may share some of these with that person, but there are more that you don’t share. Many more. That’s what makes us all so different from one another, even though we are fundamentally the same.
The same thread of life runs through us all, even though we are individual beads on the necklace of life. We are beads of every shape, size, color and description. We compare the differences of our beads with our words.
“Words form the thread on which we string our experiences.” – Aldous Leonard Huxley (1894-1963)
So when someone offers a criticism about you, realize in the moment that you are separate from their opinion. Whatever they think about you has nothing to do with who you really are. You are free and clear of it. You are more than their opinion about you. Much more.
“And only the Master shall praise us,
and only the Master shall blame;
And no one shall work for money,
and no one shall work for fame;
But each for the joy of the working,
and each, in his separate star,
Shall draw the Thing as he sees It,
for the God of things as They are!”
- Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)
The peerson offering the criticism doesn’t really know you. (Chances are, they don’t know themselves either.) They probably don’t understand the power and importance of their own word. Their loose-lipped babel is nothing more than noise on the wind . . . here for a moment and then gone forever. It is nothing more than a demonstration of their own lack of understanding.
“Life is too short to waste
In critic peep or cynic bark,
Quarrel or reprimand:
‘Twill soon be dark;
Up! mind thine own aim, and
God speed the mark!”
- Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
They know very little about your story — your reality — and the myriad thoughts, feelings and experiences that have defined your life. But, they have an opinion about it. Not only that, but they choose to voice their opinion as a criticism, even though they don’t understand.
“You do ill if you praise, but worse if you censure, what you do not understand.” – Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)
It goes on and on . . . those who make a habit of criticizing draw from a very deep well.
“To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.” – Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915)
Low Self-Image and Hidden Fears Stir Criticism
Why do people criticize? Remember, it’s not about you. Don’t take it personally. It’s about them. It’s about their feeling of importance. And, it’s about their fear . . . fear of being wrong, fear of feeling unimportant, unnoticed and unloved. It’s too painful to face these things so they distract themselves by focusing their attention on criticizing you and telling you what you should do.
“Well, I should do this, and I should do that,
It seems that everybody’s got their opinion.
And it’s everyone’s right to fight their private fight,
To be captain of their personal dominion.
And neither me nor you has a single clue,
To what the other one really should do.
We’re all learnin’ as we go, so don’t ya ’should’ on me,
And I won’t ’should’ on you.”
- from the song, “Just One Step” by Tupelo Kenyon
The Center of the World
Some people feel the world revolves around them. They’ve got it half-right. It does revolve around them. But it also revolves around every other person on the planet.
We each live in our very own world, defined by our thoughts, feelings and belief systems. Our worlds intersect here and there, but we are each in the middle of manifesting a unique life. Whenever one of us voices a criticism of another, we demonstrate not only our lack of tolerance and compassion, but also our lack of understanding. We demonstrate our unawareness of everyone else as the center and creator of their own world, and our unawareness of the importance of our own word. (See previous article, “How to Keep Your Word.”)
“As the comet lights the night, beyond our darkened eyes,
Oblivious to all of us, who don’t look to the skies.
Focused on the thunder, don’t hear the heavens sigh,
While space is torn and stars are born, and galaxies collide.
It’s just the way of the world,
It’s just the way of the world,
It’s really nothing personal,
It’s just the way of the world.”
- from the song, “Way of the World” by Tupelo Kenyon
Take Control of Criticism
Whenever you find yourself in the middle of being criticized, what do you do? Remind yourself immediately, “Don’t take it personally.” It’s their problem. Don’t make it your problem too by giving it your attention and energy. Whatever they think about you is none of your business.
People criticize. It’s what they do. It’s what they’ve always done. You have no control over that. But, you do have control over how you respond to it.
“Really, to stop criticism, they say, one must die.” – Francois Marie Arouet Voltaire (1694-1778)
For example, someone says, “You are so dumb.” They might not even say it out-loud. They may say it with their tone of voice while speaking other words. Their eye-rolls, body language and attitude can speak louder than words.
What’s really happening here, behind the scenes? Remember, it’s not about you . . . it’s about the critic. In the critic’s personal, private and unique world, it may be going something like this:
” I feel inadequate and unloved. I fear being all alone. All this fear doesn’t make me feel very smart right now. If I appear stupid, that other person may not like me anymore. Therefore, I must appear intelligent and with-it. How can I do that? By comparison, of course. Anytime that other person does something dumb, I’ll be quick to point it out.”
(As the old saying goes, “Some people feel taller by cutting off other people’s heads.”)
All this inner chatter happens in a split-second and is a subconscious, knee-jerk reaction based on fear. There may be no words involved — no verbal self-talk — just instantaneous flashes of feelings and memory fragments. All of us have a lifetime of accumulated fears and self-image issues that serve up our own unique justifications of criticizing others.
How to Break the Habit of Criticizing Others
How do we stop?
First, we become aware of when we do it.
Next, we try to get a handle on why we do it.
What good does it do to criticize another? No good.
Does it help them? No.
Does it help you? No.
Then, quit it.
“Criticism is dangerous, because it wound’s a man’s precious pride, hurts his sense of importance, and arouses his resentment.” – Dale Carnegie
Now that you’ve brought some of these mental mechanisms from the realm of the subconscious into the light of day of the conscious, you can choose to quit playing the game of criticism. You can choose to live more consciously. When you do, everyone wins. But you win the most!
Look at the alternative. Someone insults you. You take it personally. Even if it’s just an insignificant, off-hand remark, it stings like an arrow twisting under your skin. Why? Because you feel important, and what they said just isn’t right. You must defend yourself. You must lash out and strike back in the heat of the moment.
Everyone must know that you are right and the other person is wrong. You need to be right — no matter what. You must defend and justify your position, your belief system, and your opinion. You criticize the other person for their small-mindedness. You stand in the middle of the world you have created and thump your chest like a gorilla as you roar “injustice” to the world.
You have forgotten that the other person is also the center of their world. You have taken their ignorance of your world personally.
That’s a lot of emotional baggage to be carrying around for no reason. Your life’s energy is too precious to be flittered away by “taking it personally.”
“Right here, right now . . . You and me, and how!
The right place, the right time . . . Our very own personal paradigm.
‘Cause life is too important to be taken seriously,
Yeah, life is too important to be taken seriously.”
- from the song, “Seriously” by Tupelo Kenyon
Instead, know who you are, know that point inside you that is the creative center of your universe. Know what you want. Know your own dreams, desires and directions — independent of the whims, opinions and criticisms of others. (See previous article, “10 Steps to Discovering Your Life’s Purpose.”)
When you are living “on-purpose,” you are immune to the critic’s unawareness. Their criticisms bounce off. When you don’t absorb them and don’t resist them, they have nowhere to go except to ricochet back to the sender. You are undeliverable as addressed. Perhaps this experience with your bulletproof vest will help them learn the folly of offering criticism and the advantage of never taking it seriously.
“I am personally convinced that one person can be a change catalyst, a “transformer” in any situation, any organization. Such an individual is yeast that can leaven an entire loaf. It requires vision, initiative, patience, respect, persistence, courage, and faith to be a transforming leader.” – Stephen R. Covey (b. 1932)
Criticism is One Thing . . . What About Praise?
Praise can be just as dangerous, and a lot sneakier. Praise is usually offered from a much more positive place than criticism. There are sometimes strings attached and hidden agendas behind the praise, but generally we like to believe it’s offered spontaneously and genuinely.
“We protest against unjust criticism, but we accept unearned applause.” – Jose Narosky
How do you relate to praise? Be gracious, be appreciative, be genuinely impressed.
But, don’t take it personally.
Sometimes the very same people who criticized you last week will change their tune and praise you this week. Why should you pay attention to either viewpoint?
“Having the critics praise you is like having the hangman say you’ve got a pretty neck.” – Eli Wallach
Don’t allow it to make you feel more important. Don’t think you need approval and praise to continue to do what you do and be who you are. It’s a trap.
“Shun praise. Praise leads to self-delusion. Thy body is not Self, thyself is in itself without a body, and either praise or blame affects it not.” — H. P. Blavatsky (1831-91)
When the praise stops (and it always does), do you quit being who you are and doing what you do, just because others no longer offer pats on your back? Are you doing it for them . . . or for you?
“Our dependency makes slaves out of us, especially if this dependency is a dependency of our self-esteem. If you need encouragement, praise, pats on the back from everybody, then you make everybody your judge.” – Fritz Perls
If you’re in touch with the “inner director” of your own personal story, you know what to do and how to be . . . for you. You don’t need outer reinforcement.
“Not to be cheered by praise,
Not to be grieved by blame,
But to know thoroughly ones own virtues or powers
Are the characteristics of an excellent man.”
- Saskya Pandita (1182-1251)
When praise comes . . . great. Enjoy the moment for what it is but don’t take it personally.
When the voices of praise become quiet . . . great. Enjoy the silence and get in closer touch with your own personal direction.
Don’t take the silence of your critics personally either. This time, it’s not about them. It’s about you. It’s your life. It’s your choice, and what a colossal gift it is for each of us to be able to sculpt the life we choose by the thoughts we think, the visions we hold and the emotions we feel.
“As you make a habit of not taking anything personally . . . you can travel around the world with your heart completely open and no one can hut you. You can say, “I love you,” without fear of being ridiculed or rejected. You can ask for what you need. You can say yes, or you can say no — whatever you choose — without guilt or self-judgment. You can choose to follow your heart always. Then you can be in the middle of hell and still experience inner peace and happiness.” — Don Miguel Ruiz, from the book, The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom (A Toltec Wisdom Book)
When we distance ourselves from the opinions of others (good or bad), we are free. Happiness comes easier and stays longer. Joy becomes a constant companion.
You are your own person, living your own life out of personal integrity and your own sense of what is right . . . for you.
“A man does what he must—in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures—and that is the basis of all human morality.” – John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1917-63)
When you never take anything personally . . .
· You do what you do because it’s the right thing to do (regardless of what others think).
· You are who you are because it’s the right one to be (regardless of others’ opinions).
· You know who you are and you like yourself.
It’s okay to love yourself. In fact, it all starts here. Genuine self-love is the prize when you have successfully untangled yourself from the opinions, praise and criticism of everyone else. And that is the perfect center of your world from which to grow and cultivate the very best version of your best possible life.
“The best of men is he who blushes when you praise him and remains silent when you defame him.” – Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931)
Allow your best possible life to continue to get better and better. Look forward with confident expectancy. Rejoice that you get to start over every day and refocus your future by the thoughts you think today.
Don’t look back with regret. Let it go and live your life in the only time where you have any control . . . right now! This present moment.
“We are born at the rise of the curtain and we die with its fall, and every night in the presence of our patrons we write our new creation, and every night it is blotted out forever; and of what use is it to say to audience or to critic, ‘Ah, but you should have seen me last Tuesday?’” – Micheál MacLiammóir (1899-1978)
As you are busy loving the life you are creating and loving the person you are becoming, you will eventually encounter someone who doesn’t agree with your unique vision of the world. It’s okay . . . that’s their opinion. It has nothing to do with you and the life you are manifesting from the depths of your being. Everyone has a right to their own opinion . . . but that’s their business.
Just don’t take it seriously.
While reading, did you choose to hear the relaxing instrumental music linked at the beginning of this article? To learn more about it, click here.
Listen FREE to the songs below . . . chosen to enhance the ideas in this article.
Way of the World
Life is so huge . . . so diverse . . . the possibilities are literally infinite. What’s the best way to sort it all out and carve out a little niche of our own?
Just One Step
Songs by Tupelo
|How to Keep Your Word
This article is a poignant reminder of the power of your word. Celebrate life by honoring your word . . . and therefore the people with whom you interact.
10 Steps to Discovering Your Life’s Purpose
Articles by Tupelo
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