not taking things personally

Something I've been learning in the last few years is this: don't take things personally.

What I mean is this:

* whether someone looks at me and sneers (because I have dreadlocks, or a smile on my face, or bright hippie clothes), or looks at me and smiles, it isn't about me. If they see me and make an assumption about who I am, just from that limited info, it isn't about me at all. It's about their own filters. I'm still my own human self. I know my internal motivations, others do not. Yes, it is more pleasant when someone sees me and smiles. But their reaction isn't about me at all. Just as my reaction to people (assuming best intent, being kind) isn't about them, it's about who I want to be as a person.

* when I accidentally say something that triggers someone else (for instance, calling someone "sweetie" who was abused by someone who used that term), it isn't about me. I used the term with love. I am from Texas, and was raised there until I was four or five: I picked up the language around me. Sweetie, honey, sweetness, boo: I use them all. But their hurt is also real. (This is important: you can't use not taking things personally to discount other people's pain!) Still, it isn't about me. What I can do is apologize, once I know the term was triggering, and (do my best to) remember for next time. I don't have to take their initial response, if it was defensive, personally.

* when someone else makes a statement about me, any statement - from a compliment to an insult - it isn't about me. It is about their perception of me. This helps me remember that insults aren't the end of the world, but it also helps me remember that compliments are also not the end all be all. (They are very wonderful, though, and deeply appreciated. You know who you are. Namaste.) This keeps me grounded in reality, filtered (as it is) through my own perceptions.

* when I am hurt by something someone says, it is about me. It's about my triggers, my hurt. I have to take personal responsibility for what I feel and not dump it on the other person. Even if it feels like they stabbed me. (If they actually stabbed me, it isn't about me it is about them. Don't blame the victim!) Especially if they unknowingly hit a trigger. This is when I can practice calming myself down. Breathing. Self-care. Standing in my own truth.

This is a practice I am practicing for a reason: it is difficult. It is really hard for me to not take everything personally. I am sensitive. But the older I get, the easier it gets. Because I keep practicing.

It's especially hard to remember in the midst of an argument that the words that come out of the other person are not about me. This is why I practice every day to not take things personally; it gets easier to remember in the midst of a fight.

We get triggered. We say things we don't mean. We create stories about how people hate us, about how we are victims. We are all human.

We fall in love with people's words. We assume they are wiser than we could ever be. We create stories about how the other person is a guru, about how little we know. We are all human.

We are all human. Just one ova and one sperm, who came together in a miracle of miracles, and grew and grew and grew and is growing still. We each see the world from our own POV. And if we cultivate empathy, we get closer and closer to seeing the world from other people's perspectives, but we can't ever really get all the way there, not truly, for we are only right where we are.

Your mileage may vary.

* This post was inspired by a conversation on facebook after I posted this link by Susannah Conway: Hello 40. (Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.)

Let me add to her gorgeous list of things learned: floss every day. Wow, does it help. Really, really, really a lot. Seriously. When I forget for a week, I get bloody gums again, but remembering every day is a really good thing, so I remember. How I wish I had learned this earlier. Oh well. I know now.