Rejection happens. From little things, like a driver cutting you off on the highway, to hearing a negative comment about your appearance, to bigger, deeper life events like not getting that promotion you really had your heart set on or losing your job all together.
That rejection can really sting and sometimes keep us stuck when we take it in and believe it.
When we begin to believe there is something wrong with us, or that the other person is out to get us, or worse, that the harsh judgment being passed on is right, the world can begin to feel isolating, cold and restrictive.
But what if for a minute we pretend that it's not always all about us?
What happens when we take ourselves out of the equation and say, "That's their story, that's not who I am."
When we are certain of ourselves, the good, the bad and the ugly comments won't build us up or knock us down. The knowledge we have of who we are is enough. With certainty comes the release of the need to be approved of by others.
One of my all-time favorite books, The Four Agreements, by don Miguel Ruiz, dives deep into the idea of not taking anything personally. In it Ruiz explores the idea of the beliefs of others being a tapestry of experiences and circumstances unique to each person. Our experiences and what we've been taught, this is where our judgments come from.
"Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves. All people live in their own dream, in their own mind; they live in a completely different world from the world we live in. " -Miguel Ruiz, <em>The Four Agreements</em>.
When we cast judgment on someone else, it has nothing to do with that person and everything to do with our own belief system.
Kids experience the harsh words of others as well. One of my daughters came home from school very sad saying another girl had told her that she is stupid. My daughter was heartbroken and took it very personally. So I asked her what she thinks, "Well, are you stupid?" To which she responded (a little shocked I would ask her that question), "No, I'm not stupid."
"Okay then," I replied, "You're not stupid."
Who knows why that other kid said that, it could have been a bad day for her, or maybe something happened at home, regardless, the statement had nothing to do with my daughter and everything to do with the girl that said it.
One of the responses I tell my daughters to have when someone says a potentially hurtful statement is a very simple "cool story, bro" and to move on. Don't accept the negativity, or get wrapped up in the drama, reject it and move on.
Because it's not about you... it may be all about you in your head, but to the rest of the world, it's all about them.
Can you imagine a more expansive world where you don't take things personally? Where you sit comfortably in a place of knowing who you are? Give it a try. When we go to this place of certainty in ourselves, our entire world opens up. Validation isn't needed.
So the next time that other driver cuts you off, or someone says something less than appealing, don't take it personally, reject it and let it live in their world, don't invite it into yours. Not taking things personally is a huge step to self-acceptance, which is a happier, more rewarding place to be.