The Art of Not Taking Anything Personally

This post is Part One of a four-part series about healthy boundaries. The holidays and end-of-the-year are a really good time to review this stuff- especially as many of us visit with family and other people that are big players in our feelings and our lives. Thanks for reading. 

“Don’t take it personally.” So much easier said than done.

I don’t think this stuff comes naturally to anyone (except maybe total narcissists). It definitely doesn’t for me. I used to really lean hard on the opinions of others, constantly questioning my self-worth, and seeking validation from the people around me. I had myself set up for being crushed by anybody’s harsh opinion of me, and believe me, there was (and still is) a whole lot of that.

I’m one of those love-me-or-hate-me kinds of people, which has really forced me out of my comfort zone and brought out the worst (and best) in other people, but the stuff I want to talk about today is good for all of us sensitive types. It’s so easy to let the perspective of others shape what we see, particularly when it comes to ourselves.

So I want to share the process that has really helped me draw the line in the sand between what I take and leave as far as listening to other people’s opinions of me.

  • It’s never about you. Whatever anybody says about you, good or bad, is always, ALWAYS a reflection about what’s going on with them. People share what’s inside of them- if they’re expressing their basic goodness, it may come out as a compliment for us. When it’s negativity, it’s an expression of their own self-worth. When other people are not fully standing in their power, their inner state is directed at us. When we are not standing fully in our own power, we take it personally.
  • Let people own their stuff. A radical shift happened in me when I started making the people around me step into the story they were telling. This is more of a mental trick than a literal action that I take with others, meaning that I have to decide when and if it’s appropriate to bring this up (I’m not always so great with this, just ask my man). But mentally, if I find the line where I end and other people begin, I can untangle things enough to allow them to own what they’re saying as harmful, mean-spirited, or untrue. And once that happens, it’s almost always about them.
  • This doesn’t mean that things don’t still feel bad. We’re all still “allowed” to feel shitty when people are shitty to us, to feel disappointed in people’s actions, to feel good when people give us compliments. But I started seeing feelings as information when I began taking this process to heart. When I feel a certain way in reaction to something, that gives me valuable information about my own boundaries, what I expect, what I agree or disagree with, and who I want to surround myself with. The way I feel gives me information about what I want and don’t want. And when I’m in my power, the way I feel is more about me and less about what someone else said to me. THAT is powerful!

I want to make it clear that consciously seeking input from people who have earned their say with you is a whole ‘nother deal. But I think this action has to be rooted in self-worth and healthy boundaries. This can look a lot different than seeking validation from others when it sounds something like, “Hey, I’m going through X, Y, and Z and need some feedback on the way I’m handling it” or “I’m really seeing things this way lately- could you help me figure out if I’m off base or not?” It just has to be done with a high level of self-awareness because it has so much potential to turn into us giving more of our power away to someone else.

Now, I don’t think that the benefit of this practice is glaringly obvious. I think that people say “don’t take it personally” interchangeably with “get a thicker skin”, which dismisses the value underneath it. Growing a thicker skin or hardening my heart is NOT my goal or intention. I want to always practice to stay vulnerable, real, and in my power.

The real gift of not taking things personally is that you get to decide what informs your opinion of yourself. You get to be the master of your own design and ultimately stand really strongly in your truth, your power.

And you get to let other people fully stand in theirs.

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How does this ring true for you? Challenge you? How has this played out in your life and how does it feel? I’m always amazed at the transformative power that people find in this simple truth, and would love to hear how it changes things in your life. Tell me in the comments below.

Soul-Gazing as Medicine

Soul-Gazing as Medicine

"The simple act of consciously holding deep gaze with someone is a profound exchange of energy- in many cultures looking directly into someone's eyes is considered rude and intrusive. For me, it puts me right up against my impulse to hide, to stay small and unseen."

How Self-Care is an Act of Revolution

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This post contains affiliate links to books I think you would enjoy after reading this post. 

Input determines output. This is a widely accepted biological and energetic reality. Yet when it comes to our emotional experiences, there seems to be an expectation that we can just give and give and give without putting the same amount of love and attention back.

Expressing and prioritizing one’s needs and desires is typically painted as selfish. Culturally, we are so starved of emotional nurturing that when we reach our breaking point, we're often forced to act selfish in order for our needs to be met. We can alienate ourselves with our desperate behavior, and fall back into the perspective of scarcity that keeps us from honoring our needs in the first place. This harmful cycle reinforces the structures in place that keep us from accepting our nature as creatures that deserve to be taken care of, feel connection, and live our lives fully from a place of nourishment.

There is no meaningful social change without working from the inside out. Your self-care is important!! Here's WHY.

The act of honoring our needs and cultivating the courage to fulfill them starts with acknowledging the ways we have been told not to meet their demands. As women, we know this too well. Most of us had mothers who suffered deeply from neglect of the self, realizing after their children left the house that they had empty identities, or trying to mother through the pain and anger of their unmet needs. We daughters walk away with a sense that we can't take too good of care for ourselves, that being a good woman or mother means sacrificing our identity, that making our health a priority is self-indulgent and neglectful.

Reclaiming the self and creating space to care for it requires us to go sharply against the grain. When there are children in the picture, this can feel like a betrayal of energy, and when there is a partner involved, it means reckoning with the truth that they cannot fulfill every one of our needs and desires. But beyond our personal spheres, self-care challenges a society that profits on our NOT taking care of ourselves. A society that has an interest in keeping our inner dialogues of worthlessness and self-sacrifice alive and well.

I believe that simple acts of self-care are the shift we need to evolve beyond a consumerist, profit-driven culture that is ever more disconnected from spirit and earth. Acting out one's inherent self-worth for love, connection, and nurturing flies in the face of an oppressive system that convinces people of their stories and robs them of the agency to write their own.

Giving into our authenticity and not identifying with the story of oppression... through the power of self care.

There is a cultural phenomenon where lower wage workers, immigrants, welfare recipients, teen mothers, or anyone else seen as dependent is treated as though they are undeserving of self-care. We see racial and geographic health disparities across the map of people with little access to basic health care, let alone the resources needed for a nourished, joyful life. Just like those of us with mothers who taught us what it meant to be a woman, entire populations exist with a learned self-worth that has been told, “You don’t matter.” This internalization keeps us engaged with our own oppression, without the tools to transcend it.

People could argue that oppressive systems won't be solved with meditation or journaling. I might argue that they won't be solved without them. There has been angry protest after angry protest steeped in movements without the spiritual fortitude to lift them up and start rejecting harmful realities from the inside out. I think it goes hand in hand. I think that you can't have one without the other- that when you recognize your self-worth and begin to use that as the light that guides your way beyond this harmful, patriarchal story of who you're supposed to be, big things begin to shift, inside and out. It's a dynamic, beautiful thing that can't be done without meaningful, personalized self-care. 

No revolution, no paradigm shift, is sustainable without it.


Think about it (and tell me)... When has your burnout blocked your participation in social change? How does neglecting yourself translate from messages you've received from the culture? This is ALL cultural. Tell me how you know that to be true. 

AND if you want some good stuff on the subject of self care as a subversive act (and more!), check out these valuable resources...

Love your Darkness

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Many of us Western women have a sense of being tapped into a collective memory of a time when it was punishable by death to live in one's dark power. Many of the remnants of that distant past continue to reinforce the internalized belief that our shadows are a liability- that the vast expanses of our deepest corners are dangerous at worst, useless at best.

I've grown tired and weary of hiding my shadows and pretending that they don't exist. It takes a lot of energy to snuff out that aspect of myself, and the varied ways it's tried to stay alive have convinced me that consciously showing our shadows is much less dangerous than keeping them hidden. Actually, I believe now that neglecting their need to be honored for their unique beauty and value does a disservice to our worth as women. Hiding the inconvenient, uncomfortable parts of ourselves out of the fear of being a difficult woman doesn't work. It actually makes us more of a pain in the ass (to ourselves and everyone around us). As Brené Brown says in her famous TED Talk, you can't "selectively numb". When you compromise one source of power, you compromise them all.

But there's caution that needs to be taken. The fear of letting these parts of us be known exists for a reason. If not mindfully integrated with respect, these darker powers can overwhelm us, taking control of our behaviors, exploiting our energy to take action without consideration. Manifested as both the masculine energy of destruction and the wild feminine energy of proliferation, when it shows up in either form it has the tendency to play out in cruel, unrelenting ways. When our shadows go unknown and then are released, they can get the best of us, working counter-intuitively to our whole, true selves.

The necessary approach is a simple one, yet demands our full attention. We must befriend this aspect, or archetype, of ourselves. For me, it's the Fierce Mother- the brooding, swirling deep energy that's called upon when something is completely out of line with my truth. It's the anger that boils up out of my fierce sense of protection of my children, my home, and the earth. It's the holy force of knowing how deeply I hold what is sacred to me. Out of balance, that energy shows up as self-sabotage, abusive anger, and holding my loves ones inappropriately accountable for my inner sacred work.

jai_maa_durga_indiaUltimately, we all are responsible for the integration of our own pain and shadows. When we don't know them well, we can lose ourselves in the blaming of others and compromise our truth by way of neglecting our boundaries. When we practice compassion with our darker aspects and send love into those unseen spaces, we illuminate our ability to both own our shit and act from a place of radical self-love.

When we rob ourselves of our wholeness, every aspect of that wholeness is diminished. There is a synergistic, accumulative quality to authenticity that the world needs. Just as being our real, whole selves inspires others around us to do the same, when we get to know and love our shadows, we inspire our essential goodness. Our shadows can be our teachers and a source of strength and power. In fact, they are essential tools in doing the work of healing ourselves and the world.