Don’t take it personally, even if it has your name on it

I was in yoga the other day, which is where I’m supposedly at my best – my most grounded and centered and Zen-like. And in the midst of the class, in the midst of a pose even, the woman next to me stepped out of her pose, grabbed her mat, and shuffled a few more inches away from me.

I immediately noticed her movement and lost my Zen-ness. I lost my concentration. I lost my center. I began wondering what action of mine had caused her to move. Was I breathing too loud? Was I distracting? Was I annoying in some way? Why would she stop to move away from me? What had I done?

There’s a saying I share with clients. “Don’t take it personally, even if it has your name on it.” I often laugh as I share it with them, and they nearly always laugh when they hear it. It’s good advice, no? And yet it can be so hard to remember. I absolutely took it personally when this woman, whom I didn’t know, moved her mat further from mine. I took it personally and knew I had somehow caused her to do this…just as I often “know” I cause so many other things.

Why is it that, even though I know it’s not true, I sometimes think I’m at the center of the universe? Why do I somehow assume that things that most likely have nothing to do with me have something to do with me? Or everything to do with me?

It’s an old habit dying hard, and one that I’m eager to let go of. When I was young it made sense to believe that everything revolved around me, because then I could figure out how to make things go right. If I had enough power to cause things, then I had enough power to fix things. If I had enough power to affect things, then I had enough power to control things. I could be safe.

I know this isn’t true. I know it wasn’t true. I know I don’t have this power now, nor did I have it then. I know that the world doesn’t revolve around me and that I can’t control everything around me. I even know that I don’t have to. But it is an old habit – and old belief – that can, at times, rattle around in my head.

I need to remember to not take it all personally. To take none of it personally, in fact. Even, perhaps especially, when the woman next to me in yoga steps out of her pose and pulls her mat away from me. I need to stay in my own pose, on my own mat, minding my own business, and getting the most I can from the moment I’m in.

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8 thoughts on “Don’t take it personally, even if it has your name on it

  1. Lisa,

    There are so many times after I read your blog that I wish we were sitting next to each other. I always have something to share, to tell you.

    I’ve learned that much of how we react to the world is directly related to childhood… mother and father. Some parents are lousy at their jobs, incapable of loving or giving sufficiently. They are trapped in the mess of their own unresolved problems. Some children who don’t receive the love and nurturing that ensures their sense of self will assume that they themselves are to blame and are not worthy while all along it is the parent who is lacking. As children mature, the feelings of self doubt take on many forms and disguises.

    Perhaps, the woman moved her mat because she just likes to have more space around her. Perhaps the issue was with her, not you. It takes work to silence the voices of childhood.

    When something throws me off balance, I can usually link it to my childhood. For those of us who are deep feeling, life has many more colors, more complexity, and we are not in the majority.

    See you for Hanukkah.


  2. I can so relate to this, especially the feeling of power that I can ‘fix things’. As I get older…I am more aware of this powerlessness, and remind myself to stay in the moment and not get caught up in things that I cannot fix.

  3. This entry and the one where you wrote about always apologizing really go hand in hand, don’t they? I experience it every time someone in my household casually observes that we are out of deli meat or hot sauce or whatever. Because I have taken responsibility for the provision of those items, it must be my fault we don’t have any, even if I was not the one to use them up! and I take it personally even though they don’t (always) intend it that way. It’s even become sort of a joke around our house that anything that goes wrong is “mom’s fault” regardless of the actual source. A sometimes painful joke, but I am slowly learning to play along :).

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