not taking it personally
“Don’t take it personally.”

“It’s none of my business what anyone else thinks of me.”

“Don’t give your power away to what other people think.”

I’d hear these things, and I’d think: Yeah. But HOW? I kept trying this whole ” not taking it personally ” thing.

I was working on a project, and someone aimed their criticisms right at me (and my project, which felt like my baby). I kept wanting to call it “being really mean.”

My Coach kept encouraging me to call that feedback “that person’s experience.”

I kept arguing with him in my head after the session was over: Dude, quit playing semantics–the feedback was mean. If I told you that I had said those things to someone, you’d be all, “Kate, let’s have a talk about integrity.” But someone else does it to me? And you’re all, “that’s just their experience”? Ex-CUSE me?

I knew that this was one of those times when life calls us to choose the more powerful position, even if it would feel easier to indulge in being pissed and resentful.

As fate would have it, completely aside from this “mean feedback” I was in a disagreement with a friend. I felt confused and hurt and angry and sad; I was taking things personally. I decided that I needed to do a little Conscious Crying to get out some of the feelings about that friendship. So I plopped myself down and prayed and cried and hit pillows (to a great musical soundtrack) until, as often happens after crying, a nice wave of clarity came over me and I “got it.”

What came out of that session was realizing that the things that had happened in my friendship wasn’t personal. It was never personal. They were doing their thing, and I was doing mine, and no one was trying to hurt one another. Sometimes, our behaviors were not a match for each other–that was all. That was okay..

And, in fact, something else took hold of me: People get to have the experience they choose to have. That includes me. That includes you. That includes your mother, the cashier at the store, the neighbor down the street and that dude who just cut you off in traffic.

I began playing with this phrase: People get to choose to have the experience they want to have.

The more I played, the more I liked: Yes! Yes! People get to choose the experience they want to have!

That’s when I connected the feedback I’d received, to the conflict I’d felt in that friendship. No one was doing anything intentional. It wasn’t personal. It was just people doing what they do.

Some synapses connected and I “got it”: Taking things personally? It is too painful to live that way, any more.

It became clear: If someone doesn’t like something I’ve done, they get to choose whether they’ll like me or dislike me, whether they’ll try to change the experience or simply complain, whether they’ll give me feedback at a time when I can respond or if they’ll wait until it’s too late for me to do anything about the problem.

People choose the experience they will have of me. I’m doing the best that I can. Will someone choose to have the experience of “Kate is loving and also imperfect” or will someone choose to have the experience of “Kate is the sum total of her mistakes”?

They get to choose. It’s not up to me.

And–to bring it back to personal responsibility–I choose the experience I have of other people! How often have I made assumptions about people because of one bad experience? I get to choose to have an experience of stepping into my vision for my life, or of just reducing myself to negative judgements.

It feels like freedom.