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Don't take anything personally

Letters live.

We are animals. But what differentiates us humans from animals?

The ability to use tools, creating fire etc. most importantly self-consciousness and awareness. We think. We have opinions. We say "I like this colour", "I want to drink coffee", "I feel sad". We think in a pattern that everything around us starts from us. In our world, we are the centre of the universe. However, this self-centered mindset sometimes gets us into trouble, both in decision-making and mental health.

"Don't take anything personally" is a statement I find very useful to avoid being too self-centred. It solves many unnecessary struggles in my life. Here, I will illustrate and demonstrate two significant points based on my understanding and experience of this statement.

Parnell Road 丨Kun Lu

Firstly, it is not always about us. For instance, we take it extremely personally when someone says something unpleasant to us. If somebody says, "You are stupid", it’ll be hard not to get angry. We have an emotional reaction to these words because we believe they are probably right. And that is the moment we are poisoned by other people. They are processing with their feelings, beliefs and opinions, and throwing them at you. It just happens to be you, and it can be anyone else. The only solution is to be aware that it is not all about you. The truth is that we are not important at all. We are important to ourselves, but not to most people in the world.

Here is another example. Suppose something terrible happens in your relationship with your partner. We think: "It is all my fault. It would not have happened if I had done ...". Or, in a professional environment, you probably would think, "If I don't work on it, nobody will do it, this project is going to fail." It is always about “me”, Me, Me, ME! As a result, we ignore other factors of the incident, burn ourselves out and make irrational choices. So, keep reminding yourself: it is not always about you. I am not asking you to put yourself down. On the contrary, realising we are not that important makes us more confident to make decisions for our lives.

Secondly, always keep in mind that we are ignorant. Acknowledging our ignorance will help us to get significant breakthroughs. We should also apply this mindset to our everyday life. Sometimes, we take everything personally because we believe it is rightful to know everything. Nevertheless, even you are an expert in the finance world, you could don't know anything about human nutrition. We only know what we know. By acknowledging that we are ignorant, a seed of curiosity grows. Based on my experience, curiosity drives out bias.

One day you go to a gathering party, your friends are talking about engineering, which is not your kind of thing. Then, they turn to you and ask about your opinion. In this situation, you can say you don't know or gather everything you know to give some comments about the topic. However, both ways could make you uncomfortable or embarrassed. By contrast, with knowing our ignorance and having curiosity in mind, we would face this situation with an attitude like: "I don't really know much about it, and I didn't quite get the point of xxx, can you talk me through it in more details"? We feel natural and authentic when telling the truth, and we get embarrassed when we pretend to be someone else.

It’s not always about you.

And Don’t take it personally.


Book to read: "The Four Agreements" ------ Don Miguel Ruiz

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