Raising the profile and capacity of educators through personal development.

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It's Not You It's Me

Apr 16, 2024
Have you ever read the book 'The Four Agreements' by Don Miguel Ruiz. It is a beautiful little book with some amazing insights. It's not new and chances are you have seen it in the library, at the airport or in a bookshop. It's a book I highly recommend to give as a gift because it is beautifully presented. 
 
One of the four agreements that has really helped me in my leadership journey is Agreement Two 'Don't Take Anything Personally'. This was such a wake up call to me when I read it. 
 
To not take anything personally, in a nutshell, is to remember that everyone is having their own experience. Whether someone thinks you are amazing, annoying, frustrating or delusional is due to their experience and context in the given moment.
 
Think about that teacher who says that you are unreasonable. Is it because you actually are unreasonable or you are not able to give them what they are wanting in that moment? 
 
Think about that parent who says that you are incredible. Is it because you actually are incredible or is it because you supported their child who was going through a difficult time?
 
Think about that boss who says that you are disengaged. Is it because you actually are disengaged or is it because you are giving 100% of what you have left in your emotional tank which is currently running on fumes.
 
No doubt you are thinking: yes, yes and YES.
 
Now let's think the other way:
 
Think about that teacher who you say is unreasonable. Is it because they are not seeing things your way?
 
Think about that parent you think is incredible. Is it because they give so much of their time to the school along with raising polite and resilient children?
 
Think about the boss you say is completely out of touch. Is it because they are so overwhelmed with the demands placed on them that they can't commit every detail to memory?
 
Not taking things personally is remembering that there is a bigger picture. Everyone is doing the best they can with what they have. The least we can do is cut them a bit of slack. Not taking things personally also means that the biting comment or negative email that has been directed at you are actually just words.... kinda takes the sting out of Mrs Karen's latest email rant doesn't it?
 
I find that not taking things personally works particularly well when someone accuses you of being horrible, inflexible, unaware, mean or generally just awful. It can make you feel better in the moment and really puts into practice the saying 'They just woke up on the wrong side of the bed' or 'that's your opinion doesn't mean it's fact'.
 
However...
 
It's hard to not take things personally when our ego is being stroked. When people are saying you're amazing, incredible, awesome and a genius this comment might make you feel great . It might also mean you have helped them at that point in time. When I first realised that I shouldn't take this personally, I was a little hurt... but what do you mean I might not really be truly that awesome?!?! How rude!
 
Now if you are still reading and haven't dissolved into tears saying 'That Anne-Marie is saying I have to be an emotional robot (umm, no I'm not) and I can't take a compliment (also no) I will say the following:
 
Rather than fact', take it as a perspective.
Rather than taking it personally, take it appreciatively.
 
The agreement of not taking things personally doesn't mean that you can't appreciate the feedback.
 
I appreciate when people say I am awesome because it shows that I made a difference to that person. When someone says I am inflexible, awful or don't have a clue, I appreciate it as there is something I might need to learn or consider in my delivery of message or support of the person who described me in that way in understanding my rationale.
 
Recognising this type of feedback helps us grow. By not taking things personally when people say we are awesome, awful or somewhere in the middle means that we are more open to feedback. Let's all learn the lesson from the feedback provided.
 
Regardless of what people say about you - try not to take it personally. Instead, be open to the learning and appreciate the opportunity to grow. After all, it's actually not about you, it's about another person's experience of you in relation to their context.
 
I'll finished with some amazing words of wisdom by Mother Theresa of Calcutta. The following words were also turned into a song called 'Do It Anyway' by the band Ben Folds Five. 
 
People are often unreasonable and self-centered.
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.
If you are honest, people may cheat you.
Be honest anyway.
If you find happiness, people may be jealous.
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough.
Give your best anyway.
For you see, in the end, it is between you and God.
It was never between you and them anyway
                   
  Mother Theresa
 
 
Have a great week!
Anne-Marie 

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