Well-meaning people have used that line over the course of my life and looking back I usually blew it off. I was too wrapped up in my hurt. But I’ve come to realize how much practical–and spiritual–truth is in “don’t take it personally” because it’s true, it’s not personal. The stuff that people say and do is about their state of being. When I realize that simple truth–I don’t need to take it into my state of being.
I lead a Tarot meetup group in San Francisco. We explore tarot topics and do readings for ourselves and each other. It’s usually really fun! But then someone came into the group, and the energy changed for me. I felt like I was being judged and criticized. And each time she came, the feeling intensified. On our last meeting together, she sat directly across from me. Her frowns and negative words were coming right at me and it was intense.
Shortly after that I attended a Buddhist talk about Dukkha (basically Buddhist for pain and suffering) and difficult people. The speaker talked about how when we encounter difficult people, our first reaction is to push them away. I could relate to that! Then she reminded us that dukkha was our teacher. And difficult people are our teachers. My heart softened toward my difficult person. And I left the the talk feeling more open and inquisitive about the whole thing.
Through a chance encounter, I ended up getting a tarot card reading from a really skilled reader. My experience with the “difficult person” came up. The reader and I discussed why I had brought her into my life and what she had to teach me. It was then that I realized–she was my inner critic personified! Wow!
That revelation has changed me deeply. Now when a self critical thought comes into my mind, I see the woman from my group. I look into her face and feel compassion for her and myself. I know that my self criticism is as off-base as her criticism was toward me. And the result is: I’m nipping my negative self talk in the bud!
She doesn’t come to the group anymore. I eventually asked her to leave. But I honor her as my teacher.