Yesterday morning I was in the locker room at the gym after my swim (and as a side note, since I always swim in the pre-dawn hours, it was an awesome to actually enjoy the sunrise while I swam!) and this woman next to me dropped her keys, and then a second set of keys. And I laughed. Not because I was laughing at her, laughing because that’s a situation I often find myself in. So I offered the familiar, “I’m not laughing at you…”
I really thought about it though, and the truth is, I really wasn’t laughing at her, I was laughing at myself. I spill – and am a master at the clean-up, drop, stumble, fumble, you name it. So my laughter was in camaraderie, kindred spirit. It made me think about how easy it is to think that the laughter, the comments, are about me, and I don’t think I’m alone in that.
Each of us has this internal ego that takes the wheel and drives our thoughts, our actions. I don’t mean ego in a bad way, per se. Ego defined is a person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance. Think about it, when we’re babies, the world seems to revolve around us. Parents, grandparents, everyone is looking at us, oohing and awing, it’s no wonder we develop that sense of self-importance.
But at some point, we can choose to either continue believing and acting like the world revolves around us, or we can make different choices. For one, it’s a lot of work being the center of our universe. Everything is considered in terms of how it impacts us, when in fact, it’s really about the other person. In his book, “The Four Agreements,” one of the principles Miguel Ruiz teaches to have love and happiness in our lives is:
“Don’t Take Anything Personally
Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.”
When I read this, it really hit home. I was in the midst of a difficult personal situation where I felt like everything the other person did was directed at me. Taken in this context, how another person reacts or “shows up” in their relationship with others has more to do about them than about us. Our ego tells us that it’s about us, when it’s not. It tells us that they’re laughing at us, when their laughter is more likely something in themselves they’re laughing at.
If we take the principle of not taking what others say personally, not letting our ego do the driving, it truly does save us a lot of suffering. A lot of unnecessary wondering ,worrying, creating our own story about what others must have meant by their comment. If we can resist personalizing, resist “they’re laughing at me,” it allows us to show up more authentically, give more of our real selves, and have more empathy. Give it a try, truly laugh with someone today. Realizing that we are more alike than different, if you ask me, there’s a lot of comfort in that…not to mention someone else with expertise in spill clean-up…I could use the help!