“It’s not personal.”

“No offense.”

“I don’t mean this in a bad way but..”

We have all had conversations where we were either on the receiving end or the giver of these statements. When someone starts their sentence with any of those phrases, there tends to be a small (or big!) piece of us that rises to come to our defense. Why is that? Coming to our own defense is such a natural response and for a good reason. It’s a primal part of us that is in our DNA to protect us because there is a threat to be protected from. This is great if we are living in the wild or rugged conditions and our survival is on the line, but most of our “defensiveness” in today’s society comes from the ego feeling threatened.

So how do we learn to not take things personally if getting defensive is such a natural response? 


Don Miguel Ruiz, author of the classic book The Four Agreements talks about this as one of the agreements is “Don’t take things personally.”

He explains:

Whatever happens around you, don’t take it personally. Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves. All people live in their own dream, in their own mind; they are in a completely different world from the one we live in. When we take something personally, we make the assumption that they know what is in our world, and we try to impose our world on their world.

Even when a situation seems so personal, even if others insult you directly, it has nothing to do with you. What they say, what they do, and the opinions they give are according to the agreements they have in their own minds…Taking things personally makes you easy prey for these predators, the black magicians. They can hook you easily with one little opinion and feed you whatever poison they want, and because you take it personally you eat it up….

But if you do not take it personally, you are immune in the middle of hell. Immunity in the middle of hell is the gift of this agreement.

To actually think that what someone’s opinion of you, or what someone says to or about you has nothing to do with you is so true but also hard to wrap the mind around, right? But think of it this way: It’s not your problem. You will only suffer if you let yourself take it personally. That’s the same whether that person meant to hurt you or if that person was just trying to be honest with you. Whether they are trying to personally insult you or give you constructive criticism.. if you suffer from it, it is self-inflicted. This is because the only person responsible for how you feel, how you react, and how you let things affect your well-being is you.

Here are some more examples and tips on how to not make it personal:

How many things in your day to day life do you feel a rise about? Whether it’s the opinion of a friend, co-worker, your parents.. can you separate yourself from taking offense? Find your breath, accept that you cannot change or control the actions, thoughts, or opinions of others (that is THEIR WORK, NOT YOURS!!), and release yourself from the cycle of suffering.

Happy living! 



Sarah Neighbors is a CYT-200 Yoga Instructor and Studio Manager at Firefly. She also carries certifications in Restorative Yoga, Meditation, and is a certified Reiki Master Practitioner.