Not Taking Things Personally

Mark Manson

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An unfortunate side effect of our consciousness residing in our brains is that everything we experience in our lives involves us somehow. The car in traffic today cut you off. The cable news show you saw last night ticked you off. Your company’s massive growth this year gave you more money.

As a result, we tend to have an inherent bias towards assuming that pretty much everything that happens to us is actually about us.

But here’s a newsflash: Just because you experience something, just because something causes you to feel a certain way, just because you care about something, doesn’t mean it’s about you.

I know you’ve got this amazing sunset and sweet cliffs all around you, but seriously, it’s not all about you.

This is hard to remember. And not just because we’re so embedded in our brains and our own bodies. But because making everything about us, in certain ways, feels good for short periods of time.

It feels good to think that everything that’s good that happens in your life happens to you because you’re this good, amazing person. But the price you pay for making those good experiences about you is that you must also make the bad experiences about you -- you must interpret all of the bad things in your life to be about you as well.

And as a result, you place yourself onto a self-esteem roller coaster, where your self-worth bobs up and down, experiencing dizzying highs and crashing lows with the merciless tides of whatever craziness happens to be going on at the time.

When things are good, you are the gods’ gift to the earth, who deserves to be recognized and applauded at every turn. When things are bad, you are the self-righteous victim, who has been wronged and deserves better.

What is constant is this sense of deserving. And it’s this constant sense of deserving that turns you into an emotional vampire, an anti-social black hole that only consumes the energy and love of those around you without ever offering anything in return.

OK, maybe that was a bit dramatic. But you get the point.

When people criticize you or reject you, it likely has way more to do with them -- their values, their priorities, their life situation -- than it does with you. I hate to break it to you, but other people simply don’t think about you that much (after all, they’re too busy trying to believe everything is about them).

When something you do fails, it doesn’t mean you are a failure as a person, it simply means you are a person who happens to fail sometimes.

When something tragic happens and you become horribly hurt, as much as your pain has you absolutely convinced that this must be about you, remember that hardship is part of choosing to live, that the tragedy of death is what gives meaning to life, and that pain has no prejudice -- it afflicts us all. Deserving or not deserving isn’t part of the equation.

Excerpted from here.

Seed questions for reflection: How do you relate to the notion that when you experience something, it's not all about you? Can you share a personal story of a time you were able to see beyond yourself in your experiences? What helps you resist interpreting your experiences as being all about you?

Add Your Reflection:

12 Previous Reflections:

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    On Mar 19, 2021 jambunathan wrote:
    when somegood think happens we are elated-- some slight deviations we are hurt.
    when something hurts us we ask why me? but in moments of happiness we do not ask why Me?
    jambunathan

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    On Feb 21, 2021 David Hardy wrote:
    1) Suffering at it's core is the direct result of unmet expectations. We expect someone to respond in a certain way, (often without them even being aware of our desire) and when we do not get the expected response we are devastated.

    2) No one or no thing can 'make' us feel a certain way. We are the ones who set the emotional channel of our hearts. If our response to a certain stimulus is out of control, that is an emotional discipline problem on our part.

    3) EVERYTHING that comes into our lives is neutral. It is we who give it the value of being either good or bad.

    Example; Joseph addressing his brothers:

    Genesis 50:20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

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    On Feb 19, 2021 Gururaj wrote:
    My ( hey, there crops up "me" :)- ) attention was drawn to the Moebius strip in the image with this piece. Birth, (identified) experience, death - and endless repetitions thereof... One comes back again and again to the same point and route. These lines from Mark Manson - when pondered deeply and if arousing a disengaged perception for good - may just be a starting point to get free.

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    On Feb 16, 2021 Josef Kuhn wrote:
    Mark Manson's piece starts off unfortunately with a a misleading statement. Conscious awareness happens in the spiritual sector of our body-mind-spirit being. Mental awareness and ego are in the mind. It is when we move in our meditation from mindful to conscious awareness that we get out of the I/me ego trap.

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    On Feb 16, 2021 Ken wrote:
    This was a useful piece for me to read now. Although I am more a physical science person than a philosopher/theologian....it reminded me of the beginnings of the Western enlightenmenot of J.J. Rousseau and others. In particular, this reading sheds some light on "construct" theory Hume and others. I can't argue with much in this essay.,..that'd be proving the premise largely.
     

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    On Feb 16, 2021 Roger Hawkins wrote:
    When I first went to Alanonbecause of my son's addiction and the family pain it had caused, I thought my pain was special, no one else had the circumstances that I had about my pain. I came to see that everyone else there was experiencing to some degree the pain that I was. Suffering is lessened when you realize that everyone suffers. It is just the way life is.

    1 reply: Amy | Post Your Reply
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    On Feb 16, 2021 Juliette wrote:
    This is a lifetime remembering to get the insight of non self...One of the most significant experience I have had is when I was pregnant. Of course I knew I was part of the cause that made the effect....but I was astonished a small human was unfolding in my belly without any other usual action than regular habits: eating, nourishing, taking care of my body that adapted day by day to host this life in me...I AM SO GRATEFUL...Creation a constant, marvellous, mysterious movement and life is amazing! GIVE THANKS 

    1 reply: Amy | Post Your Reply
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    On Feb 13, 2021 David Doane wrote:
    I don't agree with Mr. Manson. Our consciousness does not reside in our brains -- it is more true to say that our brains reside in our consciousness. Consciousness is fundamental, and our brains and bodies are an expression of consciousness. I am not responsible for all experiences in my life, but everything is interrelated and I do have a part to a small or large degree in all experiences including those considered to be in my life. Also, when something I do fails, I failed at that. When something tragic happens to me, it happens to me -- it is true that deserving or not deserving it has nothing to do with it, and it's true that pain is part of life if I choose it or not. Death doesn't give meaning to life, it simply is part of life. All that said, when you experience something, it's not all about you, but it is about you to some extent. I'm always seeing beyond myself in my experiences -- I see everyone to a small or large degree involved in my experiences. What h... [View Full Comment] I don't agree with Mr. Manson. Our consciousness does not reside in our brains -- it is more true to say that our brains reside in our consciousness. Consciousness is fundamental, and our brains and bodies are an expression of consciousness. I am not responsible for all experiences in my life, but everything is interrelated and I do have a part to a small or large degree in all experiences including those considered to be in my life. Also, when something I do fails, I failed at that. When something tragic happens to me, it happens to me -- it is true that deserving or not deserving it has nothing to do with it, and it's true that pain is part of life if I choose it or not. Death doesn't give meaning to life, it simply is part of life. All that said, when you experience something, it's not all about you, but it is about you to some extent. I'm always seeing beyond myself in my experiences -- I see everyone to a small or large degree involved in my experiences. What helps me is learning long ago that my experiences are all about all of us, not all about me.[Hide Full Comment]

    1 reply: Carlyn | Post Your Reply
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    On Feb 12, 2021 Jagdish P Dave wrote:
    Things happen in our life. We experience ups and downs , joys and sorrows, gains and losses, sunrises and sunsets. We have a tendency to personalize them. As result like Mark Manson says we place ourselvesonto to a self-esteem roller coaster, where our self-worth bobs up and own. I know I am not perfect. There are times when I have not been successful. What helps me to go through suchexperiences is to remind myself thatI am not a failure but I have gone through a failure. The same way when things go my way I remind myself that I am not a successbut I have gone through a successful experience. This wayI do not get trapped by my ego. I have gone through a number of experiencesin my life that havetaught me not take ups and downs in my life personally. How I perceive what happens is my life makes a big difference. When someone praises me or puts me down, I do not get inflated or depleted. Many times I take their perceptions of me as their self-projections. Practicing discretion helps mesep... [View Full Comment] Things happen in our life. We experience ups and downs , joys and sorrows, gains and losses, sunrises and sunsets. We have a tendency to personalize them. As result like Mark Manson says we place ourselvesonto to a self-esteem roller coaster, where our self-worth bobs up and own. I know I am not perfect. There are times when I have not been successful. What helps me to go through suchexperiences is to remind myself thatI am not a failure but I have gone through a failure. The same way when things go my way I remind myself that I am not a successbut I have gone through a successful experience. This wayI do not get trapped by my ego.
    I have gone through a number of experiencesin my life that havetaught me not take ups and downs in my life personally. How I perceive what happens is my life makes a big difference. When someone praises me or puts me down, I
    do not get inflated or depleted. Many times I take their perceptions of me as their self-projections.
    Practicing discretion helps meseparate milk from water called nirakshira
    vivekain Sanskrit. As I was growing up my father taught me this wise saying. When someone throws a judgemental or acritical arrow at me, I pause, take a few deep breaths make a wise choice, separate milk from water. Life is a school for us to learnhow to live mindfully, how to go though ups and downswith equanimity and gratefully.
    Namste!
    JagdishP Dave'



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