I’ve had two health care professionals tell me I should read The Four Agreements over the past few years. Must have been something about what I shared with them that had them thinking the book would help me.
When someone tells me I should read a self-help book, it kinda makes me want to tell them to fuck off, depending on the day. No one likes a stranger coming to an assumption about what their issues are. In my humble opinion, I prefer my unsolicited advice from people I know and trust, if at all.
But I ended up reading it because one of the suggesters lent me a copy. hah!
I didn’t love it enough to buy it, at least not yet. I did, however, find the principles to be solid, and now that I think about it, I would consider throwing it in the basket next time I’m at a bookstore (I haven’t ordered from Amazon since I found out the dude that owns it was a Trump supporter. Plus I would way rather touch a book before I buy it. That’s right: I wanna get touchy-feely with a hardcopy more often ‘cuz it feels good.)
So I read part of the book, and this line stuck in my head because it irked me:
“Taking things personally is the maximum expression of selfishness. It makes the assumption everything is about me.
I get that we cause ourselves pain when we take things personally but I also know the value of the feelings associated with taking things personally.
They act as a catalyst to investigating why we feel upset. And we need to understand why we feel how we feel.
We enter tricky and potentially damaging territory when we shame ourselves for feeling upset about how someone treated us. Especially if we’ve spent our entire lives believing that how we feel isn’t OK.
Self-help books are great. I am a full-time seeker of wellness, which means I’ve always got a new one on the go.
But these kinds of books can get dangerous, particularly if they motivate us to jump ship on feeling our feelings.
We need to make sure that anytime we attempt to better ourselves, whether it be through a book or a course, we don’t abandon our right and need to feel how we feel.
There’s a lot buried within our feelings. For example, maybe you take things personally because you’ve spent your whole life feeling like who you are, as is, is never enough. If that’s the case, validating your feelings is not a luxury, it’s a necessity if you’re to establish the self-love you weren’t taught to feel for yourself as a kid.
And Self-Love is the basis for all healing and emotional evolvement.
Getting defensive is just you trying to protect yourself. The fact that you want to protect yourself is a good thing. We don’t want to bury or dismiss it because a popular book suggested it’s an undesirable way to feel.
We want to unwrap it and give it some light and air, so it can be acknowledged and processed.
It’s one thing to admire a piece of writing or a popular wellness concept. It’s an entirely different thing to throw self-compassion out the window by denying how you feel.
Your feelings tell a story. They give voice to trauma, both known and unknown, that you experienced throughout your life.
Your feelings are born of your life’s experiences, which started at birth, and, some would argue, from the day of conception (Check out the documentary In Utero. It’s rad.)
Is it selfish to take things personally? Maybe. But the hurt still exists and needs to be investigated.
Think of getting upset by other people’s action or choices as a chance to get better: “I need to figure out why this is hurting me so much.”
And work on accepting the truth that feeling angry, sad, betrayed, annoyed, disrespected, or devalued by the way someone treated you doesn’t mean you are a sub-par human being.
It means you’ve got some hurt you need to process, just like everyone else.
These worksheets on my resource page are a great way to start figuring out how to process that hurt.