How to Deal With Insults: Don’t Take Anything Personally


An editor recently wrote me to tell me he shared this piece with two of his writers who were verbally attacked. It made them feel better, so I thought I’d share it again. I know I could always use the reminder.

P3270051My friend is waiting for a table at a local restaurant. She is one of those table stalkers, who intuitively knows who is getting up when. She’s been hovering over a certain table for a good half hour. She is most certain the table is hers until some guy comes out of left field and starts talking to the couple who is leaving. Then he sits down with his girlfriend.

This does not deter my friend from her mission. With the confidence of Marilyn Monroe, she plops down at the table with the guy and his girlfriend and unfolds a napkin over her lap.

“What are you doing, you Fat A**, this is my table!” the guy says to her.

She laughs.

THAT is how you are supposed to respond to insults, according to Don Miguel Ruiz, author of the classic book, “The Four Agreements.”

The second agreement is simply this: Don’t take anything 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.

I’m getting a little better at this, but I think if someone called me a fat a** in public, I still would have been hysterical, looking at my butt while screaming to my husband, “You LIED to me! You told me the pounds I put on this summer weren’t noticeable!”

I used to keep “The Four Agreements” on my desk. As a writer who exposes the insides of her soul for folks to analyze, ponder, and ridicule, I had to grow a thick skin. The first time I got “kook, nutjob, whiner,” it was difficult for me to get my courage up to post another blog. Doing it in a state of depression is especially hard, because “fat a**” is pretty mild compared to the insults raging inside the mind of a person who has employed a full-time inner critic.

Knowing that the insults have nothing to do with me, as Ruiz says, keeps me from absorbing their poison. Now all I have to do is learn how to laugh instead of cry.

Artwork by the talented Anya Getter.

Originally published on Sanity Break at Everyday Health.

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Therese Borchard
I am a writer and chaplain trying to live a simple life in Annapolis, Maryland.

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7 Responses
  1. Margaret

    Yes, it is tough to learn to laugh at the hateful words that are thrown at us.

    I try to remind myself, ‘ I’m OK. God doesn’t make junk ‘

    Hugs to you

  2. Kate

    It’s always good to be reminded of not taking things personally. thank you for another great post!!

    1. Therese Borchard

      I am so touched and honored by that. Wow! Thank you so very much. I saved it to read on my down days. Bless you, Therese

  3. DM

    Another great post. Thanks, Therese. I’m sooo glad you continue(d) to write and share yourself with others in spite of some mean things people can say. I know you make a world of difference for me. This has strangely been a tough month for me emotionally and in other ways. It’s great to be able to come here and be informed, educated, inspired, understood and uplifted.

    Dawn Marie