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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.

~Don Miguel Ruiz

Don Miguel Ruiz is a learned and accomplished author of the New York Times Best-Selling book The Four Agreements, published in 1997. Ruiz advocates that we achieve personal freedom by adopting these four agreements as part of our recipe for living well: 1) Be Impeccable With Your Word, 2) Don’t Take Anything Personally, 3) Don’t Make Assumptions and, 4) Always Do Your Best.

The first two sentences of this quote underline the fact that many, if not most of us tend to operate under the illusion that other people are thinking of us whenever they do or say something. We need to remind ourselves that we are not at the center of other people’s universes all the time. Although this realization may be a blow to our ego, it is an important reality check – for our benefit.

It stands to reason that when I have to decide upon a course of action, no matter how much I love the others who are involved in that action or maybe affected by that act, I must decide on the basis of what is right or best. I have to live with the decisions I make because I’m the only one responsible for them. It is pointless to worry excessively about what people will think about my words or my actions. That kind of concern leads to indecision – and that benefits no one.

Ruiz exhorts us to see what others do and say as “… a projection of their own reality, their own dream.” Why should I see myself as the director or architect of another person’s reality? This is absurd! When you think about it, this view is also disrespectful of that other person. In effect, I’m operating from an expectation that my interests supersede theirs, giving me the right to be hurt or upset.

Another element of Ruiz’s second agreement is that of allowing ourselves to be negatively impacted by hurtful words from others – or gossip. The most natural thing in the world is to feel wounded when another person speaks unkindly or outright falsehoods about us. Sometimes, the gossips intend to hurt us or damage our reputations, but it doesn’t matter in the end. We can’t control the words of others, but we do have absolute control over how we react in those circumstances. When we get upset, we give them exactly what they want. This is a no-win circumstance for us.

Don Miguel Ruiz is encouraging us to use our common sense. If our emotions are getting in the way of a beneficial response or decision, then we must turn the feelings off. I’m reminded of the Vulcans in Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek universe. Like humans, they were born with emotions, but they were raised since birth to suppress and ignore their feelings and embrace logic instead. Many Star Trek episodes explored this Vulcan reality and I always found it fascinating – to use one of Mr. Spock’s favorite words. Although Spock commanded the respect of his human crewmates, none of them wanted to live their lives that way.

Denying or suppressing our emotions all the time will not serve us well. Emotions are neither good nor bad, they just are. They are a part of our realityRuiz is saying that there are times when we must be immune to the hurtful words and actions of others. We need to turn off the hurt, turn away and leave it be. It is bad enough when others intend to victimize us; why would we react in a way that victimizes ourselves? That does not bring peace of mind, nor does it promote good decision-making.

If I am to continue to grow into a happy and healthy person, I need to stop taking these kinds of things personally. I need to protect myself… from myself, primarily. I can’t control what others say, nor can I control whether or not I hear them. I can control what I think, how I feel and what I do. Otherwise, I am not free because I have enslaved myself to others. I have committed the ultimate disrespect to myself. Let us choose to grow in wisdom, respect, and love!

Author: John Fioravanti

I'm a retired History teacher (35 years), husband, father of three, grandfather of three. My wife, Anne, and I became business partners in December 2013 and launched our own publishing company, Fiora Books (, to publish my books. We have been married since 1973 and hope our joint business venture will be as successful as our marriage.

27 thoughts on “PROTECT YOURSELF! #RRBC”

  1. Thanks so much for this John. Looks like this hit home for many, and it did for me. I grew up always afraid of what others thought of me or what I was doing and carried that with me for a long time. (Not trying to blame my childhood; it was simply that way.)
    I will bookmark this and reread it.


  2. I am constantly sharing this idea with my students. They now come to me every time someone upsets them because they need me to help them calm down. I, too, have fallen into this trap many times in my life, but I am now at a place where I can observe my immediate reactions and think about why I am reacting that way. I am starting to learn to be an observer to my reactions and then process it more rationally. More often than not, I am able to let it go. It takes practice – lots and lots of practice, but the inner peace is worth it. 🙂


    1. It really is tough dealing with the bullying in a school, Yvette. I do understand how tough it is to live the words of Don Miguel Ruiz. Sounds simple enough, but it’s not. Thanks for visiting and sharing your thoughts, Yvette!


  3. I can see the good sense in what this Ruiz man said, but it easier said than done, John. Recently, a child of 13 years old killed herself because her mates laughed at her crooked smile. When it comes to young people, and even some older ones, just walking away is so hard. They are the ones we should worry about. Unfortunately, there are still those who care about what others think about them.


    1. I agree, Joy, there are so many tragic stories about young people being bullied. It is hard enough for an adult to follow Ruiz’s advice – even more so for insecure teenagers trying to figure out who they are and how best to live their lives. I don’t think that anything Ruiz encourages us to do is easy. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!


  4. Brother John; I can only comment as to #3 “Don’t Make Assumptions” because if you do you will make an Ass out of U & Me. And as Mr. Spock might say…….Live Long & Prosper My Friend. Brother Richard


  5. That’s an excellent post! I think it’s relevant for most of us in our daily lives, but it really hit a note with me because I recently accepted a board seat with a 501c3 organization that tends to be populated with people who make every move based on what others will think. It’s very political, at times very juvenile and often just plain nasty. It’s very easy to lose perspective, and to forget what it is we’re there for. Thank you for sharing this post. I know that I will have occasion to reread it in future days. Probably before each board meeting.


    1. Thank you, Rhani, how kind of you! As I read your comment, I started chuckling because you explained the main reason why I chose to stay in the classroom during my career in education. I hated the politics and the posturing. Good luck with your board position and I’m very pleased to have been of service!


  6. That’s the way to do it! Get over yourself and forget about what other people say, or think – it’s what YOU think and say that’s important, so make sure you believe in YOUR truth yourself. 🙂


  7. Wonderful reminder, John. Too often we humans stray into unproductive or self victimizing thinking, and then conclude wrongly about life, about others. As you’ve mentioned, peace of mind provides the needed balance. Thank you.


    1. Thanks, Gwen, I appreciate your kind thoughts about my work and your input about this reality. Living well means thinking and acting intentionally. For me, that means no ‘coffee breaks’, ‘days off’, or ‘holidays’ from the quest of self-improvement. Thanks for your visit today, Gwen!


  8. What a thoughtful and thought provoking post, John. It is a difficult thing to be brutally honest with oneself, yet if we fail to do that, if we fail to hold our dreams and aspiration above pettiness, I believe we run the very real risk of indulging in pettiness ourselves.

    “And whatever your labors and Aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Strive to be happy.” I’m never certain if I should attribute that quote to “Desiderata” or Max Ehrmann. So I’ll do both.

    Thanks so much for inspiring me to think deeply about what I do, and why I do it.


    1. Thanks, Suzie, for your kind words. Thank you as well for your quote. I don’t know it’s origins, but our former Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau said those words in a farewell speech to supporters on the night he lost an election. I’m glad you visited today and shared your thoughts!


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