If you don’t want fleas, don’t sleep with the dog! We’ve all been taught that if you want to reach your goals, you need to avoid negative people.

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. There is poison everywhere, like a fog permeating our lives. We live in a world where everyone has an abundant supply of criticism and loves to hand it out for free. Many people are quick to punish others with their criticism if someone is different from them.

How do you go about improving yourself, reaching your goals, and living your life big? It’s about letting go of your ego and not taking things personally. Getting rid of your ego is the antidote to social poison.

Not a day goes by in my business career in which I don’t witness gossip, criticisms, rumor, racism, and hate. It’s so easy to become infected by the poison. Stand around in a group at a social or business function, and you’ll be easily trapped in a discussion about something or someone. Rumors breed gossip. Gossip becomes fact.

As a young man, I left my job as a laborer in a car tire factory. I had hatched my escape plan over the three years that I worked the line: I had decided I was going to start my own business, and at 25, I went looking for the golden opportunity. The friends I left behind seemed resentful and couldn’t see their way to supporting me, or maybe their teasing, cajoling, and criticism were the best they could muster. Maybe they couldn’t relate to my desire to make something of my life and not continue the poisonous patterns in which I’d been raised.

The path to “success” was a long one. Along the way, people were always trying to drag me down, and others were hoping I would fail. All along the pathway to my future, the words and actions of those who wanted to me to fail burned into me, leaving scars to remind me of why I couldn’t succeed, or wouldn’t.

Getting through those times was not about a remedy or a cure; it was about immunizing myself against judgment and criticism. The poison invades your ego; we take what others say and do personally. If you care about what others think of you, then you can’t help but let criticism hold you back.

It took me over 15 years of studying and practice to get it right. After failing at my second marriage I decided that I needed a different way. Everything I had learned and applied didn’t seem to be enough. If I was succeeding in business, I was failing personally. I was at my wits end and frustrated. Everything that I read, I followed, but still, it wasn’t enough. Success—financial, emotional, and spiritual—eluded me. They say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. I finally realized that I had to change my approach.

All the poison to which I had been exposed was embedded in me. Later, I realized that early abuse as a child was one of the key reasons I was so defenseless to all the criticisms both from my own second-guessing and from others. I was adopted into a violent, alcoholic home, where I was beaten and abused regularly. This led to two years of sexual abuse at the hands of four pedophiles and then ultimately to my own self-abuse through drugs and alcohol. Living this life, I was taught how to take things personally. Everything was my fault. My parents’ alcoholism, my dad’s beatings on my mom, and the sexual perversion all became part of my shame. Somehow I had caused them. No wonder I didn’t succeed at first. I didn’t think that I deserved to win.

No matter how you grow up, children are taught very early on to take things personally. It becomes automatic. Everything we are and everything in which we believe was handed to us by someone else. Think about it. The language you speak was chosen for you. The religion you practiced was chosen for you. Heck, even your name was given to you. Our parents, our teachers, our family, and our friends all taught us what was right and what was wrong. We were conditioned that if we did something right (according to other people), we were rewarded. If we did something wrong, we were punished. So, very early on in life, we trained ourselves to strive for approval and reward by doing things “right.” We could avoid disappointment and pain by avoiding doing things wrong. No wonder we take things personally!

So away we went, along our paths without question, accepting what we were told was the truth about right and wrong. Do you remember when you were a teenager and you started to question your parents and challenge authority? Do you remember second-guessing yourself? So often, teens are convinced that they are confused and lost, and these questions begin to surface. I say it’s “Truth” tapping you on the shoulder. It’s Truth telling you that maybe everything you were told about right and wrong wasn’t “right” for you. Most of us shrugged it off, but later in life, Truth comes calling again. For some of us it’s a midlife crisis. Again, we shrug off the truth and listen to the criticisms.

It’s time to stop taking things personally. What people say about you is based on their own truths. They see life through their own fog. If you realize that, then you don’t need to care about what they think of you. You can let go of your ego and not worry about what others say and do.

Once I figured this out, it was like the miracle cure. The self-loathing and shame I had carried around for years dropped off my shoulders. My business took off, and my personal life was blessed with the woman of my dreams and a beautiful baby daughter. I reached and surpassed all my goals, and now anything I set out to do, I achieve. I’m not anybody special. We’re all the same when we arrive in this world. The difference is our experiences, our beliefs, and our environment.

You can achieve big results. You just have to immunize yourself against social poison and stay out of the fog.

** This article is one of 101 great articles that were published in 101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life. To get complete details on “101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life”, visit http://www.selfgrowth.com/greatways.html

Author's Bio: 

Douglas Dane is a motivational speaker and provides coaching for teens and adults. He has appeared on national television and in newspapers and is widely sought after as a guest speaker at high schools, corporations, and social organizations. Audiences have described him as someone who has a rare gift for reaching people of all ages with an inspiring and honest message, and he offers hope to those who feel victimized. His mission is to share his story and his secrets to living big and prove to people that they can do amazing things! Anything is possible! For more information about Douglas Dane, visit http://www.talkingworks.com.