As humans, we are naturally social beings. Many of us define who we are through our interactions and the eyes of others. We tend to seek happiness and self-worth in those around us, with varying degrees of intensity depending on the nature of our relationship. Those that we get along with well do a great job of satisfying our needs. Then there are those who don’t and our self-worth suffers. We may feel offended, angry, and frustrated because there is a conflict between our needs and the actions and attitudes of others. We have to stop internalizing and stop taking things personally.
Do Little Things Bother You?
Take for example the person who doesn’t thank you when you hold the door for them at the store. Or how about the guy who cut you off on the way home from work yesterday? How about the co-worker who is rude to you at the morning meeting? A friend who doesn’t invite you to a gathering? These actions have absolutely nothing to do with us internally. Nothing to do with who we are, so we have to stop taking these things personally. But why can’t we? Because like I said earlier, humans tend to define their self-worth through others, whether they are close to us or complete strangers.
Why Learning To Stop Taking Things Personally Is Important?
Here are some reasons why you must learn to stop taking things so personally:
You’ll Stay Angry, Upset, and Frustrated
I know people who stew for hours, days, or even weeks over something small and insignificant. Even if it’s not significant, and a major injustice to you, think of all the joy, and happiness you’ve given up for someone else. If you can’t let it go, you’ll always hold on to it. You’ll always be angry, upset, and frustrated.
You’ll Have Low Self-Esteem and Self-Worth
Your self-esteem and value should come from within, not from others. This is hard to do when you can’t stop taking things personally. Instead of realizing that you are important and that you do matter, taking what others say and think as the ultimate end all be all will kill your self-esteem.
You Give Up Control
Taking everything personally means that you give others control over how you feel and even control over your actions. How many times did you snap back or take revenge in some way and then felt bad about it? I don’t know about you but I don’t want others to control me like that. I want to be in charge of my feelings and in charge of how I react. Take back control and stop letting others get under your skin.
The good news is that you can learn how to stop taking things personally. There is no quick fix and it is an ongoing process that will take time, but it can be done if you implement some of these habits.
1 – Stop Taking Things Personally By Taking a Moment To Breathe
When you find that you are beginning to react to an incident, take a second to breathe. Close your eyes and focus on your breath. Doing so will give your mind a second to pause and think about your next action. I like to use the equal breathing technique. It’s simple and can be done anywhere at any time. Essentially you breathe into your nostrils the same amount of time you breathe out of your mouth. For example, 3 seconds in using your nose, then 3 seconds out through your mouth. If you typically curse the person who cuts you off or gets angry because someone cancels on you, this breathing technique will give you a chance to de-escalate and question the situation.
2 – Ask Yourself Questions
Now that you have had time to breathe and interrupt your naturally triggered response, you can ask yourself questions surrounding the situation. This will help you gain clarity about what just happened.
- Did I just understand this person correctly?
- Did they understand me correctly?
- Am I interpreting the situation correctly?
- Does this really matter?
- Why is this affecting me?
What if the person who cut you off has a sick kid and is rushing to get them to the hospital? What if the person who didn’t thank you when you held the door just found out their father is ill and their mind wasn’t in the right place? Maybe that co-worker who was rude to you just got chewed out by a supervisor? There are all kinds of reasons why people do what they do and 99.99% of the time, it has absolutely nothing to do with you. Question, Question Question.
3 – Stop Taking Things Personally By Giving Up Control
One thing for certain is that the only thing you can control is you and your emotions. You cannot control what others say or do. Their actions and words have absolutely no impact on who you are as a person so don’t give them the power to do that. If you only remember one thing from me, remember this: YOU AND ONLY YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR EMOTIONS.
Focus on what you can do. You can control your response. You can be assertive. Maybe you can limit your interaction with that individual or circumstance. You can talk with the person about how things affect you. You can smile and go about your day. Give up control.
4 – Focus On Something Positive
Stop taking things personally by focusing on something positive. When you feel like you are taking something personally and you feel anger, frustration, or self-doubt coming on, think of something positive. Something that brings you up. This works great in almost all situations where you want to bring your mood back to one of happiness and peace. I always think about my kids and a special moment I had with them. They make me feel great because I know they love me just as I love them. They look up to me and they depend on me. The whole world can hate me but as long as I have them and my wife, it doesn’t matter. That is something so positive that nothing can bring me down.
The same thing works in relationships. Sometimes our significant other or someone close to us may do or say something that affects us. Instead of taking it personally, think of a memory that you shared that makes you feel good about your relationship. Keeping positive memories on hand is a great thing to have in your personal growth toolbox.
5 – Realize It’s About Them, Not You
When confronted with situations that you may take personally, it most likely is not intentional. Some people do not have the same manners as you and are not as kind or thoughtful. Just shake your head, and move on. Trying to figure out why they are that way or did what they did is a waste of energy. It’s also a control issue on your part. See #3. In most cases, it’s just the way they are. If they are rude to you, they are probably rude to everyone. If they ride you in the slow lane, they ride everyone. Most people don’t spend time thinking of ways to ruin your day. If they are, then it should be obvious that they are the ones with the major issues. Most of the time, however, some people are just dumb and insensitive. It’s not about you.
6 – Focus on Valuing and Loving Who You Are
When we have issues taking things personally, it may mean we are trying to fill an emptiness inside of us. What can fill this emptiness is a healthy dose of self-worth and self-love. It is important that we work on loving who we are and seeing our true value.
Here are a few things you can do to start working on self-love and self-value:
Focus On Your Strengths
Instead of focusing on your weaknesses and shortcomings, focus on the awesome things you can do. What do you bring to the table at work, at home, and in your social circles?
Do Things That Make You Happy
When we do things that bring us joy, we reconnect with who we are. There is something about experiencing joy that can remind you of how special and valuable you are.
Start Self-Love Journaling
Journaling is a great way to develop self-love and help you stop taking things personally. Good self-love journaling prompts will help you look at your life and appreciate not only yourself but the amazing things that you have going on in your life.
7 – Stop Taking Things Personally by Not Caring What People Think
If you find yourself constantly worrying about what others think of you and your decisions you’ll have a difficult time not taking things personally. Others will always have their own opinions and views of you and you can’t control that. You can, however, focus on not caring about those opinions.
A great way to stop caring what a person thinks is to remember that they are not perfect themselves. Stop putting them on a pedestal. They do not know what you are going through or the thought that went into your decisions so whatever they think of you is highly flawed.
8 – Remember How Far You’ve Come
When we take things personally, we forget how far we’ve come. We think we are flawed or inadequate in some way. You have to remember that you are here now, despite all of your obstacles. Think of all the struggles that you have gone through. You are a survivor, not someone who is less than others. Rupi Kaur sums it up in her quote:
“… and here you are living despite it all.”
If someone says or does something to undermine you just laugh. It’s a joke because you’ve dealt with bigger issues and you’ve accomplished bigger things in the past. Don’t sell yourself short. Remember how far you have come.
Taking things personally is something we all do at times, but we do not have to be plagued with it. You have the power to let things slide off of you like water off a duck’s back. Think of how great that would be! Rember to take time to breathe, ask yourself questions, give up control, and focus on something positive. You can also realize it’s about them, value who you are, stop caring what they think, and remember how far you’ve come.
How would your life change if you could stop taking things personally? Let me know in the comments.