How to Stop Taking Things Personally

Have you ever wondered why you might take things personally?

You walk into the office kitchen. Suddenly, everyone goes quiet. Your automatic thinking kicks in: they must’ve been talking about me!

We don’t know if everyone was talking about you or not.

The thing is, when you have a tendency to take things personally, that’s what happens.

You become paranoid and care too much about what others think of you.

Below you’ll find out why taking things personally can seriously cripple you from living a life you love and therefore how you should stop taking things personally.

Taking Things Personally

It wasn’t long ago that I vehemently defended taking things personally. I used to yell:

There’s nothing wrong with taking personally!

It was a defensive act for my own taking-things-personally tendency.

So, when I happened to come across the below line from a movie, I was over the moon!

What’s wrong with taking personally? Everything is personal!

OMG, there’s someone out there who finally gets me, even if it’s a fictional person from a movie.

I loved it. ha.

Taking Things Personally and Low Self-Esteem

During my personal development journey though, I learned that taking things personally could suggest that you have low self-esteem.

Goodness gracious me, wasn’t that another lightbulb moment of many since I ventured into personal development.

When you have low self-esteem, you always long for others’ approvals of everything you do and say.

Don’t get me wrong.

As a social creature, we like to be liked and approved by others.

The trouble begins – and your personal hell opens up – when other people’s standards dictate what you do or what you say.

Because, by doing so, you’re giving them power over you like handing your soul over to Satan (a tad dramatic for maximum impact. ha).

Other people’s opinions become the foundation of how you feel about you or how you do your work.

That’s too dangerous to ignore.

You know too well people aren’t always kind or truthful, nor do they have you in their best interest all the time.

If you take everything others say at face value, you’ll never want to get out of bed in the morning!

Random Comments on You or Your Work (Your Blog)

Not long after I started my blog, I saw a comment left on one of the Pinterest pins.

The pin was about many ways we waste our time on.

The comment went something like this:

I’ll do whatever I want with my time. If I want to watch TV, I’ll F****** watch TV!

Had I taken it the wrong way, I’d have started questioning the quality of my content. Or perhaps convince myself I shouldn’t suggest things. Maybe stop writing altogether with:

Who am I to say this and that… you dummy? Give up already.

Isn’t that scary how far we could take ourselves down based on others’ opinions?

When you take things too personally, this is precisely what happens.

You lose faith in you and start second-guessing all the time.

As I’ve shared in this post before, just as Seth Godin said:

Being able to write every day, getting our thoughts out there and giving others an opportunity to think about and perhaps change someone’s life for better in some way, it’s a privilege.

Taking Things Personally or Taking Responsibility

Taking things personally to an extreme isn’t evidently good for your mind and soul.

But don’t confuse your attentive and caring nature with being sensitive, hence taking things personally.

Being considerate of your words and actions towards others and how they might affect others around you is an admirable trait to have.

You’re being sensible as opposed to sensitive.

The best way to distinguish whether you’re taking things personally or being sensible is by observing your reaction.

If you feel anger and react in a defensive and negative way toward others, you’re likely taking things personally.

Even if someone is in the wrong, when you don’t take things personally, you’ll develop an understanding where she comes from, hence not reacting harshly or hastily.

People Ignoring You

Imagine you say hello with a megawatt smile to an old lady passing by.

She keeps on walking without returning your smile or saying a word.

How dare she…

You march back and stop her with:

Lady, how rude! You could at least smile when someone says hello to you, ya know?

Then you realise she has a hearing impairment and didn’t see you.

Of course, there’re people who blatantly ignore you.

Chances are their mind is preoccupied.

Maybe their car is broke down the third time in a row this week.

Or they had an epic fight with a family member at the breakfast table.

Or they plainly don’t believe saying hello to a stranger they meet at the entrance hall even if you live in the same building.

There’s no point in taking things personally when you don’t know what goes on in other people’s mind.

The chances are their certain behaviour has nothing to do with you.

Being Criticised At Work

A workplace can be hard not to take things personally.

Feedback from your boss or colleagues often highlights your mistakes or flaws and makes you feel insecure.

It’s easy to take it as a personal attack and feel defensive about it.

You may beat yourself over, going over the mistakes repeatedly and blaming yourself non stop.

If you notice yourself reacting this way, you’re likely taking things personally.

Take a moment after receiving feedback. Think it through as objectively as possible.

Even if your boss may express himself in an aggressive or harsh way, there’s a chance his feedback is 100% right.

If you take his feedback as a personal attack, you’ll miss the opportunity to learn.

When you learn to take criticism as a learning opportunity, you get to embrace it.

Next time, thank him for feedback, offer to explain calmly why you thought what you did was right and if necessary, apologise.

This way, you take feedback as a learning curve and improve your knowledge and skills.

Remember, you are not all your mistakes or flaws.

Everyone makes mistakes.

And not everyone goes about it rationally. I had a boss like that.

But I also learned from the experience: how to communicate with other members of staff respectfully; how not to be like him. ha.

Final Thoughts

Observing yourself whether you take things personally is fun.

It’s a great opportunity to learn about you.

It also gives you a chance to stop worrying so much about what others think of you and be free from taking everything so personally, thus improving your self-esteem and your life

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