I once was told that taking things personally is one of the most selfish things a person could do. This statement stuck with me and I found myself sharing it often. Not wanting to be a hypocrite (or selfish), I decided I had better start paying more attention to whether or not I regularly took things personally. To my dismay, I realized that I did…far more often than I wanted to admit. I also found that when I did, I felt bad about myself. I felt bad about other people. I felt bad about the situation. I felt bad about everything. Yuck.
After suffering a bit longer, I decided it was time to stop taking things so damn personally. Here’s what I did….
When my husband made a wisecrack at my expense, I took it as teasing (and actually laughed with him) rather than as him trying to make a point. When a coworker didn’t smile back at me, I told myself he must be having a bad day rather than that he must not like me. When a friend called to cancel happy hour, I believed her reason of being too busy with work rather than feel sorry for myself because she had more important things to do. When my boss gave me feedback on my argumentative communication style, I told myself how lucky I was to have someone who cared enough to help me see how my actions were impacting others rather than get upset with him for not taking my side. When someone didn’t like my idea, I didn’t get my feelings hurt; I told myself I needed to vet my idea more thoroughly and work on my delivery rather than that my teammates were being dismissive because they think I’m stupid.
Do you know what happened? My life dramatically improved. Every time I put a positive spin on my perception of a situation or conversation, I relaxed. I also found it much easier to be accountable for my actions. I became more open to hearing and considering different opinions. I became less attached to my own ideas. It was easier for people to talk to me and give me feedback. I was happier. I think I even became more likable. I know I liked myself a whole lot better.
I would like to encourage you, too, to stop taking things so personally. You will not only improve your life, but you will also improve the lives of everyone around you. You will be happier. And you being happier makes the world happier. And we all know that the world could use more happiness.
Here are five things you can do to stop taking everything personally:
1. Don’t make other people’s rudeness, grumpiness, curtness, etc. about you. It’s about whatever is going on with them. Smile, internally wish them well and move on.
2. Consider all feedback constructive. The more you get the better you will be, even if the feedback doesn’t feel valid. Make modifications and apologize when necessary. But don’t take any of it personally; instead, be grateful for it.
3. Don’t expect people to read your mind. If you do, you’ll regularly find yourself disappointed. Face it, most of us aren’t psychic so there is no point in expecting others to know what going on inside of you. Always be honest about how you feel and what you are thinking. Candidness matters.
4. Don’t make assumptions. You don’t really know what other people are thinking or feeling so don’t assume. Plus, incorrect assumptions cause undue suffering. If you don’t know, ask. Even if you think you know, ask. Seek to understand.
5. Tell yourself a different story. Each of us views the world through our individual lens. We all have deeply rooted biases and personality types that influence the color, texture, and feel of that lens. Our lenses are shaped by our parents, family, friends, and communities, and by our experiences. How each of us sees the world is very personal and very different. And that’s what makes the human species so amazing. But it’s also our biggest downfall. We fall into the trap of thinking that our thoughts and feelings are THE TRUTH. “I am right and they are wrong.” Even people who are highly self-aware find it difficult to break outside of their own way of thinking. None of us really know THE TRUTH. We really only feel and see our own truths (which may be flat out wrong). So if you are taking something personally, recognize that the story you are telling yourself is just that: a story and there’s a good chance it’s wrong. Why not tell a different story? One that doesn’t involve turning angels into demons.
Not taking things personally takes effort and persistence but it’s worth it. You’ll be much happier and feel better about yourself when you able to let things easily slide off your back. You’ll be more open-minded and better able to take feedback when you let other people have their own opinions without becoming defensive or protective. Life is better when you turn your story from a negative one to a positive one.
Thanks for reading and as always, please comment, like, and share to spread the word.