When you take things personally, it is easy to interpret what another person says or does as a reflection of who you are rather than to what was intended. You think their actions and words are about you.
More often than not, what’s going in your mind is a reflection of your insecurity. It reinforces negative thoughts about yourself, and you treat it as a personal attack. You may even feel that it exposes your mistakes and flaws, of which you feel ashamed.
It is helpful to understand that what others say or do is not about you. It is a projection of their own reality. If a person is grumpy, he will be the same with everyone around him. That’s his temperament. If someone is kind and good-hearted, they will be to everyone - be it their family, friends, or strangers.
The important lesson here is to become immune to others’ opinions, words and actions and let all the criticism and negativity wash off you without affecting you.
Some strategies to help you to stop taking things personally:
- Everyone is busy. People are busy, just like you. They may not have time to greet you or answer your calls and emails. It is easy to get resentful if you don’t receive a reply from someone. Remind yourself that everyone is busy and many are overwhelmed with their own lives. It is not personal if they don’t have the time to reply to each email or phone call. But if it is a recurring pattern, you may want to reconsider your relationship with that person and move on.
- Listen carefully before reacting. If you start getting offended when someone is speaking, stop yourself from reacting. Your reaction may prevent you from listening to what the other person is actually saying. Hear out the person first, without reacting.
- Don’t jump to conclusions. At times you may have assumed you were being judged or criticized, but actually, you were not. It is easy to be acutely aware of your flaws, weaknesses, and insecurities, thinking others are criticizing you when they probably weren’t even talking about you.
- Not everything is about you. Don’t think that every judgment and criticism is directed at you. Remember it’s not always about you, it’s mostly about them. It can also be their issues and their needs that are projected towards you.
- Have empathy for others. Many times, you may not be aware of what another person is going through. When someone is rude to you, it is likely a reflection of their own issues. They may be having a bad day, or they may be going through a rough patch in their life. What you need to remember is that another person’s behavior is not your fault. You cannot control other people. All you can do is empathize with them.
- Question your beliefs. Often you take things personally because of your interpretations, which are formed by your beliefs. For instance, if someone is lying to you, you start feeling bad about yourself. You start thinking that you did something to cause them to lie to you. But it’s likely they are lying because they are afraid themselves or maybe that’s just the way they are. Question yourself when you start believing things that you instinctively sense are not true.
- Seek clarification. When someone says or does something that does not sit well with you, seek clarification. You may have misunderstood the entire thing. It can unnecessarily lead you to feel bad and low about yourself. Instead, ask questions and seek clarification as to what exactly the other person meant. Explain how you felt about it. People may not realize how rude they may have been.
- Be kind when you communicate. When communicating your feelings to someone who said something upsetting, avoid pointing fingers or blaming that person. Instead, try to use an unemotional language. For instance, “I’m not sure I understood you. Can we discuss it?” Get what you want to say clear in your head before confronting the person.
- Constructively take comments. When you are being criticized, ask yourself whether there was any truth in what was being said about you. Look at what you can learn from it. Take the lesson and let the rest go.
- Don’t be a perfectionist. It’s human to make mistakes and have flaws. Mistakes help you grow in life. Let go of perfectionism.
- Avoid dwelling on things too much. The more you dwell on what others said or did to you, the more you start taking things personally. Thoughts have power. The more you dwell on the negativity spewed out of someone’s mouth, the more power you are giving the thought to poison your mind and soul. Take care with what you are feeding your mind.
- Be unbothered by others’ opinions. You think that you have to belong and be accepted by others. Not everyone has to like and accept you. The more you care about what others think, you unknowingly become their prisoner. The more you depend on other people’s approval and validation, the more you give them the power to dictate your feelings and thoughts. Remind yourself, that the negativity they are putting out is more about themselves and has little to do with you.
- Remember you can’t control what others think or do. You may waste a lot of time trying to control what others think. The truth is that you cannot control anything about another person. The only thing you can control is what you think.
- It’s not worth your time and energy. When you find yourself taking things personally, remind yourself that it’s not worth your time and energy. You may often waste your precious time thinking about why certain people behave and talk rudely or harshly to you. Instead of focusing on people who love and care for you, you end up dwelling on negativity that certain others choose to throw at you.
- Do something productive instead. It’s easy to start dwelling on things when you have nothing better to do. The next time you are tempted to replay a past instance that made you feel bad about yourself, do something productive instead. Tell yourself that you are too busy for this.
- Remind yourself that your self-worth does not depend on others. Do not allow your self-worth to become dependent on others’ opinion of you. Your mistakes or criticism do not define your worth.
- Become more confident. The more confident you are, the less likely you will be affected by the comments and actions of others. If you suffer from low confidence, you are likely to take everything seriously because you are afraid that what others are saying is true. People with high self-confidence do not allow others’ comments to affect them because they know if it refers to a true flaw, they can fix it.
- Talk about it with someone. When something bothers you, and you start taking it personally, it’s easy to get stuck in the spiral of negative thinking. To stop that from happening, talk it over with a friend or someone close to you. They may see things differently and can help you find a better perspective on what happened.
- Begin your day with a positive activity. The way you begin your day sets the tone for the entire day. Instead of starting off focusing on frivolous things like what someone said or did, start with some creative and positive activities. You can meditate, do yoga, write something, take a walk amidst nature or simply jot down your goals and your achievements. It will help you honor yourself and raise your confidence.
- Create a file of positive things. Gather up some kind emails, letters or words of appreciation that you received from friends, family or your superior and keep them in a handy file. When you start taking things personally, look through the file to find good words and messages from people who love and appreciate you for who you are.
- Eat and sleep well. If you are short on sleep or hungry, it is bound to make you irritable and sensitive. Take care of your health. Do not try to go over a conversation or an incident when you are hungry or tired and worn out.
- Focus on your breathing. The moment you feel that you are starting to get anxious in response to someone’s words or actions, focus on your breathing instead. Do this for 1 to 2minutes. It will help calm your mind and body. It also refocuses your attention away from what is upsetting you.
- Learn to forgive and let go. Whenever you feel something that someone said is beginning to affect you, let go of the emotion and forgive the person who said it. Forgiveness is often considered to be a sign of weakness. In reality, forgiveness is an act of strength. It takes strength to forgive and realize that by giving up hatred, you are allowing yourself to be at peace. Forgiving someone lets you purify your heart and soul.
- Do not let hatred get to you. No matter what anyone might say to you or how much negativity they might try to bring into your life, never allow hatred to reach your heart. Never allow resentment to pour out of you, for it will end up poisoning your mind.
- Focus on your peace of mind. Get beyond taking things personally by letting nothing disturb your inner peace. Whenever something affects you, think of ways that will help you maintain your peace. Most of the time, you get upset because of your own overreaction. Remain silent and do not react. Learn to become controlled and centered.
- Just be yourself. Be who you are and say what you think is right. Do things you feel are right and don’t give too much thought to what others might think of you. Never give more importance to other people’s opinions about you than your own opinion of yourself.