Learning not to take things personally

Take Things Personally? Here are Tips to Help

As human beings, we crave connection.  We desire acceptance and feel that the acceptance  is imperative to maintaining  connection.  As a result, we often take things personally when we worry too much about what others think of us.

Throughout our lives, we form and maintain relationships of different depths, and we interact with others on a daily basis. From the stranger in the elevator to the spouse waiting for you at home, you are in constant communication with other people. So it only makes sense that the person you are today has been partially defined by the relationships you’ve kept and your perception of those relationships.

However, insecurity and excessive worry can become obstacles in our happiness and our relationships.  It can be hard not to take things personally when what other people say and/or feels offensive, but it’s important to remember that you are more affected by the way you perceive situations than the isolated situation itself. Use the following tips to stop taking things personally and improve your quality of life:

1. Realize your inherent self-worth
Take time to figure out who you are as a person, regardless of what others say or believe about you. It can be helpful to create a list of qualities you have that you’re grateful for. Try to revisit them frequently. We all have areas in need of growth, but our flaws have no bearing on our inherent worth. Know that who you are as a person, is worthy of love, and not dependent on another person’s assessment of you. For more information on this topic, read Tips for Developing a Healthy Relationship with Yourself.

2. Recognize that your assumptions are different from others
Many times, people take things personally because they hold themselves to a different standard or set of beliefs than their peers. For instance, you might be offended if you hold the door open for a co-worker and they don’t thank you. You might take this personally when, in reality, they don’t thank anybody who holds the door open for them.

3. Acknowledge your triggers You are a product of your environment, and therefore your emotional triggers are too. If your partner says something that is intended as constructive criticism, you may take it the wrong way due to your past experiences. Becoming aware of these triggers will help you to see their intentions more clearly, as a result, helping you to curb the instinct to take things personally.

4. Be logical
Sensitivity is a good thing; being overly sensitive, however, can be damaging. When you find yourself in a situation where you start to take something personally, question whether or not you’re being logical. Challenge your thoughts and thought patterns. Ask yourself whether this particular instance warrants an emotional reaction.

5. Listen first
If you notice that you’re taking a conversation personally, slow down and really listen. Oftentimes at the beginning of a conversation, people will jump to conclusions about the direction it’s headed. Listen to the full story before taking anything to heart.

6. Clarify
More often than not, hypersensitivity is the product of a simple misunderstanding. Before taking the conversation, statement, or action at face value, ask for clarification. You might be overreacting to something that is not intended to be taken the way you perceived it.

7. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes
It’s important to recognize that not everything is about you. If somebody says something that appears rude or inappropriate, try putting yourself in their shoes before jumping to conclusions. Maybe the other person had a bad day, or maybe they just have a different style of communication than you do. Be willing to give the benefit of the doubt.

8. Practice kindness
Remember that we even though don’t always know the reasons for other people’s actions, we still have the choice to be kind to others (and yourself). When you are able to walk away from situations feeling good about your own decision to show kindness, any infractions from another person will matter less to you.

9. Let it go
You are only in control of your own feelings/emotions. You can’t control the things other people say or the way they react. As hard as this may be, sometimes you just have to let go of an interaction and move forward. Ask yourself whether a particular situation or conversation will matter in the long run. More often than not, it is helpful to let it go sooner rather than later.

10. Practice authenticity and self-care
It’s important to remember that your authentic self is enough. Treat yourself with the love and respect you deserve and show others the kindness that you would want shown to you. As a result, you won’t be so easily disturbed by someone else’s attention or lack thereof. Strive for confidence and the freedom to be responsible for your own calm, choices, and happiness.

If taking things too personally is something you struggle with, learn more about how to overcome these challenges and more in therapy.