If you tend to take things personally, you are not alone. The entire human race experiences this emotion on some level from time to time. It’s not wrong to take things personally, but if you’ve been told not to be so sensitive or want to know how to not take things personally, then there are a few strategies that can help you. There is a freedom that comes from not taking things personally and having another person’s perspective determine your wellbeing.
Why do you take things personally?
Getting to the root of why you feel how you feel is the best way to take action against it. If you are giving too much power to the opinions of a single person, you need to investigate why.
Hearing criticism motivates you
Unfortunately, sometimes when people hear negative feedback that is not constructive, it fuels them to be better or work harder. The problem with this is that you should not change your life solely because of a negative comment from someone else.
You are a perfectionist
Not everyone cares to strive for perfection, but taking things personally is highly common for those who do. Especially if you are a perfectionist in social settings, you might feel like your self-confidence hinges on the comments of your crowd and how you fit in with them or don’t.
You feel hurt or insecure
In many instances, when we take things personally, it is because of an internal dialogue we have with ourselves about pain and self-worth. For example, suppose you are the only non-mother in a group of other women who are mothers. In that case, you may assume they are judging you or are viewing you in a specific way when in reality, your own internal questions surrounding your maternal status create this narrative.
Some other social scenarios where this may happen:
- If you are divorced while living in a deeply religious setting
- If your personal finances or income are not in line with your peers
- If you do not meet whatever standard of beauty you have decided that you ‘should’
Social media plays a prominent role here too, keep in mind that sometimes what we see on the feeds of strangers can also have a significant impact. Aligning your standards to the images and personalities that you encounter on the internet is a toxic habit. If you find that you are having too tough of a time engaging in social media and not letting it take over your levels of self-worth, consider a digital detox.
Why it is hard not to take things personally
Some people can let things roll off their backs seemingly unphased, but not everyone is like that. If you are someone who recognizes that you often do this but cannot get out of your own head and find a way to stop, you are not the only person feeling this way. There are many reasons why it can be difficult not to take things personally.
You care about the specific person’s opinion
Sometimes it matters less what was said and matters more who said it. Parents, employers, and significant others are great examples of people whose opinions we likely value so highly that it can create a considerable challenge regarding learning how to stop taking things personally. If you can, try to separate the two. You can love your spouse and know that certain choices they make have nothing to do with you.
You want to be better in your daily life
If you value personal development and work on this as a routine habit, sometimes a person can become so focused on creating a happier life that they let in too much outside noise. There are many opinions around what is “the best” way to do something. If you’re not careful, you may end up chasing the next “best” thing by taking what everyone says personally. Taking on too many opinions can cloud your goals and perspective, causing you to take things personally when someone suggests your strategies and habits are not “the best.”
Your compass is broken
Think about where you are at in your life; if you happen to be immersed in a conflict or are going through a difficult time, you are probably taking things personally because you are hypersensitive, which is a trauma response. Suppose your personal compass is temporarily broken, and your direction has been compromised. In that case, you probably think people are making assumptions about you and your life, all because of the specific incident you’re currently dealing with.
How to stop taking things personally
The first step is to stop worrying about what other people think, say, or feel as it pertains to your life. But that is undoubtedly easier said than done. Additionally, make a conscious choice to focus your attention inward and invest in yourself instead of the other words from other people. You can then focus on more productive things, and you will find that you naturally take things personally less and less over time.
You can find information about this in books, podcasts, support groups, or even counseling sessions. Having the objectivity of an outside perspective in any form can be beneficial. If you are already allowing too much negativity into your headspace, these objective outside influences can help you bat it away.
Sometimes you might take something a person has said wrong because you thought it applied to you, but in fact, it does not apply to you. By creating standards for your own life that are measurable, you are creating a type of accountability that is self-imposed and self-measured. Simply put, you are creating a layer of protection around yourself so that what other people say can no longer permeate the surface.
Cultivate an appropriate response
In some cases, not knowing how to respond is part of why you are internalizing specific words. One way to stop taking things personally is to cultivate a response where your confidence is the main character. Instead of an answer that shows them that what they said has given you pause, not in a good way.
Most people are great at showing empathy towards others, but what about yourself? Do not let a bad day spiral into a bad week, or month, or life. Instead, have some compassion for the fact that you are only human, and humans are flawed. Instead of allowing another person’s words to impact you personally, let them show you that this is perhaps a moment for some grace and acceptance.
Side effects that occur when you don’t stop taking things personally
You might not feel them right away or notice them in the short term, but this cycle can lead to some pretty unfortunate side effects. Here are a few examples for you to be aware of
- You feel out of control in your own decision making
- You are angry more often than is typical for you
- You doubt your own choices
- You no longer respect yourself enough to have and assert boundaries
- You worry at an excessive level
Of course, these are not the only things that can happen, nor are they guaranteed to happen to you. Instead, this list shows you that your feelings can be affected and ultimately your happiness.
Who is the person?
Who is the individual you need to stop giving this power to? Who the person is will dictate how you can go about handling this. Specificity is important because you will talk to your mother, for example, in a manner that is different from how you would speak to your boss. Keep in mind that the intention and focus are the same, though.
Coping at work
We give a lot of our power to the words of bosses and co-workers. While this is not always bad, it has the potential to be. It can become a mistake if you notice your own light diminishing in the shadow of commentary coming from someone who is supposed to be your teammate.
One way to combat this is by letting your work speak for itself. Sometimes engaging in a conversation that you feel is a personal attack is not actually about you but affects your ability to stay positive. To cope with this at work, think about ways to talk to a co-worker in settings that prevent them from trying to knock you down, such as those that are group settings instead of one-on-one meetings.
Coping in romantic relationships
Sometimes insecurity that lives inside us concerning our romantic partners can work against us as well. To cope with this, make a habit of regularly talking about emotions. If you work together to ensure that you are always on the same page, you will less likely take something that is said wrong because you know each other’s true opinions.
Do your best to let the past stay behind you. If something happened between you two that was painful or damaging but was also resolved adequately, drop it. Bringing the old, with you, towards the new can only build resentments and block progress.
Coping in platonic personal relationships
The people in our life that we love, but are not in love with, like parents, children, dear friends, and siblings, also hold a lot of power. If you find that their ideas for how you should live your life negatively impact your happiness, that is a problem. Have a conversation with them that keeps you in control but honors your bond. Sometimes these individuals just want what they think is best and do not even realize that it differs greatly from what you think, which can come off as a criticism when it was meant to be supportive.
First and foremost, remind yourself often that this is a common occurrence. Even the most resilient and confident individuals are bound to let some things sink in sometimes. The strategic difference, however, is paying attention to how you respond. The good news is that once you realize that the weight of other people’s words does not have to hold you down, you will have a renewed outlook and will stop taking as many things personally.
We teach others how to treat us, so if you are infinitely kind to yourself, that will be the standard. Of course, we have little to no control over anyone or anything but ourselves. However, use what control you do have to frame things in a positive light instead of a negative one. This will also help you learn not to feel like you must prove yourself to anyone else just for them to accept you.