People are toxic to be around when they believe that everything happening around them is a direct assault on them or is in some way all about them.
That is the truth. Let it sink in.
What people say and do to you is much more about them, than you. People’s reactions to you are about their perspectives, wounds and experiences. Whether people think you’re amazing, or believe you’re the worst, again, is more about them and how they view the world.
Now, I’m not suggesting we should be self-indulged narcissists and ignore all the opinions and commentary we receive from others. I’m simply saying that incredible amounts of hurt, disappointment and sadness in our lives come directly from our tendency to take things personally. In most cases it’s far more productive and healthy to let go of other people’s good or bad opinions of you, and to operate with your own intuition and wisdom as your guide.
The underlying key is to…
Watch Your Response
When something stressful happens in a social situation, what is your response? Some people jump right into action – but oftentimes immediate action can be harmful. Others get angry, or sad. Still others start to feel sorry for themselves… and victimized… and left thinking: “Why can’t other people behave better?”
Responses like these are not healthy or helpful. In fact, whenever your response lacks a mindful level of acceptance you’re likely taking things too personally. And you’re not alone. We all make this mistake sometimes.
If someone does something we disagree with, we tend to interpret this as a personal attack…
- Our children don’t clean their rooms? They are purposely defying us!
- Our significant other doesn’t show affection? They must not care about us as much as they should!
- Our coworkers act inconsiderately at work? They must hate us!
- Someone hurts us? Everyone must be out to get us!
Some people even think life itself is personally against them. But the truth is, almost nothing in life is personal – things happen, or they don’t, and it’s rarely all about anyone specifically.
People have emotional issues they’re dealing with, and it makes them defiant, rude, and thoughtless sometimes. They are doing the best they can, or they’re not even aware of their issues. In any case, you can learn not to interpret their behaviors as personal attacks, and instead see them as non-personal encounters (like a dog barking in the distance, or a bumblebee buzzing by) that you can either respond to with a peaceful mindset, or not respond to at all.
Here’s what you need to remember…
Mantras for NOT Taking Things Personally
Like you, I’m only human, and I still take things personally sometimes when I’m in the heat of the moment. So I’ve implemented a simple strategy to support the practice of watching my response, as I’ve outlined above. In a nutshell, I proactively remind myself NOT to take things personally. Anytime I catch myself doing so, I pause and read the following mantras to myself. Then I take some fresh deep breaths…
- You can’t take things too personally, even if it seems personal. Rarely do people do things because of you. They do things because of them.
- You may not be able control all the things people say and do to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.
- There is a huge amount of freedom that comes to you when you detach from other people’s beliefs and behaviors. The way people treat you is their problem, how you react is yours. (Angel and I discuss this further in the “Self-Love” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
- Take constructive criticism seriously, but not personally. Listen, and then operate with your own intuition and wisdom as your guide.
- You are GOOD enough, SMART enough, FINE enough, and STRONG enough. You don’t need other people to validate you – you’re already valuable.
- If you truly wish to improve your self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-worth, stop allowing other people to be responsible for them. Stop allowing other people to dominate your emotions. (Angel and I build powerful self-confidence rituals with our students in the “Love and Relationships” module of Getting Back to Happy.)
- All the hardest, coldest people you meet were once as soft as a baby. And that’s the tragedy of living. So when people are rude, be kind, be mindful, be your best. Give those around you the “break” that you hope the world will give you on your own “bad day” and you will never, ever regret it.
As I am finishing up this post, I am reminded of all the senseless violence we see in our world today.
Please don’t attach yourself to it.
Do your best not to take it personally.
Do your best to let it go – to rise above the hate.
A small group of people may try to build barriers between us, but the rest of us can find a way to fly above them. Others can try to pin us down with a hundred thousand arms, but in numbers we can find a way to help one another back up. Yes, there are many of us out there, more than any of us likely realize, who know love is the answer. People who refuse to stop believing. People who refuse to trade an eye for an eye. People who love in a world without conditions, who love into hate, into refusal, with faith, and without fear.
And that gives me hope.
How has “taking things personally” affected your life and relationships? Do you have any thoughts or insights to share? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a reply below.
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Photo by: Bless Her Heart