Below you’ll find seven ways to stop taking things personally.
1. Understand What You Might Feel Entitled to.
Psychologist Albert Ellis–the father of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT),–argued that a person is not affected emotionally by what happens around them, instead they are affected by their interpretation of what happened. Our interpretations are formed by two things, our emotions and our beliefs.
Many emotions and beliefs are triggered by entitlement. Because we believe we are entitled to a certain reaction or response:
If I greet someone when I step into an elevator, if they are decent people, they will greet me back.
If they don’t return my greeting, they’re being disrespectful.
If they’re disrespectful, it’s because they either think that I’m not worthy of respect, or they are creepy people.
Why would they think I’m not worthy of respect? Is it because maybe I am? (lacking self-worth and confidence)
Or they are simply creepy people. (Judgment and condemnation)
See how either line of reasoning would lead someone to either feel bad or make a judgment against someone else?
There are two very important things at play here. First, my feelings of entitlement. (I deserve and am entitled to a certain response) and the possibility they they are functioning at the moment out of their personality extremes. (Which are always the result of feelings or attitudes based on entitlement).
If I can put my entitlement aside, it allows me to think about things differently.
First: I realize that I might greet people when I walk into an elevator because I believe it’s polite to do so, but not everyone shares those same beliefs.
Second: If they don’t greet me back it most usually has nothing to do with me. It is about them. Any of the following could explain why they didn’t return my greeting: they didn’t hear me; they’re having a bad day; the are completely lost in thought, or they might simply think it’s best not to talk to strangers in elevators.
So if you find that you have taken an encounter or situation personally, stop first and examine what you might be feeling entitled to.
2. Ask yourself, “How affected are you by what other people think about you?”
Why is the approval of the person you’re interacting with important to you. Realize the following:
You can’t control what others think or how they behave. Even if you follow all of the “rules” and do everything “right”, how others respond to you is outside of your circle of influence. The only thing you can control is how you choose to react to a particular situation.
If you accept yourself, and act in the way that you think is right, you’ll attract people who accept you for who you are.
The truth is, not everyone has to like and accept you. So remember that only you can establish your rules that determine how you respond. No matter what others do or say, YOU need to respond in a way that makes you feel good about YOU.
3. Most of the Time it is NOT All About You.
A lot of the time when we feel that we’re been judged or criticized by someone else, we’re actually not. Since we’re each inside our own head, we’re acutely aware of our flaws, weaknesses, and insecurities.
But other people, for the most part, aren’t. Therefore, you may think that you picked up on some criticism from a co-worker, when the reality is that they weren’t talking about you at all.
Think of the following: without a doubt there have been times in the past when you’ve taken something personally, when what was said wasn’t even about you. Keep that in mind the next time you’re tempted to take something personally.
4. Confidence Lives in Your Center.
Confidence acts as a buffer between you and the comments and actions of other people. The more centered you stay, the more confident you feel. Look at the following:
Low confidence comes from our extreme personality tendencies. In your extremes, you’re likely to bristle at any negative comment. Maybe because there’s a part of you that’s afraid that what they’re saying is true, and maybe because you have judged them as creepy and creepy people make you bristle.
If you are in your center, your confidence is stronger and more stable. When someone says something negative about you, you have the emotional resources to discern if the negative thing they are saying is really about you, or it is clearly about them and their state of mind. When in your center it is much easier to allow a negative comment to slide down the your filter like a wet, soggy piece of pasta. You allow your centered confidence and insight to discern between what is true and what is a snarky comment born out of someone else’s extreme personality tendencies.
5. Think: “NEXT - and Delete”.
When I share things blog posts invariably there are people who, while in their extremes, decide to leave less than flattering comments. Although most of the comments I receive are positive, I will, on occasion, get comments similar to the following:
“This article is absurd. Whoever wrote this must be an idiot.”
“You’re obviously not a very educated person.”
"Have you considered finding a new line of work?"
Do I take these kind of comments seriously? Do I dwell on them? Do they make me feel bad about myself? No. I like to think ,”NEXT”. Then I delete the comment, and move on to the next task on my to do list.
The next time someone says something negative about you out of the blue, one of your choices, and a choice I highly recommend is to just think: “Next - and Delete”.
6. Stop Giving Your Power Away.
When you let other people upset you, you’re allowing them to dictate how you feel. This is one of the dangers of listening in our extremes, versus listening while we are in our center. When you hear any comment while you are in your extremes, you will react in a way that gives your power away. Here are some recommendations:
Calm yourself down by taking a few deep breaths. Deep breaths feed the body oxygen and allow you to begin to relax. In a more relaxed state, it is much easier to invite yourself to return to your center.
Commit to doing all you can to get back to center so not to give anyone the power to make you unhappy, or question yourself unnecessarily.
If you feel yourself moving into your extreme, choose to take your power back by changing what your focus. Immediately think about anything you are grateful for. Feeling grateful always brings us back to center where we always make our best choices.
7. Don’t Drink the Poison.
In The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom (A Toltec Wisdom Book) by Don Miguel Ruiz, the second agreement is “Don’t take anything personally.” Here’s a quote from the book:
“Even when a situation seems so personal, even if others insult you directly, it has nothing to do with you. What they say, what they do, and the opinions they give are according to the agreements they have in their own minds…Taking things personally makes you easy prey for these predators, the black magicians. They can hook you easily with one little opinion and feed you whatever poison they want, and because you take it personally, you eat it up….”
Here are a few more insights from Don Ruiz:
“Don’t take anything personally because by taking things personally you set yourself up to suffer for nothing.”
“Even if others lie to you, it is okay. They are lying to you because they are afraid.” (Feeling entitled, or in their Extremes)
“There is a huge amount of freedom that comes to you when you take nothing personally.”
“The whole world can gossip about you, and if you don’t take it personally you are immune.”
“When you don’t take the emotional poison, it becomes even worse in the sender, but not in you.”
Taking things personally takes a toll on your happiness and on your peace of mind. Live your best, most overJOYed life by choosing not to take things personally. I hope the seven strategies above have been of value to you.