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A dear friend of mine, Roxanne, went through a nasty breakup recently. There were a lot of stories and rumors floating around about the events leading up to their breakup, and since then, she has taken everything very personally.
If we walked into a restaurant and someone glanced at her, she would freak out and assume they had heard the rumors and were judging her right there and then.
Are you in the habit of internalizing situations, and instead of simply enjoying a moment, you’re too worried about what everyone else is thinking or saying about you? Or do you walk into a room, feel an edgy vibe and automatically feel that you are to blame?
How about we stop this habit in its tracks with this easy-to-follow guide on simple ways to stop taking things personally?
Great. Then let’s get started.
What Does It Mean to Take Things Personally?
In a nutshell, when we take things personally, we ultimately take personal responsibility for something we have no control over. You can't control another person's thoughts and reactions, and you can't assume that you have caused these reactions, either.
This assumption is your ego talking (and this is normal), as strange as that may sound. By taking a situation personally, you are trying to find a way to make a situation about you, even though it's a negative association.
Unfortunately, this can lead to negative and obsessive thoughts, replaying scenarios in your mind, and depression. When you take things personally, you also drive the people closest to you away as you struggle to make peace with a comment or situation and keep rehashing it.
Why Do We Sometimes Take Things Personally?
We are humans, and each of us experiences life differently, which makes life so beautiful and personal. So taking things personally is perfectly natural, but it’s not good to beat yourself up over something you can’t control or have no part in.
A few factors come into play when we take things personally:
11 Ways on How to Not Take Things Personally
Here are 11 simple ways to stop taking things personally:
1. Stop Thinking the Worst
It’s only natural to assume the worst when things feel uncomfortable. It’s almost as though we forget that we’re dealing with other individuals who also have their own thoughts, moods, and feelings.
It’s up to you to distinguish between what is reality and what is just a thought that’s holding your mind prisoner. There is a name for this, and it’s called catastrophizing: a cognitive disorder where we zone in and create a negative exaggeration of a situation.
Pay attention to how you feel when you think the worst. Are you sad, anxious, or angry? Acknowledge and identify this feeling and ask yourself if you are reflecting your discomfort onto this specific situation that has nothing to do with your heightened feelings.
Realizing this will help you stop taking things so personally. If these feelings continue, you may need cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to help control your negative thoughts.
2. Write It Down
One of the simplest ways to stop taking things personally is to write down your feelings. You tend to respond immediately and defensively when your mind and heart go into overdrive over something someone has said (or not said).
Instead, sit down with your thoughts and write your feelings in a journal. Chances are you’ll find the answers and realize you’ve allowed your ego to take control of the situation. Positive affect journaling (PAJ) is a great way to start your journal journey. You can also note your feelings and wait a day or two before rereading your journal entry.
This also distracts you from the situation and prevents you from overthinking it. By the time you return to your journal, you may have already let it go (#Goals).
3. Practice Mindfulness
I believe strongly in mindfulness activities since they help us deal with situations more positively and calmly.
Being mindful doesn't mean you ignore a feeling. It enables you to acknowledge a feeling and focus on what's happening within yourself and around you.
Making a mindfulness jar is one mindfulness activity that works very well in situations where you feel personally attacked. It's simple and fun to do. Fill a jar with water and add clear glue and mica powder (or glitter) to the water. Ensure there are no bubbles, and the lid is tightened.
When you feel stressed, give the jar a good shake and watch the powder swirl and dance before gently settling at the bottom of the jar. This has a unique calming effect and gives you a chance to rethink the whole situation.
4. It’s Not All About You
Stand still for a second and take a deep breath before you allow your mind to conjure up scenarios leading to this moment. It’s not all about you. Now, I know that’s a hard pill to swallow, but realizing this truth will set you free.
Everyone is afraid of rejection, and in a funny way, taking things personally is a way of being part of something, but this isn’t a healthy habit. You need to expand your perspective and look at the bigger picture.
Once you drop the idea that everyone is talking about you, you’ll find yourself enjoying the event or moment more. Remember, they have their own busy lives, so the chances they are actually concerned, thinking, and talking about you is literally slim to none.
5. Don’t Overthink It
You have to be careful of overthinking a situation as it can take over your whole life and lead to many sleepless nights.
This can become an obsession, leading to some pretty uncomfortable feelings such as self-doubt, anxiety, and depression.
In these challenging moments, you must acknowledge the uncomfortable situation (even if it's negative) and put a positive spin on it.
Make the conscious decision to look at the situation positively, and you've already won half the battle. Look at you taking back your power.
6. Remember Where It’s Coming From
Sometimes people say things that hurt us without even realizing it. For example, someone might pass a comment about a parenting style they find silly.
Automatically, you think it’s directed at you (and maybe it is, but who cares because you need to do what’s right for you and what you believe in).
Regardless, when people make mean comments, analyze the situation by:
1. Looking at where the comment is coming from. Is this someone whose opinion you value?
2. Is this constructive criticism you can work on?
3. Or is this person feeling bad about their journey, and now they’re reflecting their insecurities on you?
Keep in mind that everyone is going through their troubles, so smile politely and walk away. It’s okay to brush it off and choose not to take stuff so seriously.
7. Embrace Who You Are
When you feel insecure, give yourself a mental hug or high five, and know you are a beautiful being on a wonderful journey called life. If you’re faced with a situation where you feel that you’ve done something to cause a reaction, stop blaming yourself, and show up for yourself.
Accept that you are doing your best and cut yourself some slack. Be proud of who you are and stop comparing yourself to others. You are not responsible for how other people feel, but you are responsible for how you allow them to make you feel.
8. Ask Them to Repeat Themselves
This doesn’t sound simple, does it? But believe me when I say that asking people to clarify what they mean will save you hours (maybe even days) of wasted time overthinking and rehashing situations.
Ask the person to clarify their meaning (without getting worked up or defensive). I can almost guarantee that the explanation you receive will be totally different from your initial automatic (and negative) reaction to the situation.
9. Use Positive Affirmations
Using positive affirmations helps you overcome your feelings of self-doubt and anxiousness and reroute your brain to a place of self-acceptance and positivity. The beauty of it is you can repeat them anywhere, at any time. Take 5 to 10 minutes out of your schedule to repeat an affirmation you like, such as:
“You’re good enough, smart enough, strong enough, and worthy enough.”
Make this your daily mantra, and before you know it, you won’t need validation from other people. You are enough.
10. Find Your Tribe
Have you ever heard the phrase “cool by association“? It basically means that you are who you hang out with in your spare time.
If you're taking things personally on the reg, then it's time you reevaluate whom you're spending your spare time with.
Don't be a people pleaser just to fit in. Rather surround yourself with people who boost your self-confidence and celebrate you for who you are. You shouldn't waste your time or energy on people who make you feel less than you are.
Besides, your tribe won't make you feel inadequate or that you aren't enough. When you're going through bad times, they'll be there to cheer you up and remind you of all your positive attributes.
11. Be Your Authentic Self
Being authentic is definitely one of the best ways to stop taking things personally. Sometimes in life it's necessary to focus on yourself and what you want out of life. You shouldn't have to hide behind a mask just so that people will like you.
To be authentic, you need to practice self-love and accept yourself (faults and all). Be aware of how external factors influence your decisions and find ways to move past that need for approval or validation.
It's about trust. Trust yourself enough to walk into a tense room and not feel like it's all your fault. Trust that your personality is unique, and you have much to offer the world. Remember being authentic is a conscious decision and takes practice.
Once you show up as your authentic self, your confidence will shine through.
Final Thoughts on Taking Things Personally
With all of life’s pressures today, it’s no wonder we take things so personally. Everyone is trying to survive and climb the corporate or social ladder. We all want to be accepted and loved… so when we feel rejected, it creates turmoil in our hearts and minds.
The truth is, life is a personal matter for each of us, and we do have to take some form of responsibility for certain things that happen in our lives. But not for every little thing.
At the end of the day, we are the ones who chose to make something personal. And if we can choose to make it personal, we can choose to let it go.
It’s time to take back your power.
For more information on how to calm your mind and find peace, check out our complete guide to meditation.
Finally, if you want a simple way to reduce your stress and anxiety, then try writing these 35 mindfulness journaling prompts to live more in the present moment.