It’s natural to take things personally when someone upsets you. When a person hurts your feelings, it can feel like a personal attack. Let’s say you worked really hard on a project at work. Your coworker criticizes the final product in a meeting in front of your entire department. You could take their critique personally because you worked hard on this endeavor. It feels like an attack on you, but it has nothing to do with you. You may be thinking, “but they attacked my project! It’s about me.” It certainly may feel personal, mainly if they are attacking something that you feel good about. But remember that anything anybody says has to do with them. Here’s how to not take things personally.
Remember, anything that a person says has to do with their perspective
People can say all sorts of things that hurt others. That is the nature of being a human. We’re fundamentally flawed, and sometimes we don’t think before we speak. If somebody tells you they don’t like your shirt, their fashion preferences don’t have to do with you. You may take it personally because you picked out the shirt and you love it. But, remember that that is their opinion and it doesn’t impact you.
Let’s take it a step further and talk about something more emotionally charged. Imagine that your best friend doesn’t like your boyfriend. They call him a loser or attack his character. That’s hurtful, and you could take it personally. But if you step back from the situation, you can remind yourself that it doesn’t matter what somebody else thinks about your partner. Ask yourself if you’re happy in your relationship. Another thing you can try is to examine their opinion and determine if there’s any value in it. Can you take anything away from what they’re saying? There may be a grain of truth in their opinion or something that resonates with you; if not, keep living your life and don’t worry about what they think.
Why taking things personally hurts
Many of us fall into the trap of taking things personally. If a classmate or coworker is laughing aloud, you may think it’s at you. In actuality, they’re laughing at something completely unrelated to you. If somebody doesn’t respond to your text message, you may believe that they’re angry with you. In reality, they’re busy. When you go around taking everything personally, it’s emotionally draining. Many of these things don’t involve you. Most people are thinking about themselves and what’s going on with them in their lives. Likely, they’re unconcerned about what you’re up to, and taking something personally is an unnecessary burden you’re bearing.
On the other hand, you could have a suspicion or intuition that you offended someone close to you, and you’re on to something. If you believe that you hurt someone’s feelings, the best thing that you can do is “reality test” it. You can ask them directly, did I hurt your feelings?” There’s nothing wrong with asking somebody if there’s something you did that made him upset. Rather than assuming that something’s wrong and taking it personally, it’s best to check in with them. Taking things personally hurts, and it is a waste of time and emotional energy.
What can you do if you catch yourself taking something personally?
If you start taking something personally, stop for a moment. Take a deep breath, and ask yourself, what does this have to do with me? What could be going on with this person that they are behaving in this way? If they hurt your feelings, you may be triggered. What is triggering you? Imagine you’re sensitive about being left out. A group of your friends gets together, and they don’t invite you. It feels hurtful, but it isn’t necessarily personal.
It could just be an oversight. If you’re hurt by it, you could mention it to your friends. Don’t assume that they intentionally excluded you. Ask one of your friends if there’s a reason they didn’t invite you. You can also say, “next time you hang out, I’d love to come along.” Don’t make assumptions and take things personally without finding out the truth. If you notice that you have a tendency to take things personally, and you’re not sure how to cope with that, you can do something about it. One way to confront these issues is by talking about them in therapy.
Stop taking things personally and work them out in therapy
Online therapy is an excellent place to discuss issues with taking things personally. Sometimes people need a reminder that not everything is about them. One type of therapy that targets these issues is cognitive behavior therapy. CBT helps you notice any negative thought patterns you have, so you can measure them up against reality. An online therapist can help you learn techniques to cope with taking other’s actions personally. You can search for a therapist at an online therapy company like BetterHelp. You don’t have to take things personally anymore once you work on your triggers and learn about yourself.
Author Bio: Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health-related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.