There will always be people who will badmouth you, no matter what. Especially when you’re trying to make it big in life.
Every person you interact with won’t care about you or your feelings, however much you might care about them. Eleanor Roosevelt famously got it right when she said:
Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you’ll be criticized anyway. You’ll be damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.
Taking things personally and blaming yourself will only slow down your progress. It might even harm your relationships, at home, or at work, or in society, in an irreparable way.
Not letting the barbs stick is a sensible way to handle them. Plus, if you don’t stop the habit of taking every slight personally, you might end up staying offended for the rest of your life. So, how could you do it?
How To Stop Taking Things Personally
The results-driven tips in this post are what you could start using right away. Here are the four practical ways to stop taking things personally and get on with your life:
1. Shed The Filter of Your Beliefs
Often the small things we take personally are the things that have roots in how we were raised, and how our perception was shaped of the way the world ought to be.
Your real worth is not determined by what others give you to believe. For all you care, whatever definitions others have fixed for you might actually be completely different from what you really are.
All you need is some solid self-confidence to assert your value to yourself, putting away all your self-limiting beliefs. You are different from, and more than, what person they believe you to be.
Everyone’s life is different. With so much cultural intermingling going on these days, it’s no surprise even within the tight-knit communities, we all have vastly different ways of thinking about the same things.
In such a world, when someone does something that offends you, your beliefs about what should happen in that situation gets challenged. Like someone not saying a “Good morning” back to you as you walk past them, or making an out-of-the-blue, uninvited, critical comment on how they feel about your dress, however much candid.
Your logic in the second case may go like this:
Hey, wait! That’s an assumption you made entirely in your own mind, without gathering any fact. And you made it fast, and now it’s making you furious. If they said something negative, you reasoned they think you’re no good on this count as well as on every other count.
Why are you so anchored to the default belief that when people say only positive things about you, or say nothing at all, is the only way they fix your worthiness?
If you look at it without that bias in place, you realize they might be simply making a guileless comment without any negative feelings towards you at all. It could just be a comment borne out of personal taste.
Nobody can say anything about you. Whatsoever people say is about themselves. But you become very shaky because you are still clinging to a false center. That false center depends on others, so you are always looking at what people are saying about you. — Osho
If you could see it that way, see it without the filter of how the world should be based on your beliefs, then there would be no need to take it personally.
Shed the filter of your beliefs, and you’re good to go.
2. Show Them You Don’t Care
Stop worrying about what people might be thinking about you when they behave rude towards you. And show them just that — give them the royal ignore.
The worst thing you could do is snap back at them with toxicity and negativity. That’s not a path to go down on. By doing that, you might be indulging a troll, and that is the absolute worst way to handle any troll.
In much of our society today, there’s this onus on people to be ostensibly kind and caring towards others. Though it’s an onus we may not personally agree with every time, but we play along anyway. We can disagree with the notion, but that brings in another burden: we must keep our divergent views strictly personal.
What that does is stop us from making a correct assessment of whether we really care about an individual, or we’re faking it for the sake of keeping up the show.
For example, if a person in your office talks daily about quitting their job any day soon, would you really care beyond a cursory limit? Would you really care, in the true sense of the word, so much care that you go home they will leave an un-fillable vacuum in your life?
The answer is probably no. The answer would have been still ‘No’ if it were a personal sphere of things.
And certainly ‘No’ if you look at the whole scale of your social relationship pyramid, with your nearest and dearest ones at the top.
So when people say things that hurt your feelings, you need to stop for a moment and think. Ask yourself if you see them as valuable people, or whether you place them at the upper levels of your social pyramid.
The crux is, almost everyone who debases you are dispensable.
If you don’t, which means their comments do not matter at all, then you can happily leave their comments and opinions behind you.
You don’t want to care about them. You don’t want to care about what they say to you. So, remind yourself, you do not really need to show those insignificant others you bother about what they say of you.
It doesn’t matter where you’re placed in life, you always need a certain amount of thick skin to avoid taking things personally and getting yourself upset in the process. Showing them you don’t care is having that thick skin.
You are what you are, and your worth is what you think it is. As long as you know that, it simply doesn’t matter what anybody says or thinks about you.
Do not hang on. Show them you don’t care, and you’re good to go.
3. Step Away From The Battle Scene
Your inner being might be fiercely baying for their blood when you take personal offence at things they say to you. After all, your mind is already in a threat perception mode, and it’s giving you signals to react for your survival.
It could even be a message, an email, a meme, an emoji—some characters on a screen—that could set you off. It’s just a digital display that’s enough to rub you the wrong way.
It’s not a real person standing right in front of you saying those things—only a digital ghost.
Once your stress response lets loose, you’re a ticking time bomb seconds away from exploding violently. And once you start reacting, you get outside the control of your thinking brain. You say things and act such you don’t ever do in your normal senses.
Whether it’s out of anger, envy, greed, hate, or something else, your impulsive reactions on the spot are never your best responses. Frankly, if someone were to film you during those moments, you might be nearly shocked to watch yourself erupting with that ferocity.
Once again, the simple rule to follow for such times: Don’t react then and there.
Viktor Frankl, Austrian psychiatrist and psychotherapist who developed the psychological approach known as logotherapy, famously said:
Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom. — Viktor Frankl
Create a space between their provocative behavior and your knee-jerk response.
Just one minute might be enough to make sure you don’t start spewing out venom in a speedy reaction. You take a deep breath and take a step back. That’s like you literally take a step back, or even leave the scene and go for a walk outside.
What this does are two things. First, you physically distance yourself from the person your mind perceives as threat. Second, your mind starts the process of rational thinking once it believes you’re safe.
After your rational brain takes over, you’re back in control. Now you can respond with careful deliberation. Now you can even choose to not respond at all.
As those skillful with words would say,
I’m not even going to dignify that with a response.
One way to gain control of your rational mind while you have removed yourself from the scene is to practice mindfulness. In mindfulness, you let thoughts come and go as you observe them without any judgment.
Here is what Osho says how mindfulness is to be experienced:
Become an observer of the currents of thought that flow through your consciousness. Just like someone sitting by the side of a river watching the river flow by, sit by the side of your mind and watch.
Or just as someone sits in the forest and watches a line of birds flying by, just sit and watch.
Or the way someone watches the rainy sky and the moving clouds, you just watch the clouds of thoughts moving in the sky of your mind.
The flying birds of thoughts, the flowing river of thoughts in the same way, silently standing on the bank, you simply sit and watch. It is the same as if you are sitting on the bank, watching the thoughts flowing by.
Don’t do anything, don’t interfere, don’t stop them in any way. Don’t repress in any way. If there is a thought coming don’t stop it, if it is not coming don’t try to force it to come.
You are simply to be an observer.
Step away from the battle scene, and you’re good to go.
4. Stop Leaping To Conclusions
People often say things without first weighing out what final effect those words could have on you. It could well be not their intention to hurt you, so why should you jump to assume they said those things just to bring you down?
We all come across situations that are emotionally ambiguous. When such a thing happens, before you jump to conclusions, ask them what they actually meant. Ask them since you felt hurt by their comment, was their original intent to make you feel that way?
People often do things that seem plain and simple un-doable.
Why did that car cut in front of you in a rush-hour traffic? But before you brand the driver as a bad-tempered thug, just give them a chance they might be in an emergency, and trying to reach a hospital fast.
Researchers call the tendency to leap to conclusions a response to Threat Anticipation. They say it actually puts you under physical and mental stress.
When you assume you’ve been wronged, you see the situation as something that’s threatening you with physical, social, or mental harm.
- First, don’t make snap judgments of others’ words or behavior. This especially holds strong importance in personal relationships. Give them a fair chance to explain, and do that before you start to pass a verdict on them.
- Second, be flexible. Be open to what explanations they offer, and accept those at their face value. Do not hold those opinions as judgments.
Remember, relationships should be navigated on solid evidence, not shapeless assumptions. When in doubt, ask them point-blank what they mean.
Allow yourself the willingness and time to suspend instant judgments. This will help foster more fulfilling relationships.
Don’t leap to conclusions, and you’re good to go.
Effects of Taking Things Personally
Taking things personally all too often drains you of your mental and emotional stamina. It also drives you to evaluate and re-evaluate your self-esteem needlessly. It may even push you towards depression once you start overthinking them.
When we take things personally, we are giving certain individuals more power over us than they deserve or should ever be allowed to have. In effect, you are allowing someone to question what you feel and believe.— Abigail Brenner
If you constantly take things personally, then you need to have some ready-at-hand strategies to avoid getting wounded by hurtful words hurled at you. Once you are armed with the right strategies, you start to find sense and peace in your own grasp of the events, not what others give you to believe.
Now, that is something this Instagram and Snapchat generation seems to lack. Despite all the good the millennials and Gen Z have done on issues like gender equality and climate change, they seem to take offence easily. For all their potential to make big impacts on the future, they tend to get upset by what other people say more often than not.
Of course, given their age, they aren’t quite equipped to handle the roughness of the world, and they can be forgiven for that. But this flaw of taking things personally is true of experienced people from older generations too. So, there is a general lesson for every one of them here.Don't always let others have a valuable say on you or your life. Even if they are logical and sensitive. Keep that in mind. Click To Tweet
The important thing with dealing with how not to take things personally is to focus on that last word: personally.
The words thrown at you become an issue that’s in your hands. As long as it’s in your hands, you can choose your response. After you have spoken, and the words have left your mouth, you lose that personal power over it.
So, stop taking things personally and feel more powerful for it.
Remember what Mahatma Gandhi said:
Nobody can hurt me without my permission.
Now watch Julia Kristina, M.A. Psych, telling us how we can get better at not taking things so personally:
By the way, how do you handle criticism from your boss, partner, or family? Read what the experts advise.
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Authors’ Bio: Ashley Halsey is a professional lifestyle writer, working at Lucky assignments, writing on topics relating to travel and personal development. Sandip Roy is a psychology writer, happiness researcher, and medical doctor. Founder of Happiness India Project, and chief editor of its blog.
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