Whether it’s an offhand comment or a rejection letter, it’s hard not to take things personally sometimes! Certainly, there are things that you should take personally, like when someone is intentionally trying to hurt you. But if you, like me, are a sensitive person, it may benefit you to learn how to stop taking things personally. (By the way, you can read more about highly sensitive persons or HSP’s, here).
Signs you take things personally:
- Becoming really angry or upset about minor incidents (someone taking a while to text you back or not changing the toilet paper roll)
- Feeling completely devastated by rejections (from romantic partners, schools, jobs, whatever)
- Jumping to conclusions about other people’s thoughts and feelings
- Frequently feeling resentment and bitterness towards others
- Over-valuing others’ opinions, to the point that when they disagree with or are rude to you, you doubt yourself
- Think back: Have several people in your life told you you’re taking things too personally? If so, it may be good feedback. Take it under consideration. If you’ve only gotten this feedback from one person, it may have more to do with this specific person’s baggage than with you.
Tips for how to stop taking things personally:
#1 – Look at the Big Picture
- Have faith that your feelings of hurt, anger, insecurity, worry, etc., will fade. Is this something you’ll be thinking about a year or even a month from now?
- Consider if when the incident you’re taking personally occurred, the other person was tired, sick, already upset about something unrelated, or dehydrated? You may not know, but these are some things that could explain (not necessarily excuse) behavior.
- Remember: we only see a tiny sliver of what people are going through. Even people close to us, maybe because they are ashamed, or trying to protect us.
- After the initial shock and emotions wear off, remember that rejection really is what’s best for you. You will be happiest when surrounded by people who really value you. If a job or a partner isn’t able to do that, good riddance! There will be someone or something else out there that’s a great fit.
#2 – Channel your Confidence
- Keep in mind that one comment, act, thought or opinion doesn’t define who you are. Even a string of them probably doesn’t. You are a complex, nuanced person who is constantly growing.
- Think about the people close to you and what they appreciate about you. Those folks’ opinions matter more than the opinions of a stranger or acquaintance.
- Of course, your own opinion of yourself matters most. Confidence comes from within. If you are living by your values and doing the best you can, what more can anyone ask for? If not, congratulations for being able to acknowledge that, and have faith that if you want, you can change your decisions to better reflect who you are.
- Imagine you are surrounded by a glowing beam of light that protects you from negativity. Imagine others’ opinions or actions bouncing off your light shield.
#3 – Communicate
- Ask the other person, “Should I take this personally?” They will almost definitely say no. They may not be telling the truth, but it doesn’t matter. Either way, it feels empowering to say what’s on your mind. Other possible phrasing: “I’m finding it hard not to take it personally when you _______________.” You could even add, “because of __________.”
- For rejections, ask follow-up questions. “How did you come to this decision?” or “What could I have done better?” The answers may also provide clarity and reassurance. If the answers are hard to hear, return to tips #1 and 2.
Rebecca Ogle is a licensed therapist who practices teletherapy with millennials who live in Illinois and internationally. Rebecca empowers her clients to cope with anxiety, depression, self-esteem, and relationship problems using their strengths and inner wisdom.