How NOT to Take Things Personally…

42-15928058Last week we talked about being honest. So how do we now cope with our friends’ new found honesty and not take things so personally?

First a WARNING – to get my message across I am making huge generalisations about men and women…

So, men regularly insult each other, speak the truth and manage to stay friends – or at least on speaking terms. If necessary, men will react and say something AT THE TIME, OR they have the self-esteem (self-respect) to recognize that it’s not about them and LET IT GO – sometimes on the playing field or into a punch-bag.

Whereas women seem to bottle up hurts, slights AND take them personally. We either TALK about or internally analyse the incident, either ripping each other apart passive aggressively and complaining behind their backs or we obsess about understanding every detail of what happened.

What is this female obsession we have with UNDERSTANDING? What are your thoughts?

For me I want to know WHY the person said or did what they did. I want to know MY part. How did this happen, did I deserve it? Is it fair? Was it my fault, do I need to make amends?

And the problem with trying to understand is that it’s often deeply personal. When someone reacts negatively to something you’ve said or done, they may be feeling inadequate around you. Perhaps you ‘threaten’ their hard-won self-esteem or maybe you’ve stepped on one of their values. Or maybe they recognize something in you that’s also in THEM – that they don’t like – and therefore have to push it away.

But the chances are that if they REACTED negatively to you, they’re not aware of the reasons themselves. Because if they were aware, they would be saying something to themselves like, “Oh darn it – I’m feeling inadequate again!”, INSTEAD of ripping into you…

So, back to this need to understand. If someone doesn’t know the exact reasons for their own behaviour, how could you? We do ourselves a great disservice when we over-analyse situations, question ourselves and try to get to the bottom of everything.

The reality is simply that you, or they, felt something that you were not comfortable with. THAT is the only reality. And we need to remain OPEN to the experience and not JUDGE our response to it. We need to learn compassion for ourselves – and for them. Just because you feel or think something does not make it TRUE – but it does mean it is REAL for you in the moment. Denying feelings just bottles things up to explode later…

Looking within is a great strategy to better ourselves – BUT it’s not about finding fault with us or anyone else. It’s about accepting ALL of ourselves and taking any obvious learning that’s there. Then we need to let go. And if you need to, pummel something (but not the cat!) or talk to the person involved.

The reality is that humans are flawed – and so are friendships. That’s all there is to it.

I definitely still take things personally sometimes. The difference is these days – I check in with myself first. I ask, “Is this about me?” and the chances are that it isn’t. Then, if I think something needs dealing with, I’ll ask the person involved, “Did you MEAN to say that – because it really left me feeling bad.” Or something similar. This way if they intended to hurt you – you’ve called them on it. They’ll know you’re not a pushover and will think twice about doing it again. And if they didn’t mean to hurt you, you get to clear it up with them!

Have you read “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz? If not, this is a great starter or reminder of the principles to living an authentic life. Ruiz’ second agreement is: DON’T TAKE ANYTHING PERSONALLY. He says what others say and do is all about their own reality and how they see the world…

AND remember – it’s often simply our perception that has over-reacted. We think we’ve upset them – but really they’ve been super-busy, are tired or stressed. There’s no way you can know everything going on in their lives. So if we have a choice how we interpret something – isn’t it healthier to assume it’s about them and not us?

Picture this: When you no longer worry about the opinions of others, you’ll be FREE!

Finally, maybe next time you take something personally you’ll do something different like:

  1. Sit with it. Simply allow the experience of feeling hurt or judged until it passes.
    Phew! This is so simple but a toughie – let us know how you get on with this one!
  2. Look inside for a resentment, fear or limiting belief that has been triggered.
    If you think someone ignored you and it hurt, perhaps you worry that you’re boring and unlikeable. Or if someone patronized you, perhaps you feel inferior to them? Because think about it, if you didn’t worry that you were boring you would ASSUME they just hadn’t seen you. And if you didn’t already feel inferior on some level, it wouldn’t bother you…
  3. Speak up! If you think someone is really out of line, perhaps you’ll call them on it. Try “When you did x, I felt y. Just wanted to let you know.” Then be silent for a moment and see what happens.
    This isn’t about blaming them – but letting them know the impact of their behaviour on you – so they can behave differently in the future, or you can clear up the misunderstanding.

Note: While it’s good to push out of your comfort zone, only do what you can handle (of course you CAN handle everything, but it helps to believe that!)

And AS ALWAYS – we love to hear your thoughts or how you get on.
Let us know by “Leaving a Comment” or Reply below!

2 comments to How NOT to Take Things Personally…

  • Rav

    I think women taking things personally comes from our history – I think as women have always been the second citizens the ones viewed as weaker that we all tend to react to any negative comments which make us feel inadequate….especially now when women have come so far to be equals that we any comment made almost knocks our own individual fight to be equal and taken seriously. I know personally for me I would be simply devastated when someone would rush at me with comments or say something negative against what I was doing – this was odd as I have never felt the need to be liked (or perhaps I have).

    Now its very different, I am more comfortable with myself and so take what people say less personally. I now take a moment and look at a comment or situation, if I have contributed to it happening then I act on it, if not then I let it go and when the moment is right I bring it up with a “when you said this, it hurt my feelings because it made me feel…..” then I am silent and wait for the other person. To be honest 9/10 times the other person hasn’t even realised, and for this reason I think its important to speak up and say how you have felt – because otherwise how will that person ever know that your feelings were hurt?

    It takes a lot of self talk and being happy with yourself to really not take things personally. However each one of us should be taking steps to where we are happy with who we are and to stop feeling the need to please or be liked by everyone…….

    • Thanks Rav,
      You’re absolutely right – it takes practice and self-talk AND learning to trust yourself rather than worry what other people think (that’s a huge part of self-esteem by the way). Keep up all the good work and thanks for your helpful thoughts! EL x

Today’s Date

TrailBlazing Women


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The Mastery of Love by Don Miguel Ruiz
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