People are always going to be saying things about you, and not all of it will be good. But if you’re like most of us, you’re going to take negative things personally. You’re human, and it’s normal for us to do so. In this article, we’ll discuss why you shouldn’t take things personally, plus 16 easy tips on how to stop taking things personally.
Why you should never take anything personally
Giving away your power. When we take things personally, we are allowing the behavior of others to dictate our behavior. It’s like we are putting ourselves at the mercy of others, hoping they will be kind to us and say nice things about us.
Wasting energy. Energy is finite, and worrying about what others say about us is a waste of energy. What if, instead, we are 100% in control of how we react and respond to circumstances in our lives? What if we can accept that others have their own beliefs and opinions that may be contrary to yours?
It’s not about you. Most of the time, the rudeness of others is not about you at all. Rather, it’s a reflection of their own issues. Sometimes people feel the need to vent, and they may use you as a target. You may have been in the wrong place at the wrong time.
15 Ways to stop taking things personally
1. Love yourself, first
Your self-worth is not defined by others. It is defined by you, so it shouldn’t matter what others say about you. What matters is what you think of yourself.
For example, I grew up in a culture where straight hair is considered beautiful and ideal. For years, I straightened my hair, until I discovered that curly hair is also beautiful. Today I proudly walk around with my big, bold, gorgeous curly hair, knowing that not everyone loves it, but I don’t care because I love it! Self-love is essential if you are learning how to not take things personally.
2. Question the meaning of a behavior or comment
If someone behaves poorly or says something mean to you, consider that it may not have been malicious. For example, when I was working in the corporate world, I’ve been told on more than one occasion that I walked past someone without greeting them. I don’t remember this, but more importantly, I would never deliberately do it. I consider myself to be kind and polite and the thought of ignoring someone seems foreign to me. So when I unknowingly behaved poorly, it really wasn’t about the other people–it truly was all about me. I must have been so distracted that I couldn’t see straight.
Another great example is that in some South African cultures, men would not shake a woman’s hand first because they believe that to be impolite. They want women to comfortably initiate the contact. If you are a woman who is not familiar with this, you may feel that you are being disrespected.
3. Question criticism
If you have encountered criticism, is it possibly constructive criticism?
Constructive criticism may not sound good in the moment, but it comes from a place of concern for your well-being. If that’s the case, perhaps your attitude should be one of gratitude that someone will put themselves in an uncomfortable position to help you.
4. Look at it from a different angle
Would an unbiased bystander look at the situation in the same way you are looking at it, or might they have a different perspective? Sometimes you may be too close to a situation where you automatically see it through foggy lenses.
5. Remind yourself that others do not define you
The opinions of others do not define you. Your mistakes do not define you. The price of your clothes/house/car does not define you. You and only you can define yourself, and you are entitled to be whomever you want.
6. Understand that you will not make everyone happy
So why try? Some people will not like you, no matter what you do. That’s their business. Allow them to be themselves, while you are your fabulous self.
7. Keep yourself busy
When you’re busy, you don’t have time to think about trivial things or to care about what people are saying. An idle mind can bring on a slew of thoughts and emotions, some of them negative. Don’t get caught in that nasty cycle of negative thoughts by keeping your life busy with things that interest you.
The idea is to fully immerse yourself in a hobby or activity that you love. Over time, you will attract like-minded people who want to discuss your mutual topic of conversation.
8. Build your confidence
Become so confident in who you are that no one’s opinion, rejection, or behavior can rock you.
One of the biggest reasons we take things personally is because of personal insecurities. When we are insecure, we tend to be more self-conscious and susceptible to the judgment of others. To build confidence, we have to incorporate self-love into our lives.
The beautiful thing is that when we are secure in ourselves, we tend not to care about what other people think. Confidence is not, “they will like me.” Confidence is, “I’ll be fine if they don’t.”
9. Question Your Thinking
Consider why you are taking things personally. If people are saying things about you, are you taking it personally because what they are saying is true or untrue? Then remove people from your life who do not have your best interest at heart.
There may be people in your life who do not want you to succeed. Or there may be people who want you to succeed, but not more than them. These are people who may give you fake compliments, minimize your accomplishments, or they may compare their progress to yours. While people like this may not seem detrimental, you really should try to remove them from your life because subconsciously, you may start to believe the negative things they are saying.
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10. Work on yourself so that what they say doesn’t bother you
This takes work and a lot of self love!
For clarification, allow me to tell a little story. When I was a teenager, my self-esteem was so low, I never wanted to stand out in any way. Then recently I was invited to an aunt’s 60th birthday bash with all my old friends and family. While everyone was dressed up, I arrived in my exercise clothes, (long story,) and a huge, unmissable brace on my left leg, (another long story). The point is, I stood out like a sore thumb! The old me would not have imagined setting foot at that party, but the current me honestly couldn’t care less. I had not seen my aunt in years, and it was more important to me to be there, than what I looked like.
It has taken many years of self-love to grow into a person who really couldn’t care less about what others say. The journey is long, so start working on yourself.
11. Don’t take the bait
Sometimes people are mean and they may say things to see how you’ll react. Don’t take the bait–not everyone deserves your response or even your recognition. It’s easier to fall into their trap than to ignore it. Keep in mind that a reaction feeds their meanness.
Also, keep in mind that your energy is finite. Don’t use your energy to fight someone else’s battle. Instead, use it to focus on you and your own goals.
12. Stop Making Assumptions
We tend to take things personally when we misunderstood what someone else is saying. For example, an innocent compliment can be misinterpreted as a satirical remark.
This can cause all kinds of unnecessary pain. Try to catch yourself before you start making assumptions, or coming up with your own conclusions about what a person says or feels about you.
13. Ask for Clarification
Confusion and misunderstanding disappear with clarity, so never be reluctant to ask someone to clarify their words or provide more detail. Asking for clarification is a great idea because it decreases the likelihood of misunderstanding and assumptions.
Consider also that different phrases mean different things from culture to culture. For example, calling someone crazy may be meant as a compliment in some cultures and communities.
14. Know yourself
Knowing who you are gives you a tremendous confidence boost. When you know yourself, you know your boundaries and your standards. There is nothing anyone can do or say to disrupt your tranquility and pride because you are confident in who you are.
Learn to know yourself by detaching and distancing yourself from any negative ideas and emotions that have been forced upon you by others.
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15. Be Assertive
When it comes to the meanness of others, we can ignore them, repress our feelings and internalize negativity, or we can choose to release our feelings through assertiveness. But many of us shy away from assertiveness, incorrectly thinking that it implies rudeness.
But being assertive does not imply rudeness–you’re simply standing up for yourself. You are demonstrating to people your boundaries and your disapproval of their negative or derogatory language and/or behavior.
An added benefit of being assertive is that it creates a sense of control over yourself and your circumstances.