Years ago, I was in a relationship where I tended to take many things personally that had absolutely nothing to do with me. I didn't realize it at the time, but I was dealing with a lot of insecurity and emotional mayhem. I made plenty of things about me, and reacted from a space of woundedness, rather than a space of empowerment.
Good news is that I've done a lot of inner healing work since then. I rarely deal with that insecurity anymore, which helps me take things much less personally. I also engage with some spiritual practices that help in this area, such as meditation.
When we interact with people, whether it's loved ones, coworkers, strangers, or acquaintances, many things they say or do will be a direct result of their perspectives and life experiences. Their words, attitudes, or behaviors may have little to nothing to do with us.
If we're not operating from our own sense of peace and security, we're more apt to take things personally.
For example, let’s say my spouse comes home and says to me, “I feel like everything’s out of control. The house, the yard – there’s so much to do.”
I could respond or react in various ways.
If I respond from a space of harmony and security, I may say something like, “Whoa. Sounds like you feel overwhelmed, honey. Do you want to talk about it?”
Or, if I’m coming from a space of insecurity or emotional overload, I could flip out and say something like, “Oh my gosh! Are you kidding me? I just spent three hours cleaning the house and we worked in the yard last weekend! I can’t even believe you’re saying this to me right now!”
In this case, I would be taking it personally.
If you’ve taken things personally, you’re not alone. We’ve all done it at times.
Be gentle with yourself. Good news is you can learn how to take things less personally.
The first thing you can do is pause before making any response.
Take a couple of deep breaths and relax your body. This will help you from going into fight, flight, or freeze mode, which will help you think more from the rational part of your brain.
In addition, here are five mantras you can use to help you in the moment:
1. “This Is More Likely to Be About Them”
Granted, it’s not always about them, but if you’re prone to take things personally, this is one mantra you’ll want to learn. When you get that feeling in the pit of your stomach, where you want to lash out or react harshly, pause.
Think, “This is more likely to be about them”.
This will give you a few moments to gauge what’s going on in your thought life.
Are they really attacking you? Or is this about their emotions, feelings, beliefs, or perspective?
2. “I Can Listen Without Reacting”
This mantra helps me a lot. It helps me remember to be present and just listen to others without jumping in with some sort of reaction.
You may have a response, but let your wisdom and intuition guide you.
3. “I Am Valuable And Worthy”
This mantra will help you in many areas of your life. When you’re feeling valuable and worthy just because you’re you, you are less likely to take things personally.
So, give yourself big doses of this mantra daily. Say it over and over till it gets into the marrow of your bones (metaphorically speaking).
4. “I Am Not Responsible For Others Feelings”
This is the kind of mantra we all need to embody.
You’re not responsible for other people’s feelings or levels of happiness. We may have been taught that somewhere along our life journey, but we can drop that belief starting today.
In the same way, we are responsible for our own feelings and level of happiness. That means we shouldn’t pin it on our partners, parents, leaders, etc.
You keep your side of the emotional street clean and let others keep theirs clean.
We can be present and hold space for others emotionally, but we don’t have to feel responsible for them.
5. “I Don’t Have To Be Perfect”
A lot of us feel like we have to be perfect, which can certainly cause us to take things personally.
The good news is that you don’t have to be perfect. And, you’re not ever going to be!
(There, I’ve let you off the hook.)
A long time ago, I learned a wonderful phrase from the 12 Step support group community:
“It’s progress we’re after; not perfection.”
It’s even alright to take things personally every so often!
The key is to learn from your experiences and work on making progress in whatever area you desire.
Aim for the kind of perspective that takes things less personal. In a world where there’s a lot of angry people ready to violently act on a whim, aim to be the kind of person that is centered and empowered with peace and harmony.
It might take some practice, but it’s doable.
I’m living proof.