When I was a young person I, like many other young people, was of the silly belief that everything I said and/or did was noticed by other people. Being quite insular, I believed that the things that were said to me were all about me and what I was doing wrong. I didn’t know how to separate my feelings from the words of others - I took just about everything personally.
Needless to say, it was an exhausting way to live. Relying on the words of other people for a sense of validation and self-worth AND looking for evil hidden meanings in those words is surely not anyone’s idea of fun. But as I’ve become older and experienced some of the best and worst that this wonderful thing called LIFE has to offer, I’ve become privy to a fundamental truth:
None of us can predict or control what another person says to us. Their words are just that – THEIRS. Our reactions are OURS. Oftentimes, the words coming out of a person’s mouth are more a reflection of them, where they’re at, and how they see things. We don’t have to make it about us.
How do you react when somebody says something to you, or at you, that you don’t like? Something that actually makes you feel horrible about yourself? Do you take a moment to pause and reflect on whether or not you should take what was said to heart? Whether or not in fact it had anything to do with you at all? Or do you automatically take the words personally and allow them to influence and affect you in a negative way?
Now, before automatically letting another person’s words (or advice, or criticism, or whatever) in, I pause and reflect. I STOP the autopilot reaction of ‘I’ve done something wrong, I’m not good enough’ in its tracks and consider whether or not the words are something that I need to give heed to, or not. This exercise alone has improved my quality of life!
Here are three things YOU can do to help you stop taking things personally:
1. STEP OUTSIDE OF THE SITUATION
This is where I pause and reflect. When we’re very close to a situation (for example, when we’re involved in a personal conversation with another person) our emotions tend to rule the show. Before we really know what’s happening our minds can be filled with negativity – shame, disappointment and self-sabotage. All of this can happen quite unconsciously.
If we force ourselves to consciously take a small step back and consider what is being said to us before our emotions settle in and take over, we should find ourselves in a much more capable frame of mind, and position. We give ourselves the space to reflect on what has been said, and to then decide how we will react.
We may choose to take what was said as constructive and helpful (whilst still not taking it ‘personally’) or we may choose to discard the words altogether. Either way, the choice will be ours.
2. STOP WORRYING ABOUT OTHER PEOPLE’S OPINIONS
Consider THIS the next time you feel yourself getting ruffled by the words of another:
If a person truly cared about you and had your best intentions at heart… they would not want to hurt you. At most, they would want to offer you constructive criticism or advice. And even this would only be based on their perception of you and what you’re doing - which is just that, a perception. At these times, you can decide whether or not you wish to take the criticism and advice on board. Either way, you will know that what they said was not meant as a personal attack.
If you feel that the person speaking to you does not have your best intentions at heart, or perhaps just doesn’t know you and your situation well enough to be able to offer up anything constructive… leave that person and their opinions be. You can’t stop people having and sharing their opinions – but there is absolutely nothing to say that you have to take those opinions personally, or that you need to worry about everyone’s opinions. Further, a truly toxic person may actually feed off your tendency to take things personally. Don’t give them this power.
3. KNOW THAT YOUR SELF-WORTH DEPENDS ON YOU ALONE
Lastly, understand that you alone are responsible for your sense of worth. There will always be people who thrive on helping and lifting others… and there will always be those who love to pull others down. This is life. The extent to which we allow the words and actions of others to affect and influence us is truly up to us.
We give our power away when we look externally for our worth. We fall into the trap of believing everybody else and their opinions, and disbelieving ourselves and what we believe in. Learn to listen to and trust your own intuition. Don’t get caught up in trying to live up to another person’s standards or expectations. You will never please everybody, and nor should you want to.
Remember always that other people’s words are more than likely a reflection of them, not you. Keep acting with love and integrity... and don't stress the rest.
Do you have a habit of taking things personally? Share your story in the comments.
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