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Aug 6, 2009

Stop Taking Things Personally

Does someone else's bullying personality make you feel like you're worthless? Do you mistake people's antics for subtle insults? This article will highlight some ways in which you can remain unaffected by others' opinion of you, whether it's a weird look, a teasing remark, or direct criticism.

Give the benefit of the doubt. If you have a habit of taking things personally, it means that you're apt to assume someone is directing some form of aggression towards you specifically, when they might be just joking around, or having a bad day. It might be your instinct to react, or curl up into a ball emotionally, but pause for a second. Maybe it's not about you. Learn How to Gain Control of Your Emotions. Refocus your attention. When you take things personally, you shift your attention from what they said or did to how you feel. Unless you move on from that point, it's likely that you'll ruminate, and the negative feeling will be amplified. Instead, focus again on the other person.Look at how the person treats others. They might tease, pick on, or even insult everyone they cross paths with. Some people are just antagonistic like that.
Consider their insecurities. Could they feel threatened by you in some way? If so, don't feel bad for being your awesome self. Think about how you can help this person feel better about themselves. Keep in mind that the other person probably has poor communication and emotional management skills. Imagine that there's an inner child acting out, because the person hasn't learned how to deal with things in a mature way. It's much easier to be patient and feel compassionate when you visualize a learning child at the helm of their behavior. Remind yourself that you don't need anyone's approval. If you're especially sensitive to people's behavior towards you, to the extent that you regularly overreact, it might be because you've got a strong radar for rejection. If you pick up on any kind of displeasure, you worry that you're doing something wrong, and you want to fix it eagerly, anxiously. But just because someone isn't happy with you doesn't mean you've done something wrong. In many cases, it means that person isn't happy with themselves, and expects you to fill in the blanks (which is impossible).

Speak up. Let the person know that they're being harsh. Again, focus on them, not you. You're doing them a favor by letting them know how their words and actions come off from the outside. They might not realize how hurtful or aggressive they seem; and if they do, they need to know that they can't just plug in their negativity without it being noticed. Here are a few ways to approach this:Raise your eyebrows and say "Ouch!" or "Whoa! That's a bit a harsh!"
When a person snaps at you, turn to them and genuinely ask them "Are you okay?" or "Is something wrong?". If this is recurring, use nonviolent communication to (hopefully) put an end to it, and resolve any underlying issues. Stop taking compliments personally, too. If you base your self-worth on how much people compliment and validate you, then you're basically allowing others to decide how you feel about yourself. If someone compliments you, it's no more personal than a direct insult.[1] They're simply calling it how they see it, and that may or may not be accurate--only you can be the judge of that. So if someone is positive towards you, that doesn't make you a better person, it makes them a better person, because they're taking the time to be supportive and encouraging. Your value, your self-worth remains unchanged, because it's something that comes from within.

If you have a hard time with criticism in particular, read How to Accept Criticism With Grace and Appreciation.Don't stop taking things personally to the extent that you absolve yourself of any personal responsibility. If someone's acting out towards you, it is possible that you did something wrong. The focus of this article, however, is to remember that it doesn't automatically mean you did something wrong. You still need to evaluate your role in the situation. When following the step Speak up: Are you alright? or Is everything OK?, be careful to do it sincerely. If the shift of attention is felt as patronizing or implying criticism, it might detonate an aggressive response on the other person and will probably complicate the situation further.

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