How To Stop Taking Things Personally: 5 Habits

As humans, we are naturally social beings. Many of us define who we are through our interactions and the eyes of others. We tend to seek happiness and self-worth in those around us, with varying degrees of intensity depending on the nature of our relationship. Those that we get along with well do a great job of satisfying our needs. Then there are those who don’t and our self-worth suffers. We may feel offended, angry, frustrated because there is a conflict between our needs and the actions and attitudes of others. We have to stop internalizing and stop taking things personally.

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Take for example the person who doesn’t thank you when you hold the door for them at the store. Or how about the guy who cut you off on the way home from work yesterday? How about the co-worker who is rude to you at the morning meeting? A friend who doesn’t invite you to a gathering? These actions have absolutely nothing to do with us internally. Nothing to do with who we are, so we have to stop taking these things personally. But why can’t we? Because like I said earlier, humans tend to define their self-worth through others, whether they are close to us or complete strangers.

The good news is that you can learn how to stop taking things personally. There is no quick fix and it is an ongoing process that will take time, but it can be done if you implement these 5 habits.

1.) Stop Taking Things Personally By Taking a Moment To Breathe.

When you find that you are beginning to react to an incident, take a second to breathe. Close your eyes and focus on your breath. Doing so will give your mind a second to pause and think about your next action. If you typically curse the person who cuts you off or gets angry because someone cancels on you, this breathing technique will give you a chance to de-escalate and question the situation.

2.) Ask Yourself Questions.

Now that you have had time to breathe and interrupt your natural triggered response, you can ask yourself questions surrounding the situation. This will help you gain clarity about what just happened.

  • Did I just understand this person correctly?
  • Did they understand me correctly?
  • Am I interpreting the situation correctly?
  • Does this really matter?
  • Why is this affecting me?

What if the person who cut you off has a sick kid and is rushing to get them to the hospital? What if the person who didn’t thank you when you held the door just found out their father is ill and their mind wasn’t in the right place? Maybe that co-worker who was rude to you just got chewed out by a supervisor? There are all kinds of reasons why people do what they do and  99.99% of the time, it has absolutely nothing to do with you. Question, Question Question.

3.) Stop Taking Things Personally By Giving Up Control.

One thing for certain is that the only thing you can control is you and your emotions. You cannot control what others say or do. Their actions and words have absolutely no impact on who you are as a person so don’t give them the power to do that. If you only remember one thing from me, remember this: YOU AND ONLY YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR EMOTIONS.

Focus on what you can do. You can control your response. You can be assertive. Maybe you can limit your interaction with that individual or circumstance. You can talk with the person about how things affect you. You can smile and go about your day. Give up control.

4.) Focus On Something Positive

Stop taking things personally by focusing on something positive. When you feel like you are taking something personally and you feel anger, frustration, or self-doubt coming on, think of something positive. Something that brings you up. This works great in almost all situations where you want to bring your mood back to one of happiness and peace. I always think about my kids and a special moment I had with them. They make me feel great because I know they love me just as I love them. They look up to me and they depend on me. The whole world can hate me but as long as I have them and my wife, it doesn’t matter.  That is something so positive that nothing can bring me down. Right now I have a 6-month-old and he is so amazing. Thinking of that little guy makes stress just melt away.

The same thing works in relationships. Sometimes our significant other or someone close to us may do or say something that affects us. Instead of taking it personally, think of a memory that you shared that makes you feel good about your relationship.  Keeping positive memories on hand is a great thing to have in your personal growth toolbox.

5.) Realize It’s Not About You. Some People Are Just Dumb.

When confronted with situations that you may take personally, it most likely is not intentional. Some people do not have the same manners as you and are not as kind or thoughtful. Just shake your head, and move on. Trying to figure out why they are that way or did what they did is a waste of energy. It’s also a control issue on your part. See #3. In most cases, it’s just the way they are. If they are rude to you, they are probably rude to everyone. If they ride you in the slow lane, they ride everyone. Most people don’t spend time thinking of ways to ruin your day. If they are, then it should be obvious that they are the ones with the major issues. Most times, however, some people are just dumb and insensitive. It’s not about you.

Taking things personally is something we all do at times, but we don’t have to be plagued with it. You have the power to let things slide off of you like water off a duck’s back. Think of how great that would be! Implement these 5 habits and your life will become less stressed, your days will be less frustrating,  and you can use more of your energy to focus on things that matter.

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