Have you ever felt like everyone, everything is against you? For example, the barista at the coffee shop did not acknowledge you as you picked up your morning coffee; you tried to have a deep conversation with a friend, but she barely heard a word you said and then quickly had to go; you keep getting in to petty arguments with your spouse, partner because you feel like they are constantly disagreeing with EVERYTHING you say; someone purposefully cuts you off in traffic; no one understands or can relate to you.

Ugh, I know I’ve had plenty of these days in my life. It is also a big topic that comes up in my work. The number one thing that can shake you out of feeling like this is, to become aware of what is happening. Which is that you are beginning to take things personally when it’s not personal.

I thought I could talk about the “one reason” we make it personal, but as I started writing I realized that it can be different for each of us. It depends on our individual experiences, beliefs, thoughts, what is going on in our lives, and so much more. 

Here’s a list of reasons based on what I have learned from the women I’ve worked with and from my experiences. This list is not exhaustive but can help get you started on understanding why we can fall into the habit of taking things so personally.

  • Not trusting yourself. When you are not trusting yourself, you begin to trust the people around you. You start to believe the thoughts, comments, actions of the people around you instead of your own.
  • Caring too much what other people think. When you care too much about what other people think, you are handing over your power of how you feel and think about yourself. 
  • Unrealistic expectations. When you have unrealistic expectations of how people “should” act or what they “should” say or how a situation or event “should” go, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. We cannot predict what people are going to say, what they are going to do or the outcome of any situation or event.
  • Lack of self-confidence. When you don’t have confidence in yourself, it is easy to interpret comments in a negative, hurtful way.
  • Being hard on yourself. When you are hard on yourself it makes it easier for others to also be hard on you.

Taking things personally is not a fun place to live from. So what can you do? 

First, return to practicing self-care, self-love, and self-compassion (S-CLC). When we are taking things personally we begin to lose connection with ourselves and begin to look outside of ourselves for approval, love, and compassion. Take a look here for some S-CLC reminders. 

Second, remember that NO ONE can make you feel a certain way. When we take things personally we are ALLOWING someone else to make us feel a certain way. This one sounds simple, but not necessarily easy. When someone hurts your feelings or says something you consider to be insensitive or rude, it’s your choice on how you are going to react and/or feel. You can choose to allow these comments to affect you or you can choose to ignore them. You can also choose to no longer surround yourself with these people. Although, sometimes this can be difficult when it is our family members or co-workers. These are the situations when you will want to come back to your S-CLC practices. Maybe you can limit how much time you spend with them, or you can consciously prepare yourself to be around these people. For example, set an intention or repeat a mantra such as, “It is not personal.” or “I love myself.” or “I take of myself.” When you find yourself feeling uneasy or starting to take things personally, repeat your mantra.

Lastly, we never know what is going on in other people’s lives. You don’t know if they are hurting, struggling, feeling lonely or depressed. I like how Don Miguel Ruiz, the author of The Four Agreements explains how to not take things personally. He states that nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves. All people live in their own dream, in their own mind; they are in a completely different world from the one we live in. When we take something personally, we make the assumption that they know what is in our world, and we try to impose our world on their world. Even when a situation seems so personal, even if others insult you directly, it has nothing to do with you. What they say, what they do, and the opinions they give are according to the agreements they have in their own minds.

“Try not to take things personally. What people say about you is a reflection of them, not you.” Unknown author