When someone disrespects you, doesn't treat you well, or lets you down, it's easy to take that behavior on a personal level. Chances are he blames you for what happened or you think that person has something against you. But taking things personally is emotionally exhausting and involves completely unnecessary hard cognitive work that will end up hurting your self-esteem.
There is a huge difference between being thoughtful and taking things so personally that it damages your psychological balance. If you learn not to take anything personally, you will have greater control over your responses and emotions, you will not allow them to depend on the behaviors of others. Undoubtedly, this is a huge achievement on your personal growth path that will give you tremendous inner peace.
What does it mean to take things personally?
Taking things personally is a fairly common cognitive distortion called personalization. Personalization implies being excessively involved in situations, considering ourselves the navel of the world and thinking that everything revolves around us.
The problem is that this way of thinking and facing reality can make us miserable, generating a state of permanent discomfort and enormous mental suffering. We will likely end up experiencing emotions such as anxiety, anger, or guilt. And this is not good.
It is also true that it is very difficult not to take criticism, insulting comments or humiliations personally. The behaviors, words and attitudes of others affect us, we cannot do anything about it. But we can learn to manage these first reactions by establishing an adequate psychological distance from the situation, to prevent it from harming us or making us enter a vicious circle of recurring negative thoughts.
The most harmful types of personalization and how to avoid them
- Take on the disappointments and struggles of life in a personal way
We all experience disappointments and have to face various battles in life. But when we personalize we tend to perceive situations, in many cases inevitable, as the result of our failure or as a confirmation that the universe is conspiring against us. If they deny us the promotion, for example, we may think that the office manager does not appreciate us or is angry with us, even if in reality it could be due to a thousand other reasons.
When we take things personally, instead of considering all the possible options, we limit ourselves to evaluating the alternatives directly related to us, probably arriving at incorrect conclusions that will later determine our behavior turning into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
How to stop taking these things on a personal level?
- Awareness of your tendency to take things personally, especially when situations are out of your control or don't go as planned. Be aware of how you react to situations that cause you disappointment and learn to overcome the frustration. Do you immediately come to the conclusion that it is your fault or do you think the whole universe is against you? Recognizing that you have a tendency to take things personally is the first step in changing this thinking pattern. Only when you recognize personalization can you ask yourself if your answer is rational and can you look for alternative explanations.
At some point you will come to the conclusion that disappointments are a part of life. We can't always have what we want because many times things don't depend solely on us. It's about understanding that sometimes life is difficult, but it all becomes much more difficult when you take issues personally. We actually have to face all the problems, it's nothing personal. The universe does not conspire against you. You conspire against yourself when you take it personal.
- Recognize that you do not always know the reasons behind the behavior of others. When someone lets you down, instead of taking it personally and trying to guess the reasons for that behavior, they just think that you can't always know why people behave the way they do. The world does not revolve around you. There are a thousand other variables that can determine that person's behavior.
In many cases, criticism, offense, or even humiliation says more about that person than about you. In fact, in very few cases the extent and intensity of this behavior are proportional to what you did or failed to do, but they depend on the previous state of mind of that person, on the expectations they had and on a thousand other factors beyond your control.
- Take on other people's happiness, disappointments, and struggles in a personal way
This is the second form that the customization you can do takes. You believe that you are responsible for others, their behaviors and even their feelings. You believe that the happiness - or unhappiness - of others depends on you, so you make their struggles your own and take on their failures.
This mechanism of personalization not only harms you, since it forces you to carry a heavy burden that does not correspond to you, but also harms the other person because, by assuming his responsibilities, you prevent him from maturing and taking on his own happiness.
How to stop taking these things on a personal level?
- Question the validity of your beliefs. To what extent are you truly responsible for the success and happiness of others? It goes without saying that when it comes to people close to you, your behavior will affect their well-being, but you shouldn't forget that these people have to make their own decisions, so your influence will be quite limited.
You can't control their life or make decisions for them, it wouldn't be fair, so your level of control is limited. And this leads you to a conclusion: you are not responsible for their successes or failures, so you shouldn't take them as something personal. You may be willing to help, but you can't stop those people from experiencing both sides of life. We all have to do it.
Overcoming this second form of personalization can be a great challenge for many people, especially when they are aware that they are responsible for the happiness of their children, partner or people close to them. However, giving up feeling responsible for the lives of others is not only liberating, it probably also improves the relationship with those people: in one way or another, if you don't take anything personally, you will also be freer, you will regain control of life. your emotional life and you will be able to make better decisions from a more detached and objective perspective. It's a worthwhile change.