It is not about YOU. Are you taking things too personally?
Do you find that you have a habit of taking things personally? Do you feel like people's anger, frustration, concerns are a direct result of you or something you did? Do you often feel like you are walking on eggshells with someone you love, your co-workers, even strangers or passers-by?
What if others' moods, behaviors, thoughts and feelings have absolutely nothing to do with you? What if what they are experiencing is truly a reflection of their inner world?
I am not saying that we are never accountable for our thoughts, feelings, or actions towards others; we are. However, often times many people take others' actions, thoughts or feelings too personally, as though they are their own, when in reality, they have nothing to do with them.
In my experience, this is the result of what we learned while growing up. The first place we learn about thoughts, feelings, and how to interact with others is from our parents, followed by our siblings. We watch, sense, listen, and experience things from our family of origin that shape our core beliefs, then we create what I call "illusive" (false) story-lines that we think are real (but are not). These false beliefs and stories drive our interactions with others, often in a negative way.
Part of taking things personally is about being overly-sensitive to the needs and wants of others. Elaine N. Aron (1997) wrote a book called "The Highly Sensitive Person. In it, she describes how certain people grow up with a propensity for being highly sensitive to others as well as loud noises, large crowds and crowded places. They often get tired, hungry and irritable when overloaded with stimuli. There is nothing wrong with a highly sensitive person, they are simply really tuned into their environment. If you can relate to this, there are things you can do in order to manage your sensitivity.
If this doesn't apply to you, but you are having a challenging time in your life (divorce, separation, losing a job, experiencing a death, or other stress), the following will also apply:
1. Use self-talk. If someone gets angry, check in with yourself by doing an internal checklist starting with the question: Is this about me? Most often people point the finger at someone else when in reality it is not about the person in which the blame is directed! If there is something you said or did that offended the other person, be accountable for it and commit to changing your behavior. Yet, if you didn't, mentally check this off and say to yourself "This is not about me" or "This is not my issue."
2. Laugh at yourself. Are you too serious? Is it possible that you are taking things too personally when you could lighten up? Find humor in the situation! Life is really quite comical if you allow yourself to see the humor in our day to day experiences.
3. Breathe. This is the BEST resource that we have for FREE! Yet, very few people use it moment to moment to calm themselves down. Breathing deeply accesses the Parasympathetic Nervous System responsible for "Rest, Digest." Shallow breath is responsible for "Fight, Flight, Flinch, Freeze." Take 3 deep breaths while you self talk and notice how much calmer and more clear you feel. Do it this week and notice how your perspective changes!
So much is not about YOU but if you take things personally, you will believe everything is on your shoulders. This week, begin by using these basic steps to lighten your mental load. Only take on what is actually yours. Let everything else go.
You are worth it.