How to stop taking things personally

Taking things personally is a very common bad habit that can make life difficult for us. When we take something as an attack, it can immediately make us defensive, hurting our relationships and our reputation. It also makes us feel a lot of negativity that could be easily avoided, increasing our daily stress levels. Here are a few ideas for how to get rid of this bad habit.

1. Know yourself

The first step is perhaps the most difficult one. Get to truly know yourself and identify the things that you know to be accurate to who you are. If you know just who you are and how much you are worth, you are much less likely to be bothered by the things others say or how they choose to attack you.

Allowing yourself to believe in who you are and to support yourself no matter what will help you stay strong and avoid taking things so close to heart.

2. Don’t overthink

A big problem with this habit is that we tend to think too much. When we overthink, suddenly we make mountains out of molehills in our heads and then feel bad about something that never happened in reality.

For example, imagine that someone compliments another person’s clothes. If you are prone to overthinking, you might make it into an issue in your head – why didn’t they compliment me? They must hate me. They must think I dress badly. This is, however, not the reality. It’s important to take greater control of our thoughts and not allow ourselves to think so badly of who we are that we always assume others are doing the same. We should avoid zeroing in on a comment and making it about us.

3. Take feedback on your work, not feedback on you

Criticism and feedback can be unpleasant. But we must allow this criticism to mean that there are elements of our work that need to be improved, and our work is not ourselves.

Feedback simply means that we need to make changes in our work, it does not necessarily reflect on who we are, what we can do, and so on. We need to separate criticism of something we did from criticism of who we are and take it as constructively as we can.

4. Don’t accept everything as truth

Sometimes, we get upset over what others say about us or what they imply because we assume it must be true. However, an easy way to let go of this negative experience is to accept that others can be wrong too.

The opinion that matters the most about ourselves is our own, so if we find that someone is being harsh in regards to who we are, we don’t have to take it at all. We can just allow that opinion to be – it doesn’t mean we have to urgently start feeling ashamed or change our whole self. We can simply consider it and reject it.

5. Don’t zero in on a single explanation

It’s easy to take something personally and then keep doubling down on this explanation for a comment a person made. However, this doesn’t mean that it’s the true explanation.

Instead, we should try and consider alternative solutions. What else could this person have meant? What if we take them at face value? What if it was not about us at all? This will help us realize that just because it seems possible that someone attacked us doesn’t mean that it is actually true.

6. Distract yourself

Sometimes, it can be hard to stop thinking about what we perceive to be a personal attack. We repeat the same thoughts over and over and it can make the whole situation seem bigger than it is. When you catch yourself on this train of thought, try to distract yourself in some way.

Do a task that keeps you busy and has a clear result, do something fun and enjoyable, make art or create something, do a task that occupies your hands and your mind as well. Tell yourself to stop this thinking, that it’s not productive, and allow yourself to give it up. When you let go of negative thoughts that repeat over and over, it becomes easier to see the situation for what it is and stop taking things personally.