Do you frequently feel offended by the remarks or actions of others? Do you take every minor event too seriously, allowing it to scare you or piss you off? Does someone else's bullying personality make you feel worthless? Do you mistake people's antics for subtle insults? Does this justify feeling offended?
Taking things too personally makes life difficult. When you take things too personally, you make yourself more vulnerable to anger, frustration and “meltdowns.” Taking things too personally is like intentionally placing a heavy load on your shoulders. Why would you want to do that to yourself?
Here’s what I have discovered: Most of the time, the way a person acts toward me has little to do with me. It has more to do with how this person was raised, how he/she deals with emotional issues, or other variables like his/her mood, energy level, or health. This is important for me to keep in mind on those occasions when I find myself taking the blame for things that are beyond my control.
Below are some of the things I have learned to do that help me to stop taking others’ comments and behavior so personally. I hope some of these ideas can help you as well!
1. For the most part, I have removed toxic people from my life. These are people who treat me rudely or who dump all their problems on me without reciprocating in a supportive way. I try to surround myself with positive people as much as possible. I definitely feel more confidence in myself when I’m hanging out with people who treat me with respect.
2. I always keep a list of my strengths and abilities to remember what my strong points are. The list is on my refrigerator door so I can review it daily.
3. I also have a list of goals alongside my list of strengths. Having things to work towards gives me a sense of self-worth and purpose. This includes things I would like to improve on or advance in. I take each goal and break it into smaller steps (called objectives) so the goals don’t seem so insurmountable.
4. I constantly remind myself that I don't need anyone's approval. Just because someone isn't happy with me doesn't mean I have done something wrong. In many cases, it means that person isn't happy with themselves and expects me to fill their unmet needs in some way.
5. I find I become more susceptible to someone’s opinion if I am feeling doubtful and placing too much of my own self-worth on his/her opinion. When I am confident in my abilities, another person’s rude behavior or negative opinion is less likely to affect me. Feeling proud and confident in my skills is more important than the passing opinions of others.
6. When I was younger, I had terrible personal hygiene habits (e.g., didn’t comb my hair, brush my teeth, shower, etc.). But over time, I learned that this lack of personal care was a big contributing factor to my low self-esteem. Now I try to take care of your physical self with grooming and dressing to look my best. I keep my clothes clean and wear clothes that fit properly. I have tossed out old clothing that doesn’t fit, is tattered, faded, etc. And I try to keep a good posture. All of these things improve my mood.
7. In order to stop taking things so personally, I try to consider the situational factors as well as the other person’s motivations and background. Improving my self-confidence and communicating assertively are key to being able to handle other people’s comments.
If you tend to take others’ comments and behavior to personally, or take life too seriously in general, here are a few more tips I would like to share with you:
- When you are about to feel offended, ask yourself, “Is what I just heard true at all?”
- Think, “Maybe what I heard does not refer to me at all.”
- Ask yourself, “Why am I allowing words and feelings to hurt me.”
- Avoid thinking over and again about what upset you. Rather, think of things that make you feel happy.
- When you take something too personally, go away alone for a walk or do some other form of exercise. This will boost your confidence, and the problem will look smaller.
- Don’t jump to conclusions too quickly.
- Wait a while before responding.
Lastly, here are a few quotes to think about:
- We often add to our pain and suffering by being overly sensitive, over-reacting to minor things and sometimes taking things too personally. ~ Dalai Lama
- To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you. ~ Lewis B. Smedes
- I cannot always control what goes on outside. But I can always control what goes on inside. ~ Wayne Dyer
- Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned. ~ Buddha
- Don’t Take Anything Personally. Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering. ~ Don Miguel Ruiz
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