I once was told that taking things personally is one of the most selfish things a person could do.
This statement stuck with me and I found myself sharing it often. Not wanting to be a hypocrite (or selfish), I decided I had better start paying more attention to whether or not I regularly took things personally. To my dismay, I realized that I did…far more often than I wanted to admit. I also found that when I did, I felt bad about myself. I felt bad about other people. I felt bad about the situation. I felt bad about everything. Yuck.
After suffering a bit longer, I decided it was time to stop taking things so damn personally. Here’s what I did….
When my husband made a wisecrack at my expense, I took it as teasing (and actually laughed with him) rather than as him trying to make a point. When a coworker didn’t smile back at me, I told myself he must be having a bad day rather than that he must not like me. When a friend called to cancel happy hour, I believed her reason of being too busy with work rather than feel sorry for myself because she had more important things to do. When my boss gave me feedback on my argumentative communication style, I told myself how lucky I was to have someone who cared enough to help me see how my actions were impacting others rather than get upset with him for not taking my side. When someone didn’t like my idea, I didn’t get my feelings hurt; I told myself I needed to vet my idea more thoroughly and work on my delivery rather than that my teammates were being dismissive because they think I’m stupid.
You know what happened? My life dramatically improved. Every time I put a positive spin on my perception of a situation or conversation, I relaxed. I also found it much easier to be accountable for my actions. I became more open to hearing and considering different opinions. I became less attached to my own ideas. It was easier for people to talk to me and give me feedback. I was happier. I think I even became more likeable. I know I liked myself a whole lot better.
I would like to encourage you, too, to stop taking things so personally. You will not only improve your life, you will improve the lives of everyone around you. You will be happier. And you being happier makes the world happier. And we all know that the world could use more happiness.
Here are five things you can do to stop taking everything personally:
1. Don’t make other people’s rudeness, grumpiness, curtness, etc. about you. It’s about whatever is going on with them. Smile, internally wish them well, and move on.
2. Consider all feedback constructive. The more you get the better you will be, even if the feedback doesn't feel valid. Make modifications and apologize when necessary. But don’t take any of it personally; instead be grateful for it.
3. Don’t expect people to read your mind. If you do, you’ll regularly find yourself disappointed. Face it, most of us aren’t psychic so there is no point in expecting others to know what going on inside of you. Always be honest about how you feel and what you are thinking. Candidness matters.
4. Don’t make assumptions. You don’t really know what other people are thinking or feeling so don’t assume. Plus, incorrect assumptions cause undue suffering. If you don’t know, ask. Even if you think you know, ask. Seek to understand.
5. Tell yourself a different story. Each of us view the world through our individual lens. We all have deeply rooted biases and personality types that influence the color, texture, and feel of that lens. Our lenses are shaped by our parents, family, friends, and communities, and by our experiences. How each of us sees the world is very personal and very different. And that’s what makes the human species so amazing. But it’s also our biggest downfall. We fall in to the trap of thinking that our thoughts and feelings are THE TRUTH. “I am right and they are wrong.” Even people who are highly self-aware find it difficult to break outside of their own way of thinking. None of us really know THE TRUTH. We really only feel and see our own truths (which may be flat out wrong). So if you are taking something personally, recognize that the story you are telling yourself is just that: a story and there’s a good chance it’s wrong. Why not tell a different story? One that doesn’t involve turning angels into demons.
Not taking things personally takes effort and persistence but it’s worth it. You’ll be much happier and feel better about yourself when you able to let things easily slide off your back. You’ll be more open-minded and better able to take feedback when you let other people have their own opinions without becoming defensive or protective. Life is better when you turn your story from a negative one to a positive one.
As always, thanks for reading! Please feel free to share, like, and comment if you are so inspired. Please click here to sign up to have my blogs sent directly to your inbox. Just scroll to the bottom of my homepage.
Sometimes life just doesn’t go your way. Rejection, disappointment, failure, and hurt feelings are an inevitable part of life. How you deal with such events, though, determines how happy and successful you are in life. That’s right...your attitude, mindset, and actions can turn tough experiences into positive, life changing ones…if you choose.
The key to bouncing back is being resilient. Psychology Today says that resilience “is that ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever. Rather than letting failure overcome them and drain their resolve, they find a way to rise from the ashes. Psychologists have identified some of the factors that make someone resilient, among them a positive attitude, optimism, the ability to regulate emotions, and the ability to see failure as a form of helpful feedback. Even after misfortune, resilient people are blessed with such an outlook that they are able to change course and soldier on.”
Sounds great! Who doesn’t want to be able to turn misfortune into fortune (or at least be able to appreciate and learn from the lesson in it)? But for most people, it’s easier said than done. Here are some ways you can build up your “bounce back” muscle.
Take Responsibility for Everything that Happens to You
The only way you can build resilience is to take responsibility for your life. Resilient people refuse to be a victim. Things don’t happen TO you, they happen BECAUSE of you. This may sound harsh but adopting this mindset is the only way to empower yourself to change your situation, no matter what. To do this, I employ counterfactual thinking. According to Wiki, “counterfactual thinking is a concept in psychology that involves the human tendency to create possible alternatives to life events that have already occurred; something that is contrary to what actually happened.” Let’s say your boss gives you feedback that you disagree with. In your mind, you justify why you are right and she is wrong. You tell yourself that she doesn’t see all that you do and she isn’t worthy of being your manager. You shut down and don’t make any changes. This type of thinking gets you pretty much nowhere, keeping you stuck and unhappy, the opposite of resiliency. If you employ counterfactual thinking, you might ask yourself, “What if she’s right? When have I exhibited this behavior? What do I need to do to change? How can I step up and improve myself? Perception is reality so what do I need to do to change this perception?” Owning it means you can change it. If you want to be resilient, refuse to retreat, deny, ignore, or blame. Remember, things don’t happen to you, they happen because of you.
Change Your Approach
Once you’ve accepted responsibility for your situation, now you can change it. Analyze what went wrong and why. Come up with a plan to make necessary changes. Then put your plan into action. Let’s say the feedback your boss gave you is that your performance is mediocre. She feels that you only do the bare minimum to get by and that your teammates feel you don’t pull your weight and are becoming resentful. After some self-reflection, you start to see why they feel this way. You never stay late, never offer to help your co-workers, and never volunteer for side projects. Sure, you have a life outside of work, but so does everyone else on the team and they are making sacrifices to be great teammates so why aren’t you? After acknowledging their feelings and apologizing, you decide that if your teammates stay late, so will you. You take on a small side project for your boss so you can start to build her trust. You ask her to give you real-time feedback on your performance and you find a co-worker who will agree to hold you accountable to being a better team player. There’s nothing like changing something that is holding you back to build self-confidence which leads to being able to bounce back from hard situations.
Build Your Support System
Having a shoulder to lean on makes all the difference in the world when bouncing back and people who are resilient take the time to build a strong network of people whom they can rely on to help them through tough times. It doesn’t have to be a big network, just a strong one. My network includes my husband, my mom, a few mentors, and a few highly trustworthy co-workers. It also includes people who help me stay well such as my massage therapist and acupuncturist. It’s not huge but it has depth. If you don’t have a strong support system, it’s not too late to start. Reach out to a few people you can trust and start to build friendships. Hire a therapist or a life coach. Lean on members of your family. Don’t fall into the trap of telling yourself that you alone and that no one cares…doing this only weakens your “bounce back” muscle.
Do Something That Makes You Happy Everyday
There’s no better way to improve your life than by doing something you love every day. No matter if everything is going right or everything is going wrong, doing something that brings your joy, happiness or satisfaction will increase your resiliency. Read a good book, ride your motorcycle, do yoga, play with your kids…do whatever you need to do to bring a little joy into your life. Feeling lost about what makes you happy? Go for a walk. I promise you, there is nothing better at improving your mood than moving your body and a walk will always make you feel better.
Take a Deep Breath and Let it Go
Letting go is the only way to truly be resilient. There’s no point on holding on to old baggage…all it does is weigh you down. And beating yourself up over and over breaks down resiliency. So do yourself a favor, stop the negative self-talk, forgive yourself and anyone else involved, learn from the situation, and move on. Just take a deep breath and let it go. It is what it is; the most important thing now is doing what you need to do to go forward.
Don’t Give Up
The fastest way to not bounce back is to not bounce back. Giving up is an excuse. You must always keep trying. Yes, you will have to change, grow, and ask for feedback, which isn't always easy to do. Perhaps you will have to get professional help. But whatever you do, don’t give up…not if you want a happy and successful life. Think of the most successful people you know. Maybe they seem like they just breeze through life but in reality they, too, have had to overcome setbacks and negative experiences. You must dig deep and summon up the determination to handle whatever life throws at you and to persevere no matter what.
Life takes all kinds of twists and turns. Sometimes it meanders along; other times it feels like everything is right on track. Then again, maybe sometimes it feels like it’s in a free fall towards rock bottom. Being resilient allows you to go with the flow, no matter the situation. Don’t let your mistakes and failures take you down. Look at them as research on how not to do something and bounce back stronger than before.
Thank you for reading and please feel free to comment, like, or share. I appreciate you all spreading the love if you are so inspired. Click here to sign up to receive my blogs in your inbox.
A Quick Blurb on what this blog is about.
Welcome to my blog! My name is Kerry Siggins and plain speaking, honest leadership is my mantra. My intention is to help those who lead (or want to lead) become better at saying and doing what needs to be said and done in a way that it can be heard and seen, one person at a time.