Do You Take Things Personally?
Learn How Not To
Copyright (c) 2006 Carol Chanel
Certified Life Coach http://www.carolchanel.com/
Do you take things personally and wish you didn't? Do you want to know how
not to take things personally?
Every time I say I help people learn how not to take things personally I always
get the same response – oh, I need help with that.
So how do you learn not to take things personally? I remember people used
to tell me that all the time not to take things personally. I really
wanted to stop, I just didn't know how.
Let me give you an example. I remember the first
man I really loved left me – 'rejected' me - for another woman.
I really loved this man and thought he loved me. How could I not take that
personally? It felt personal and a lot like rejection.
How did people do it – not take things personally? Did they have some
secret system? Did they have a code, some kind of DNA that I didn't have?
Well I don't know about everyone else and here's what I learned. The
reason we don't need to take things personally is because it's not personal.
It's Really Not About
How can that
be? Isn't the person who is standing there screaming and being mean to me,
saying something about ME? Isn't the boyfriend who just went four days without
calling me, saying something about ME. Or how about the girl friend who
just broke up with you for another guy, isn't that personal, isn't that about
Maybe your boss was really cool and aloof
today, 'isn't that about ME?' you ask. How about your mother who spent
your entire life not being affectionate and warm, 'Isn't that about ME?'
Do you understand where I'm going with these questions? The operative word
in those scenarios is ME. And here's the key. Drum roll please! When
someone is doing or saying something to you, it is about THEM not you or ME.
It's about THEM.
So the boyfriend who I mentioned broke my heart and 'rejected' me turned out to
be a coward, a drug addict and basically a sad human being. He went off
with a woman who could take care of him, financially. When I saw him years
later I realized I had been spared a life of misery.
If you hear yourself say 'I can't believe they did or said that to ME', then you
need to stop, take a deep breathe, and realize you used the ME word about
someone else's behavior.
We make ourselves the important part of the interaction, when the truth is the
other person is making themselves the important part of the interaction and
that's why it's about them.
That's why it isn't personal. It isn't personal. It isn't about you.
Let's look at the aloof boss.
I had a client whose boss was the
most abrupt man in the world. And she thought it said something about her.
He was just condescending, abrupt, contemptuous, overworked and that was just
his professional life. He was also cranky. Guess what? She
ultimately realized it wasn't personal, and that it didn't work for her to be
intimidated by him. That's empowering when you can say, 'This doesn't work
for me.' But as long as you take it personally, then you feel badly about
yourself and you won't change your situation.
By the way, that particular client gave it right back to her boss one day and
the whole dynamic shifted. He wasn't a bad guy, he was just a bully - as
long as he could get away with it. And he didn't have a large enough
support staff to help him, so he was irritated and cranky. They have a
good working relationship now.
I remember one time about 20 years ago I had gotten a job I really coveted.
I was so happy and loved my work. At some point they restructured the
company and I started reporting to a new boss. Now I didn't know it at the
time, but this guy was really mean and had some deep personal problems.
I started having real problems working with this man and I was crushed. I
remember sitting one afternoon crying in another director's office and he told
me, 'don't take it personally, the guy is mean.' Well at the time I
couldn't understand that.
Eventually I got married, moved and left that job. I found out later that
the guy had done some unbelievably underhanded things to the president of the
company when he didn't get his way.
Guess what, the director was right. It wasn't PERSONAL. That man was mean,
imbalanced and manipulative.
Who hasn't had a challenging relationship with a boss, a teacher, a date, a
friend or a parent?
And when you encounter those people, why isn't what they do to you personal?
Because it's about them.
Why It's About Them
You often don't have the luxury of knowing about the person's personal life.
What made them the way they are. In fact, I'll share this with you.
After working with people in various self-improvement capacities for the last 20
some years I can tell you many people have had unbelievably dysfunctional,
painful lives. It's amazing they are even functioning.
Let me give you another example. I had a male client who was deeply in
love with a woman who wasn't available.
She would draw him in and then
do something to push him away. It's commonly called sabotaging the
relationship. Well at first he took this personally. And here's why.
He had done some things
in the relationship out of his fear that he felt guilty about.
So he was sure her behavior was personal. As we coached and he looked at
why he had done certain things, he was deeply sorry. We worked to not have him
judge himself for his previous behavior and to forgive himself. He went to
her to apologize.
At first she accepted the apology and then she pushed him away again. He
got to see that she had major issues around emotional intimacy. It wasn't
personal. She had had a pretty tough life and the way she protected
herself when she felt unsafe was to lash out. And she was highly
effective! Who could blame her?
Maybe you've been with someone who is affectionate and seemingly interested in
having a committed relationship and then all of a sudden they pull away when the
intimacy gets too real. That person may be suffering from shame caused by
some abuse, or problem from their upbringing. We often will never know the
It's rarely personal when they pull away. They are afraid of being
exposed. The more I coach the more I see how shame plays an enormous role
in messing up peoples' lives and especially their relationships.
Shame plays such a significant role in so many lives that I taught a workshop on
helping people to transcend shame. It's one of the secrets that blocks
intimacy. But that's a separate article.
Do you see now that people's behavior and actions are about them? If
you go up and hit someone and they hit you back, well that's a different story.
I'm talking about the uncaused action or behavior – the yelling, the pulling or
pushing away, the aloof treatment, the manipulations, or the overreaction.
A Tool to Ensure You Don't Take Things Personally
Here's a big secret about how to not take things personally. Work on yourself to
heal your wounds. As we heal, then we can see that other people have
wounds that cause them to act or react in all sorts of ways. Often we
can't SEE the other person if our wounds are too tender. They
inadvertently hit a raw spot and we react from the pain.
Let me give you an example – the reason I was so sensitive to the 'mean' boss
was because of my upbringing from both my father and stepmother. They both
had extremely difficult and borderline abusive parents and really didn't know
how to parent. At times they were mean, aloof, critical, as well as
physically and emotionally abusive. They passed their fears and wounds on
to me. Once I healed my wounds I realized that their treatment of me was a
sad reflection of how they felt about themselves and how they were treated.
As we heal there
are less and less raw spots for others to hit and hurt. There are less
opportunities and reasons for us to react.
So the two ways to not take things personally are:
1. Remember it's not about you – it's about them.
2. Heal your wounds. Then the things people say and do won't hurt you.
While you are healing and growing, please remember when you hear yourself say:
'Why did she/ he do or say that to ME?' to take the ME out of the sentence.
Change it to 'Why did they do or say that to THEMSELVES?' And realize you
might not know the answer to that question.
My stepmother recently died. As I mentioned, she and I had had an
extremely difficult, painful relationship when I was growing up. And
fortunately I had worked to heal the pain and hurt and had repaired our
relationship. After she died, I found out something that was shocking and
upsetting about her upbringing. I remember I doubled over and cried. Then
her behavior and treatment of me made perfect sense. If only I had known.
If only she could have told us, her life and all our lives would have been so
different. And yet I'm thankful for the gift of our difficult
relationship. I learned first hand that it wasn't personal. None of
the things she did or said were personal, they were reactions from that wounded
place inside her.
You are not a victim of anyone's behavior or words. If you feel like you
are please find a coach, therapist or healer and work through those issues that
leave you feeling victimized. If you feel like a victim, then everything
will feel personal. And sometimes people are invested in being victims –
it's a pattern of behavior that is familiar even if it isn't pleasant. To
change the victim thought process takes time, a major shift in perspective and
not judging yourself when you are working through it.
And if you have been a victim of a crime or abuse then a licensed
psychotherapist is usually the best way to work through those painful feelings.
And for the rest of us, who have had experiences that led us to feel like
victims on some level, just trust that you can change your perspective from:
"A Victim of your Experiences to Victorious in your Learning!!"
Which will you choose? And please remember, IT IS A CHOICE. Will you
choose victim or victorious
Next time you catch yourself taking something personally, try choosing
victorious and see what happens. Ask yourself: "What can I learn here?"
I CHOOSE TO BE VICTORIOUS!
PEOPLE LOVE ME! I'M A WONDERFUL PERSON!
It is my intention to share with everyone I can how to not take things
personally. Please call or email me if you have any questions or thoughts
you'd like to share with me.
Here's to a Victorious Life, free of taking things personally!
Carol Chanel is a Certified Personal Life Coach who works with people by phone,
from all over the world, to help them get UNSTUCK, have more self-confidence,
feel inspired and attract romantic, healthy relationships.
You can contact her at:
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