3 Simple Steps for When Something that Someone Says Gets Under Your Skin

Today I'd like to explore a common issue readers email me about. An issue that have been quite painful for me too in the past.

This article is about how to handle criticism or verbal attacks.

Or more specifically, what to do when something someone says really gets under your skin and hurts you.

And how to replace destructive thought habits with more positive habits and through that make this a much smaller issue.

Step 1: Let it out.

The first thing I often do after I notice that something did actually get under my skin is to talk it over with someone close to me.

By just letting it out and venting you can release a lot of inner tension and the two of you can find a more helpful and healthier perspective on what has gotten under your skin.

Step 2: Ask yourself: is the person having a bad day or year?

When my self-esteem was lower than it is today then I used to think that pretty much all the negative things people said to me was in some way my fault.

However, that is often not the case. People can verbally attack you or nag or criticize harshly because they may have had an awful day or week. Or simply because they do not like their lives very much at all.

So don't think this is all about you. There are two of you in this situation.

Step 3: Ask yourself: could there be something here that could help me?

This question is not always fun to ask yourself. And it doesn't always lead anywhere at all. But after you have calmed down by using the steps above it can be helpful.

Especially if this is the fifth or tenth time you have heard the same thing from people. Then there might be something here you would like to work on.

So at least take a minute or two to think about it.

Bonus-step: Learn how to improve and keep your self-esteem steady.

I have improved my own self-esteem a lot and teaching people to do that for themselves is something that is very close to my heart.

Because I know how it is to have low self-esteem and how limited and unhappy life can become. And I know the difference that having a mental self-esteem toolbox and healthier thought habits makes.

Less stuff gets under your skin for example. It bounces off of you. It does not drag you down and ruin your day or week.

Improving your self-esteem takes time and energy but making the effort is one of the smartest and most happinessboosting things you can do.

Two simple things you can do to start improving your self-esteem this week are:

  • When you stumble, be your own best friend. Instead of beating yourself up, ask yourself: How would my friend/parent support me and help me in this situation? Then do things and talk to yourself like he or she would.
  • Be kind towards the people in your life. Help out. Listen. Give a genuine compliment. Encourage and motivate. The way you treat other people is how they will most often treat you too in the long run. And when you are kinder towards others then you tend to treat and think of yourself in a kinder way too.

Image by Pedro Ribeiro Simões (license).

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Henrik, thank you for the read.

    There’s a way to get under everyone’s skin and we have to cope with it.

    • Thank you for reading, I am glad you enjoyed it!

      • Thankyou so much sir, your knowledge and advice realy lift my low self esteem soul come to realize the full goodness of life. Also your advice on resolving issues that realy break my heart through negative comments realy help. So thankyou so much once again.


  • Great article. I used to let what others said get under my skin and began to realize it was more of a reflection of who I was. I was terrified of what others thought of me, so naturally I tried “reputation managing.”

    When I began to realize it didn’t matter what others thought I saw that it wasn’t others saying negative things about me all the time. It was my reaction to always take things personally. I let things get to me too easily.

    So I started working on letting go of caring. Now everything feels lighter and nothing hurts anymore.

    • Thank you for adding what has helped you out in these situations, Vincent!

  • Henrik,

    Solid advice. For me it boils down to two things. Can I take positive action on what they said that bugs me or not.

    If the thing that was said can be acted on and some way improve me, I try to take it as constructive criticism and take action on it. (like you said in #3)

    If not, then there is no point of worrying about it, so I follow one of your other steps and try to let it go, or chalk it up to THEIR problem, insecurity or failings and not mine.


    • That’s a simple and direct approach, I’m glad you shared it, SJ!

  • I like the approach our good friend Henri Junttila uses when it comes to criticism which is to trying to welcome the feelings that the negative remarks has on us. Instead of resisting them, simply sit with them and let them be. Observe what’s going on with the curiosity of a scientist and when the feeling is done, we let it go and move on. If it pops back up, we repeat the process. This is easier said that done of course but if we realize that we are not our feelings, we can practice this skill and gain a lot of self awareness and self control along the way.
    Thanks for sharing, Henrik :)

    • Henri has a smart approach, welcoming and observing can be a really effective in these kinds of situations. Thank you for sharing it with us, Patrik! :)

  • neha sharma

    awesome.. the blog u write and knowledge you share is awesome and very pragmatic and very easy to follow and so easy to understand…. just awesome

  • Steve

    great read!
    I will use this



  • Lisa Anne

    Hi Henrik a very useful article as usual, and so timely as someone has just said something very judgemental that did get under my skin in the last 10 minutes – its as if you have a crystal ball and can see just what I need – when I need it. thank you : )

  • mk Jain

    Although above is fact of life now-a-days but it pains when people criticise other just to get supremacy

  • Well said, Henrik. Any time (ANY time) someone criticizes with anything other than compassion, it’s always because they see that same quality in themselves, and they’re deflecting it onto you.

  • Raquel Luzi Steiner

    I was recently taught a technique that helps me to stay in the moment when someone says or does something that bothers me. The rule is to look around you and tell yourself the colors of the objects that you see. For example, green grass, blue sky, yellow flowers, etc. This will bring you back in the moment and calm yourself down. Most of the time when we feel attacked or offended by another person it is because an old internal wound or something buried within us is being triggered. Bringing yourself back into the moment not only calms you down but helps you to keep on old issue in the past where it belongs and allows you to deal with the situation that is currently in front of you. It has really been working for me and maybe it will help you too.

  • Keerthi Ganesh

    Hi Henrik,

    As sensed in this article, in times of low self esteem, we need to be kind to ourself first up.

    I am practising that for some time now.

    Cheers :).

  • Juliette

    I am working on this issue. It seems easier. I found that protecting myself / as a pink buble around me/ helped me a lot.

  • nirmal

    hi henrik,
    xcellent one. these are the simple things , men think/talk of sans application. you have xplain and tell such a simple way to follow on….hats off to you. inspired i am that i will make my life as this should be,,,,, simple, happy and satisfied.
    thanks,keeping an eye for more fruitful TIPS>>nirmal

  • Great article! I gotta remember these tips because I get bothered a lot when someone says something to me I don’t like. Thanks!