How to Not Take Things So Personally: 6 Helpful Habits

“Nobody can hurt me without my permission.”
Mahatma Gandhi

“Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you’ll be criticized anyway. You’ll be damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.”
Eleanor Roosevelt

A very common problem that can drag your self-esteem down or build up so much anger that steam may start to come out of your ears is to take things too personally.

And so you may try to grow some thicker skin and let criticism, negativity or verbal attacks just wash off of you.

But that’s often easier said than done.

So in this week’s article I’d like to share 6 habits that really work for me – at least in most cases – and helps me to reduce the stress, anger and hurt in my life.

I hope they’ll be useful for you too.

1. Breathe.

Just focus on your breathing for a minute or two (or for a few breaths if that’s all the time you got).

Focus only on the air going in and out of your nose. Nothing else.

This simple exercise helps you to calm your mind and body down a bit. It helps you to create a bit of space between you and what has just happened and by doing so you’re less likely to have a knee-jerk reaction and to, for example, lash out verbally at the other person.

Going about things this way makes it easier to respond to the situation in the way you may deep down want to.

2. Get clarification.

Don’t jump to conclusions based on what you may have just misunderstood and let that drag you down into anger or to feeling sorry for yourself.

Instead, ask questions if possible to help clarify a bit about what the other person meant.

And, if you can, explain how what he said makes you feel. We have different perspectives and ways of communicating and he might not, for instance, realize that it came across as a bit harsh or rude.

3. Realize that everything isn’t about you.

It’s very easy to fall into the trap of thinking that criticism or verbal attacks you receive are about you or something you did.

But it may simply be about the other person having a bad day, week or year. Or about how they are miserable at their job or in their marriage at this time.

And so they release some pent up emotions and tensions at you who is simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Remind yourself of this when you wind up in a situation where you are likely to take things personally.

4. Talk it out.

When something gets under your skin and you start to take it personally then you can get stuck in a negative spiral of sinking self-esteem that just gets stronger and stronger.

Break out of that or prevent it by letting what happened out into the light. Talk it over with someone close to you and let your friend share her perspective on what happened.

Maybe she knows something about how the person that verbally attacked you is going through a tough time.

Or she could just listen and through that help you to sort things out for yourself and ground you in a more level-headed perspective on what happened.

5. Ask yourself: is there actually something here that could help me?

This one can be a tough one to ask yourself. And it may not always lead to something.

But by asking it you can sometimes empower yourself. You can find one or more steps to take to improve whatever the criticism was about. You can start moving forward again and regain confidence in yourself and in what you can do.

Instead of getting stuck in inaction and in replaying what happened over and over again in your head.

This one can be especially helpful 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 (even if that might not be so fun to face).

6. Improve your self-esteem.

I’ve found that as I’ve learned to improve and keep my self-esteem steady things don’t get under my skin as often. I don’t take them so personally and I keep a healthier perspective and distance to them.

And so they tend bounce off quicker and not drag my day or week down.

One simple way to start improving your self-esteem today is to be kinder to the people in your own life.

You can:

  • Help them out practically in some way.
  • Listen when they need the help of a friend to find a better perspective.
  • Give a genuine compliment.
  • Encourage when most of their world may be discouraging.

The way you treat other people is how they will most often treat you too in the long run.

And, more importantly for your self-esteem, when you are kinder towards others then you tend to treat and think of yourself in a kinder way too.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Carole

    Thank you for all the advice you give. I am gradually learning to put it in to practise.

  • Or, the way a person treats you is most probably their way of treating others too.

    I really agree with #2 (getting clarification).

    And if I may add–don’t seek revenge. There’s always a tendency to shut out clear thinking and just get even with the other person.

    Great to hear that these habits are working for you! Thanks!

  • Atul

    Very very useful

  • Natasha

    HI!! Great blog as always :) But here’s the thing… when i see someone leading the life that im dying to have.. it makes me feel sorry for myself. Makes me feel like im never ever gonna get what they have… basically drag my self esteem down real low.. :'( maybe i take things too personally, i dont know.. :'( any advice?

    • Only a few years ago I felt like I had no purpose, that I wasn’t being true to myself and it killed me. I really had to dig deep, open my heart and mind and write down where I wanted my life to be. I watched tutorials, I started a blog, started a business and then I realized…I did a lot of risky things but I found my way. I believe you can too…no one is any greater than you! you have the same faculties and you are capable. The greatest advice I can give you that changed my life is to write a self talk out. It’s a series of short sentences that you say to remind yourself of your worth. For example, I’m bold. I’m sharp. I’m a champion and so on. I know it sounds cliché, but I has worked for me. Say what you will be until you truly are! Read, “What to Say When You Talk To Yourself” by Shad Helmsetter and “The Magic of Thinking Big.”It changed my life and it will do the same for you! Hope this helps

  • Hi. It’s my personal experience that we can easily fall in a trap of thinking that others have some wrong attitudes about ourselves. This happens when we are not in in some kind of social network. As an example religion is the main strong network that can keep us away from negativeness. Religions are for good and not for bad!

  • Meenakshi

    Thank you so much!!
    God bless you!!

  • Thank you for your blog, this was a very good one.

  • Mugerwa Lazarus

    Thank you so much for the advice that you have always provided from time to time.
    One point that has actually left me thinking is getting clarification. Gone are the days when i would just take things personally and keep everything in my heart something that used to pile excess baggage in my life. But today thanks be to your blog am a completely changed person. Today i strive to dig into something to get to its real depth and widen my knowledge about it.
    Keep up the good work

  • Loved the practicality of this article. Before I even become offended, I like to treat the other person with kindness. An eye for an eye only worsens the situation. The way we behave often has to do with our past. Bottom line, we need to heal. Remember, hurt people hurt people!

  • Gurleen

    Hey do u think, “But it may simply be about the other person having a bad day, week or year. Or about how they are miserable at their job or in their marriage at this time.” The person who can’t assess his own shortfalls could listen you out without any prejudice….wondering…living it…

  • Breathing is one of the absolute best tips for positive thinking and for relaxation. If I’m ever in a high-stress situation (life, athletics, deadlines), and nothing seems to work, stopping and reminding myself to breathe always helps.

  • lama

    This has been very helpful.
    Thank you for all your hard work. Really lifting up spirits.
    Thank you!

  • Liz

    Thank you for your advice, they are very useful and i really like this blog

  • Angelene Onslow

    Thanks for the valuable information you share to make life easier.everything changes when we think in a positive way and do things with love.

    Have a lovely and blessed day… !!!

  • Dahlia

    Hi, I’m addressing a little note to Natasha, above. You’ll move closer to the life you want if, when you see someone living that life, you feel happy for them, and try to walk, speak and act like that person in that life. You push yourself further from that life by associating that life with negative feelings.