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.

  • george orucho

    just have personal courage and confidence. Know u are a special person and u have to stop comparing ur personality with any one

  • Love this, Henrik. My entire world changed when I realized everything wasn’t about me. We tend to take things so personally because, well, we live in our skins. But you’re so right–so often, the other person is just in a bad place.
    Thank you for this!

  • Great topic. I think #3 is especially true. It’s so easy to become critical of yourself when in reality, there are other things affecting people and circumstances. Also, it’s important to just not take yourself or life so seriously. Sure, there are crappy times, people can be mean, etc. But in the end – does the situation really matter at all in the end if compared to everything else that happens in life? Is it worth wasting your energy on it?

  • Neel

    Thankyou very much. It was a very nice and helpful article. Always looking forward to your wonderful advice :-)

  • Rahila Yohanna

    Thanks ,the are inspiring more knowledge and understanding.

  • this is a beautiful work

  • This is a very useful article for anybody who values wellness and happiness.

  • Rachna Kumar

    quite inspiring but as it is said that it is often said than done , what if people take you for granted in such condition if no action is taken not only self esteem is hurt but the whole future is destroyed. so what matters is the solution should be according to the situation.

  • Rachna Kumar

    very inspiring and motivating

  • Some people get to a very unhealthy place where they think everything they hear is being said about them. They need to realize that it’s not all about them, and in fact very little of it is.

  • Awesome post Henrik!
    Only if we stop taking things personally, we can focus what is important and worth pursuing in life.
    My take out “not everything is about me” and “Is there anything that is helpful for me?” Before discarding anything it is better to think that way!

    Loved it! thanks!

  • Great post Henrik! Thank-you. All 6 habits offer great benefit. The first habit (Breathe) resonated with me the most. I use it whenever I’m faced with a challenging situation. Simply focusing on my breath or taking a few slow, deep breaths helps center me. Once centered, my reaction to the situation is much more positive and productive.

  • rachna kumar

    Really it’s been a great opportunity to come across such a thought to build and rebuild our self esteem.Actually there is a very narrow difference between self esteem and ego.some times in building our self esteem we cross our limits and reach very near to be egoist.we have to break the bubble before it is too late.