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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110 comments… add one
  • Ravika

    This article came to my inbox at a very appropriate timing… it is something that I really needed to read today.
    Thank you so much ?

  • Michaela

    Even if someone is having a hard day and they take it out on you, it’s hard not to feel hurt or angry that they chose to do that to you.

    • I used to make excuses for people’s behavior and over empathize and it got me more abused. Check to see if there is a pattern with a person. Just because someone is having a bad day doesn’t give them the right to take it out on somrone else. As adults we are all responsible for our behavior. Whsybi fibdbironic is these very same people would complsin if they wrpere treated the way they treat others. Watch for patterns. Dr Phil says we teach people
      How to treat us. If a spouse has a bad day at work every day a d comes home and takes it out on you, excuse it once or twice, otherwise that spouse needs to get help. Don’t be anybody’s emotional punching bag, you will get sick and they won’t care.

  • Amanda

    This was really helpful thank you.

  • Miche

    Like it a lot! To my feeling, this can also apply to a more healthy way to communicate with others. Cutting out the drama is basically what I can read between the lines ;)

  • Heba

    Hmmmm. I have been through a situation at work. I was helping my supervisor in getting the agenda ready before a meeting, and I arranged one of the copies reversely! So I told her ” Oh sorry! I think we need to make another copy”. And I was suggesting a faster way of doing it , she was like ” Just stop talking!” ………
    Like….what kind of response is that? she looked and sounded rude and it wasnt really necessary! and TBH, this is not her first time to screw her interpersonal skills up!
    I gave her a number of chances by listing a number of reasons, but apparently, its just in her system & she cant help it. so I decided to fully give her the cold shoulder. Not for the sake to teach her a lesson tbh no! I do it for myself. To feel better that I am actually doing something about it. I simply decided its only gonna be work work work & I know she’ll see the difference. When I first read the article, this situation occurred in my head & was calculation, weather if I took it personally or not. I think I didn’t take anything personally, and please people lets just be real here! we all hear that its not other ppl’s fault to take your shit, and now this article says, ( oh! they might be having a bad day! ) Like SRSLY!
    Sorry, but that is not acceptable. All people have issues ( This is reality ) and all of us should do our best to be kind to each other as much as we can.
    Thank you for reading my comment & sorry for making it long.

    • gayle

      The article is about learning how to not taking things personally, not about taking people’s shit as you say. There will always be rude people, that will never change, but the truth is, 9 times out of 10 it is about them and not you. If you chose to get angry and stew about it, it only affects you. Seems you missed the whole point of the article.

  • Gale Little

    My adult adopted daughter shuts me out if her life. She is now pregnant but still shuts me out. She seems tlo blame me forcshat happend in her life. She was 1 of 4 children and only one adopted. She met her birth mum and wants nothing to do with her. We have given her the best life we could guided her as best we could but she treats us appallingly. When we try to speak to her she is very defensive and turns everything into an argument. She is 25 we are early 60s and have had this for 11 yers now. Where do we go from here.

  • Ben

    nice topic

  • I try not too let everything get too me

  • Sometimes people I know are directly making there comment to me about me.

  • I know they say in alanon that hurt people, hurt people this is true. I just dont want to be within firing range anymore. This eventually will make you sick. Stick with the winners, people who take
    Responsibility for their lives and emotions. In religious terms, love your neighbor as yourself or have we all forgotten the golden rule. There is too much selfishness in the world today, I call it a selfish society! Me, myself, and I !!!!!!

  • Thank you, good article, there is something for yourself to take. I realized long ago that in order to bring about the desired positive changes, it is necessary to change my habits. First of all, daily. This is one of the main secrets. Here are a couple of my useful habits that have changed my life:
    1. Do not eat before going to bed.
    2. Lie early and get up early.
    3. Do in the morning at least a small set of exercises.
    4. Practice relaxation or meditation.
    These are the habits that really improved my life, I advise you to try.

  • Thank you for those tips! I just remember to take a minute and a deep breath! Amazing how those words changed my life and my mind!

  • Lately I’ve took more and more things personally and didn’t observe myself objectively… the end result was negative feelings and reactions… thanks for these great tips!

  • kelly french

    I appreciate your blog, Such helpful information in tough times. I always forward these tidbits to my kids.. People always say that “I take things too personal.” I figure there must be something to this if it is a consensus among my family and friends. this article mad me take a step back and look at MY behavior. Thanks, Kelly

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