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
  • “To be Jedi is to face the truth, and choose. Give off light, or darkness, Padawan. Be a candle or the night.” – Yoda

  • Henrik – these are fantastic tips! Too often we are quick to judge or jump to conclusions. However, it’s usually not about us. It’s definitely important to take a step back and access any situation. It’s also important to recognize your own personality and what you bring to the table. If you are a sensitive person, it helps to know and remember that. Thanks for the tips!

  • This is very liberating! It takes off the burden from your back and helps you to see things from a different perspective. I like these kinds of posts.

  • Lavanya jain(Live2write!)

    Words make a huge difference! And urs definitely! Really this article is so applicable to my life! All these 6 steps are simple and basic to follow! Thank u for ur kind advise

  • Fantastic.

  • Anonymous

    Well written.This was exactly what could have been best said regarding how not to take things so personally.

  • Anonymous

    This is very good advise! So often people’s comments & reactions to you are more based on their own “screen” than
    on you.

  • Afzal

    Your posts are somehow so apt to me and in some cases, the issues my daughter has been grappling with in her new job and new country. She is a perfectionist and takes criticism from others personally. She’s finding she’s having to lower her professional standards (having moved from a big multi-national to a small startup) and that bothers her. I try to convince her not to take it as a personal attack but I fear that it might be hurting her sense of self worth. As a parent, I want her to be the best that she can be. However, I understand that she is trying to navigate a new organizational culture as well as different social environment.

  • Jill McNally

    I find this advice really helpful. It is very relevant to me.

  • Holly

    I’m interested in what you said about dwelling on and replaying perceived injuries.

  • George B Vieto

    Thank you for the advice. It is very useful.

  • shruti


  • Bhupendra Saran

    This is very useful for us in every part of life. Thanks for post.I like you and your post

  • It’s very much interested thoughts am really happy and I will wish you to give a these types of another things. Thank you…..

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