One of my biggest challenges that I need to work on is how to not take things personally. I'm easily a perfectionist, I easily care about things, and when something even a tiny bit negative is said about something I'm involved in, I easily take the blame, even if it's not directed at me! It sounds really silly, and it can be quite a drag, so one of my goals for this half of the year is to learn how to not take things personally.
It's actually going better than I thought; I'm learning how to relax and to bring myself away from things, particularly when it's not even aimed at me!
So, I thought I'd write a little bit about how I'm doing that and the main things I'm focusing on to achieve my goal of not taking things so personally.
Why do I take things personally?
Of course, here I could easily go into one of those 'this thing happened to me in my childhood and it's carried on ever since' things. And, yes, that can easily be said to be true. But, honestly, looking back at the cause, obvious as it is, isn't going to solve it, so I don't see much of a point in that.
Instead, I want to look at the why on a continuous scale: the answer is that I care. And, if you take things personally, likely you will too.
That doesn't go to say that you don't care too much, or that you're caring at the right level about the right things.
I can easily say I care about some things too much, e.g. caring about what other people think of me when really people are too busy worrying about their own lives! (More on that later.) But, generally, these are the things I've found that mean I easily take things personally, originating from caring.
Do you recognise any of these in yourself, too?
I'm a perfectionist: I care too much about getting things perfect! Unachievable? Absolutely! Inefficient and impractical? 100%!
I care what others think of me: I've been working on this with the whole 'people are actually in their own bubble', and it's helping, but it's still there to some (still rather large) degree.
I care about my job: when it comes to work, I care about what I do a lot of giving my best and my all and helping my authors. I can't help it. I love it, and I love my team and authors, so I care a lot. The minute even a tiny thing is hinted at, even if it's someone else's stress, my care factor rises and my overly high 'responsibility' factor rises with it and I take things personally, even if it's not on me. Oops.
I care about my writing and my readers' reading experiences: and yes, I know to not listen to the nay-sayers and that everyone has their own tastes, but of course it still stings when brutal feedback comes your way when you put so much effort into something. My work not your cup of tea? That's fair. I'm picky about my books too. I'm getting there and learning! I won't take it personally ... as much ... anymore ... I just want people to enjoy what I'm writing.
I put full effort into everything I do: all or nothing. So, of course, when efforts are missed, and you care about people seeing the effort, it's easy to sting.
And, of course, to some degree, caring about recognition and your efforts, love, care, passion, whatever being recognised. We're all human.
And there's way more, but basically it all comes down to caring. Which is fine and all; that also shows what you love and what you want to be doing in life and that you're on the right tracks to finding what matters. But, there's a level of caring too much when you have the self-responsibility to say 'hey, I did my bit, I know I care, that's what matters. Now don't worry about it when other people get involved'.
Which leads to:
Ways I've learned how to not take things personally
Again, I'm still getting there. I still take things personally, but it's amazing at how quickly you can adapt and start to relax a bit once you've started noticing these patterns of what's making you take things personally and starting to work on how to minimise that.
Plus, the freedom of life when you realise you're not taking things personally is AWESOME! I wish I'd done it sooner!
It's not about me, it's about them
I've realised to start seeing when things aren't about me, but about someone else. E.g. if someone is trying to pass on their stress (consciously or not), and whether they mean it or not, there are suggestions that it might be you at fault. This way, it's not about yourself, but them. Don't take it personally.
A good way of thinking about it is if there's a car pushing up behind you. You're driving the speed limit and happily driving along, but they're up behind you, getting frustrated, trying to push, tailgate, beeping, hand gesturing, rolling their eyes so loudly you can hear it in your car, trying to get you to go faster because they want to go faster. It's not that you're slow, especially if you're going the speed limit, it's with them. They are late, want to go faster, or are stressed about something. Don't take it personally, and don't take on their stress. And don't speed up just to please them, it'll never be fast enough for them, and you'll get the speeding fine.
So, next time you feel yourself taking something personally, think about where the expectations are coming from. Is it actually about something you've done, or is it actually an expectation from someone else they're pushing onto you, whether they realise it or not? Are they stressed and just reacting with that, or do they just not quite know how something works and are missing the point? Maybe they're just having a bad day? Think about it from a different viewpoint; it might not be about you.
Maybe it is about you
If you're taking it personally, it could be a trigger of something you feel pain about.
E.g. if you feel like someone is suggesting you're not showing enough care for them and not putting the attention they need, and you take it personally, does that feeling come from somewhere? Did you lose a friendship because you didn't put enough effort in, and now you're hyper-aware of it and feel pain each time someone even remotely suggests it, even if they didn't explicitly mention it?
If something stings and you feel yourself take it personally, and you think it's not about the other person's expectations but about you, reflect on where that comes from. Is there something that happened in the past that you're not quite over yet? If so, it might be good to start looking into how you can forgive yourself for that or work on that to ensure you can relax more and grow in the future.
Is it really worth worrying about? Are you overthinking?
Any other overthinkers here will likely relate to this, but are you just overthinking about something or worrying too much? Is what happened even that big a deal to take personally anyway? Was a casual remark not even meant for anything actually something to take personally?
I think this particularly comes from the 'cares too much' and 'perfectionist' origin: if you care a lot about something, you'll worry if even a tiny bit seems out of place. But, have a think. Is it really worth worrying about? Will it impact anything much in the long run? Will the other person/people be worrying about it to? Is is something that a phone call or email can't handle?
If not, relax a little more.
The benefits I've already noticed from not taking things personally
It's not been long since I started looking at how to not taking things personally, but I already feel much better like there's been a huge growth. It's great to see how much more relaxed or open I've become already, and how it's easier to see where others are coming from when I don't need to worry about hidden backhands!
We all have our own lives and own worries, and many people don't often go around deliberately barging into others, and it's nice to not feel like I have to be 100% perfect all the time, too! Slow, steady growth and an authentic personality are way more interesting than the stress of being perfect all the time. Care factor? I still care, but I don't take it so personally anymore, and I'm looking forward to that continuing. Then, I can bring my true self to the front without worrying!
So, if you're wondering about how to not take things personally, I definitely recommend incorporating a few of those ideas into your life. It's not been long, but I'm loving it already, so give it a go. See where it's really coming from, and watch as your worries melt away.
And, as a pun one of my friends showed me once said, I have zero fox to give!