Don’t take it personally…

The bumper sticker on my Volkswagon Bug the entire time I owned it.

Don’t take it personally.

How often has someone dropped those pearls of wisdom on you? I seem to hear it a lot these days and every time it makes me feel inadequate, as if I’m deficient because I’m taking something personally and I probably shouldn’t be. So when my friend tells me not to take it personally, I take it personally that she just told me not to take it personally because really…I have no idea what that means. Do you?

What does it mean to take something personally?  

Did you know that taking things personally is a sign that perhaps you don’t think too highly of yourself? It’s actually a symptom of low self esteem. Holy crap of a discovery! When did I get low self esteem? I have never in my life felt like I have it! It kind of feels like I just discovered I have a pus filled zit  between my eyes and didn’t know it. It’s a bulls eye. Want to hit an easy target? Just step right up and point your arrow right there between Katy’s eyes and pull the trigger. You’ll make her take it personally every single time!

If something is directed towards you, isn’t that something you are supposed to take personally? 

Have you ever heard the term “misdirected anger”? This is when they might be angry with someone else, but because you’re right in front of them, they start throwing some attitude right at you as a way to vent. I’ve even had people yell at me when I’ve asked them to calm down. A great example is one I tell people when they inform me that my mother-in-law hates me: “That’s okay, she hates everyone.”  See how that works?

Is life easier when you stop taking things personally?

I’m going to say that life would be much more pleasant and easier to move through when you aren’t constantly bombarded with issues that cause this kind of stress and negative self reflection.

My friend Kim, who I consider a genius, told me that I am a very sensitive person and upsetting events tend to bother me more than most. I don’t think this is a great quality to have, but she seems to think it makes me more of a likable person because I actually do think beyond myself and tend to delve much deeper into a situation than other people might. When she says it, it makes me sound like such an awesome person, not like I’m a sniveling mustard blob with low self esteem.

My husband tells me that I tend to hold my friends to a higher standard and that could be why I suffer from disappointment more often than most people do. He tells me to lower my standards and to stop expecting the best from people. When he tells me this it makes it sound like I’m sitting on some big throne in a hall with echos, like I’m the Queen of Hearts with my high and mighty standards that must be met or OFF WITH THEIR HEADS!

I never thought I held my friends to standards that might be impossible for them to meet. I had no idea I even had those kinds of standards, but I guess I do.

  • Don’t tell me lies. If you had a facelift and don’t want to tell me, that’s fine, but don’t tell me you never had one and then show me a picture from your past that looks like a total stranger to me. That’s a deal breaker.
  • If you love me, defend me even when I’m not present. Never, ever make it easy for someone to sit there and maliciously gossip about me. I would never do that to you.
  • Call me when you want to hang out and be social. If the only time you can think to call me is when you need something, then just don’t call me. I’m your friend, not your servant.
  • Be polite. If I call you and leave a message, call me back that day or the next. Unless you’re laid up, a returned phone call does not take a lot of effort. If you’d rather text, I am tech savvy enough to text back.
  • Remember my birthday. A birthday is the one day we can all truly celebrate that one person in a special way. Even if it’s sending wishes, it sends the message that you care enough to remember to celebrate them.
  • Don’t make promises you have no intention or means to keep. I’d just rather not hear it. It doesn’t make me feel great to be let down when my friend can’t follow through and I don’t think it makes the friend feel great either because of the pressure they might feel. Unless they don’t care, which means they aren’t a friend anyway, so there ya go.
  • Don’t ask to borrow my clothes.

That’s all I can think of. They aren’t set in stone. I’m flexible. Do those sound like high standards to you? These are all habits I employ with my friends on my end. This is how I treat my friends. Why is it considered high standards to expect the same treatment? *scratches head and knits brows*

If I lower my standards, will they meet up with my low self esteem somewhere down the line? Is there a balance here I can look forward to?

I keep hearing myself say “You do you and I’ll do me.” in my head.

It comes down to mutual respect of each other and the freedom to be yourself, even if yourself is not the person they like to hang out with. Having strong personal boundaries is what protects you from folks that might not have your best interest at heart. That doesn’t make them an enemy. It makes them someone you might avoid making constant contact with.

I want to learn how to stop taking things personally.

What kind of work is that going to entail?

I guess the first thing I will need to do is to question my beliefs. My counselor asked me to do this last year and I was resistant to even try it. More to the point, I had no idea what she meant or which beliefs she wanted me to question. Okay, I admit I did know what she was asking me to do, but shining a light on your own core being takes some guts and I’m not sure I could have done this last year.

When the word “belief” comes into my mind I immediately think of religion, but that’s not what this means. These are beliefs I have about myself and about other people.

  • What do I believe?

When you worry what other people think of you, you are giving away your super powers. You place your entire soul in their hands and stand back and expect them to take care of it with the same love and devotion that you have for your soul.

But seriously, how often does anyone care about you even half as much as you care about you? Even your own spouse will have issues with this kind of responsibility. You come into an intimate relationship raw with emotion and devotion, but carrying around the person’s soul and making sure it doesn’t get damaged, or worse, killed, is more of a burden. You want your spouse to carry themselves with the confidence you instill in them simply by loving them. You want them to stand tall and bask in the warm light of your loyalty and support. But being in charge of your everlasting soul is not part of the deal.

  •  If the reason you take things personally is because your confidence is lacking, then how do you build up your confidence?
  • Where does confidence come from?
  •  Am I giving away my power because I am not confident in the way I take care of myself?
  • Why would I ever trust someone else to tell me who I am?

Not everyone has your best interest in mind. Often folks are bopping through life in foul moods and they’re just looking for that one person they can troll to the max to make themselves feel better, even though they will remain just as miserable as they were before they trolled you. Of course, you’ll never know they’re still miserable because you’re too busy feeling like crap now because YOU’RE TAKING IT PERSONALLY!

I used to be friendly with a woman that told me she suffered from severe depression. She was incredibly mean to me behind my back, but would smile and ask me to lunch whenever she saw me out. I figured out what she had been doing and confronted her and instead of being apologetic, she attacked me even more. She has never treated me with anything above pure hatred since. I took her behavior personally for many years until one day I realized that she was not a happy person. She suffers daily. Yes, she still trolls me even after 11 years have passed, but now I just shrug my shoulders and move on. I know she means what she says, but I also know that I would not trade places with her for any reason. There is no way I would want to live with the daily pain she feels.

  • Sometimes I feel like I’m the only person that can see the trolls and that bothers me. I see good people treating them with kindness and I wonder why I can’t bring myself to do the same. Am I supposed to do that? Or can I just walk away and not think about it? How does a person overcome the hurled insults and smear campaigns and learn to tolerate and/or ignore the troll?

I know there’s one thing I am guilty of on occasion and that’s being worried that more people are involved in a story than there actually are. It’s called the Spotlight Effect and is defined simply as thinking you’re being more noticed than you really are. What we sometimes forget is that people are so involved in their own lives and their own drama that they really have no time to be thinking about your drama.

In other words, you’re not as important as you think you are. 

I’ve asked some good questions throughout this post and those are topics I will expand on over the next few weeks.

I think the one thing I’ll take away from my self reflection today is that if you want to stop taking things personally, you need to start relying on yourself. Even though personal relationships are important to all human beings, the one person we all have to count on regularly is ourselves. You are the only person that can define who you are. So let’s figure out where to draw those lines so we can all stop taking it personally.

See you in a few days when I explore the questions I asked myself about this growth process. Leave me a comment to let me know your thoughts or to ask your own questions. I’m kind of excited about the journey!



About Madeline Scribes

A writer with a sense of humor. If anyone can laugh at life, it's me.
This entry was posted in All kinds of Advice, Personal Boundaries Primer and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Don’t take it personally…

  1. Pingback: What do you believe? | Madeline Scribes

  2. Pingback: How to be So Busy you don’t care | Madeline Scribes

  3. Pingback: When it doesn’t make you feel better…try changing your mindset | Madeline Scribes

  4. Dang, I was going to ask if I could borrow a tutu…

    I think you’re on a terrific path of self-discovery here. Some of the points you’ve made I concur with, but I surely don’t agree that you have low self-esteem. Silly goose. ❤

    Taking things personally is usually an emotional reaction, triggered by someone pressing one of our buttons, either intentionally or unintentionally. For me, I've had to work really hard on recognizing my hot-button triggers, why they're there and what I can do to overcome them. I'm a work in progress, for sure, and that's fine. Actually, personal growth is something I'm constantly pursuing. Plus, everyone else has their own hot buttons and emotional issues and standards and boundaries; I can't possibly expect them to align with all of mine!

    When someone's perspective or thought is drastically different from mine and they attack me because I'm at polar opposites to them and I'm tempted to take their aggression personally, I do try to see things through their lens, their filters. I also realize that I don't have to agree with everyone about everything. Should they choose to see me as someone that I KNOW I'm not, that's on THEM. Not ME.

    But if they decide to make it all about the drama and want to get down in the mud for a big-ass fight? Color me gone. I've discovered that I have no tolerance for battles with drama queens or narcissists anymore. That's a boundary I learned recently, and it's taken me years to realize that I can dismiss them from my world entirely and not lose any sleep over it. It's knowing who someone is — at their core — and deciding if they deserve to be in the orbit of my life. I get to decide who gets a seat at my table.

    Looking forward to more self-discovery as you meander down the road on your journey! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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