It’s tough to not take things personally; to not feel hurt when the bad behavior of others is deflected onto you. Yet, when we personalize what is going on around us, we open the door to even more suffering and hurt for no reason at all.
The opinions and actions of others are never about us. Not really. They simply reflect the beliefs and attitudes of the involved person. In other words, what others do and say is always about them and most of the time they aren’t thinking about us anyhow.
When we remember that, we are also reminded that we get to call our own shots. If someone is acting in a way that makes you uncomfortable, then you get to decide how you will experience their behavior. You do get to create your own reality.
Here are some of the things I do to avoid personalizing matters so that I can create more of what I want through my own experience.
1. Give people the benefit of the doubt. People are busy and stressed. They are dealing with big stuff and just trying to get by. They are probably not thinking about you at all. Like the guy on the freeway who cut you off? He may be rushing to get his kid to the hospital, or maybe he’s late for a job interview, or maybe he just made a mistake. Really, it’s not about you. Let it go.
2. Shift focus, help someone else. When you are caught up in thoughts about how others don’t like you, or how they are out to get you; when you are feeling inadequate and insecure because of what others said or did, get out and help someone else. Shift your focus to the needs of others and you’ll feel better and you’ll be reminded how you create your own experience, it isn’t what others do to you that defines your life, but what you choose to do.
3. Be compassionate to yourself and others. We get our feelings hurt, people do things unintentionally, we all blow it from time to time. Act with compassion and forgiveness. Know that the hurt wasn’t about you, it was about the other individual’s own history and belief system and that’s what they have to work with. Even when someone chooses abusive behavior, that individual is showing you who they are, not who you are. You don’t have to judge them, but you certainly don’t need to stay either. Be kind to yourself, and get out. The bad behavior of others isn’t something you have to endure, and it certainly isn’t the result of something you’ve done.
4. Talk it over. If you have personalized a situation and you’re feeling upset or insecure, share your feelings. Take responsibility though. Use “I” statements, share your experience without blame, because remember nobody did anything to you, you simply interpreted their actions as about you. Explain that and be open to what you hear in return.
5. Be still, get curious, and examine the thought. When I’m feeling particularly vulnerable and find myself personalizing everything, I find a quiet space and just examine those thoughts. You don’t need to act on them, just notice. Challenge yourself and your beliefs. Ask yourself why you weigh the opinions of others more than your own. Often, we’ll be able to uncover our own limiting beliefs and false interpretations of external events. The things that we personalize generally do not hold up under scrutiny. So get quiet, and consider your beliefs about the situation and you’ll recognize, once again, that the circumstance has little to do with you.
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