On one Thursday morning, I was in the den of someone’s house who I was dating at the time. We were both on our laptops immersed in doing work for our respective businesses. It was around 9 am and although we were on two different couches my hyper-aware self heard his stomach growl from across the room. Twice. I thought to myself, well someone’s hungry, so I thought of some food to make and told him “I’ll fix you something to eat, you have apples right?” What came next was totally unexpected.
He yelled “What?!” with a disgruntled look on his face. Confused by his reaction but not by his remark, I repeated myself thinking maybe he didn’t hear me. He then replied, yelling things like “I don’t know’, go look I’m not focused on that right now, I have to stay focused, I don’t have time to think about food. You don’t understand that I have to stay focused.” There were many more things he said but I’ll just leave it there. Now, just for a quick backstory here, he is under some pressure with this business so he’s a bit stressed, however I felt that gave him no right to spazz at me when I only wanted to help. I shared my emotions with him in case he didn’t realize how I felt, and he disagreed with him spazzing. He also shared that he likes me there but he’s under a lot of stress so he felt uncomfortable. Once I heard that, I knew I didn’t want to be a distraction or in an uncomfortable space so I gave him a hug told him I was leaving so he could focus, and I left to go back to my place.
That experience told me three things.
Some people need space to figure things out and it’s not up to me to fix things for them.
Pay attention to how people treat you and themselves when they are under stress (especially in a new relationship)
You don’t have to stay in any environment, for anyone, who makes you feel uncomfortable or unwelcome
Now, in the past, I would’ve taken a situation like this personally. I would’ve been questioning what I did wrong, thinking what else I could’ve done to avoid him being so upset, contemplate how I could be different so he could be happy, etc. Fortunately, that wasn’t my experience at the time. I didn’t take it personally and I don’t take most things personally now. I’ve greatly improved and now I’ll share with you, 5 strategies I use to avoid taking things personally.
1) Emotional Flashback
It’s likely you’ve taken something personal because it feels like a current experience is similar to a past experience. Perhaps you were critiqued often by your parents, or teachers, or peers so whenever someone gives you a critique you, the pain of the past and present may erupt like a volcano. Emotional flashbacks aren’t easy to deal what but to gain more control over them you have to become very aware of them and monitoring your mental state.
2) See yourself in their shoes
Now I’m not about to give people excuses for being rude or disrespectful but in order to avoid taking something personally you sometimes have to imagine how they’re feeling. In my case, I recognized he was stressed, anxious, and overwhelmed. Feeling this way can make a person react differently than usual. By realizing and excepting that I was able to avoid blaming myself.
3) Hold onto your power
In my scenario, I could’ve easily matched his outburst. I could raised my voice to explain how I was only trying to help and support him, etc, etc, but I didn’t. Instead, I took a few deep breaths, went upstairs to take a shower, collected my thoughts, and chose to remove myself from the environment. I refused to give him the power to upset me or make me unhappy.
4) Don’t take the bait
In the book, “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz, the second agreement is “Don’t Take Anything Personally.” Such a great read, if you haven’t checked it out yet.
Here’s a quote from the book:
“Even when a situation seems so personal, even if others insult you directly, it has nothing to do with you. What they say, what they do, and the opinions they give are according to the agreements they have in their own minds…Taking things personally makes you easy prey for these predators, the black magicians. They can hook you easily with one little opinion and feed you whatever poison they want, and because you take it personally, you eat it up….”
Taking things personally will rob you of your happiness. When you refuse to take things personally you’ll have more emotional balance, joy, calmness, and strength. Know who you are and be confident in who you are so you’re uninfluenced by the words and actions of others. Your goal is to live your best life and by not taking things personally, you can do just that. Begin by following the 5 ways above and enjoy your happiness.