Why not to take things personally

If you haven’t heard the phrase “Don’t take it so personal” in your life you are most likely lying or probably very forgetful. Not only is it a staple in life, to me it is a strong belief that most things in life should not be taken personally. I live my life by “Its more about them than it is about you”. Memories are highly inaccurate, perceptions are skewed towards your own experiences and expectations – its almost hard to think anything we say would have any effect or impact on others. Remember the whole “the dress is blue – no its black” fiasco? If we can’t even align on colours, why should we agree on any other kind of facts? I’ve generally believed you see what you see because of your own story and I see what I see because of my own history and teachings. If you have a problem with me, its really your problem and not mine in the first place. I just trigger something in you that you carry from your past or currently present that provides friction in your own story.

So the question remains. Why do we take things personal? Why do we have to learn that it has nothing to do with us? Why do we have this tendency to think we could be the cause of someone else’s pain? Why do we give ourselves the power?

I have two theories:

1) I only see my perspective so it has to be me.
When we are first put onto this earth we can only see what our eyes see. With time we learn depth, shadows and shades and even later after a couple years do we learn that people have another perception as well. Ever played “Peeaboo” with a kid? Surprisingly you can’t play that with a grown up because we grow capabilities that help us understand  what other people are able to see. We never do this step with our thoughts because we are never taught to. It is evolution to understand what your enemy can see and what not (comes in handy when hiding!), but its not evolution to understand “The lion doesn’t actually want to eat me, it just wants to eat anything, I just happen to be here. Its nothing personal”. Instead we just think: “The lion wants to eat me”. Not taking it personal is not a cognitive capability that is that helpful when thinking solely about survival. Yet little do we explore how much humans can make each other suffer on a day to day basis. It is helpful to learn what people might be thinking from their own personal internal perspective as a child what people can see from their own person internal perspective.

2) If its me – I can do something about it.
Another theory is the element of control. Who wants to admit they have no influence on their life and the life of others? Few people. We as humans like to believe in free will. That we have the strength to change the world, to empower, overpower and manipulate other people. We try to control our lives by controlling our weight, our careers, our schedules, our family planning or daily rituals. We try to control time by inventing clocks, the universe by creating laws of physics and even the weather where possible. If we can’t control how people think of us, if we have no impact on others what so ever – then how can I change it, it if its bad? If a teacher doesn’t like me because I remind him of a previous student he didn’t like – then I am supposed to just accept the fact that I will be treated differently – perhaps even punished and that has nothing to do with me? I can’t even change it? Feeling helpless is a terrible, terrible feeling. We try to avoid that by telling ourselves even the negative stuff has to do with us. We said something wrong, we laughed too loud and if we change that, then other people will treat us differently. I often hear women think if they lost weight, or would be prettier, the world would be kinder to them. Its a sad thought really.

I’m not saying perceptions can’t be changed.  People’s perceptions might not be fair, but they are valid. They are valid as they are the reality they perceive. You can change the way people perceive you – if they think hard workers come in at 8am, but you are someone that comes in at 10am and stays late, well then either accept that you will never be a hard worker in that person’s eyes or show them how hard you work by showing how much you delivered or cave and come in at 8am. You can alter how people see things, but you can never, never take it personally. You are not a bad worker because you don’t come in at 8am. You shouldn’t be insulted by the fact that you are not what other people expect you to be. But rather – show them that you are just as worthy if not even more worthy because you accept their reality as nothing having to do with you personally. Accept that kind of power.

Find tips on how not to take things personally from this  article from Forbes magazine and please always feel free to reach out to me about my life coaching services on the contact page or comment section below.

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