It’s natural to want to be respected. So when we hear negative things being said about us, it’s only natural that we are hurt and subjected to emotional pain. We find ourselves unwilling to accept even the tiniest bit of criticism about our actions and views and are almost always hurt. If that is the case, you should seriously ask yourself if you are prone to taking things too personally.

While it’s normal to care about what others think about us, it isn’t healthy if it begins to hinder us. The main cause of why we take things personally are negative self-talk, childhood trauma, poor self-esteem, anxiety disorders, an obsession with perfectionism, and a tendency towards stress or fatigue. This could have led to negative self-talk and of our subconscious telling us that we are not good enough and of believing that anything that goes wrong is always our fault. With such a mindset, we easily tend to believe anything negative being said about us.

Saying that the way out is to stop taking things so personally is easier said than done. But if we can see things more objectively, rather than subjectively, then we can spare ourselves a lot of unnecessary suffering. When we really begin to see others as they are without taking things personally, we will never be hurt by what they say or do. Even if others lie to you, it is okay. We will begin to understand that they are lying to us because they are afraid.

Dr Sanjay Teotia

Let’s examine why we take things personally. It might be because we are overly sensitive to others opinions about us. It may also because be because we think we are right most of the time, and as a result of our unique perspective, we experience stress when people do not agree with our views.

Why people take things personally has a lot to do with personal insecurities; these insecurities could have sprung up as a result of childhood abuse, bullying or because we feel insecure and constantly compare ourselves with others. When one is insecure, one is also more self-conscious and susceptible to another’s judgement. Learning how to stop taking things personally is a skill that can improve our mental health and our relationships.

But how does one do that? Practising self-awareness helps us understand that our emotional reactions might be rooted in our own insecurities, fears or past experiences. When someone’s words or actions trigger personal reactions, pause and ask yourself why you are feeling this way, then consider the other person’s perspective. You may learn that people may have their own motivations, emotions and issues to deal with, just like you do. When someone makes a comment or behaves in a way that affects you, it’s not necessarily a direct attack on your character. Building emotional resilience is, therefore, important for not taking things personally and this will go a long way in helping you to bounce back from criticism or negative feedback.

Establishing healthy boundaries is essential for your own emotional well-being; so explain to others who are close to you about which behaviour is acceptable to you and which is not. The dialogue may change perspectives on both ends.

Mindfulness techniques such as meditation and deep breathing exercises and pranayama can help you stay grounded in the present moment. When you are mindful, you become less reactive to external stimuli, and your adverse response to negative comments or actions made by others also reduces. Take time out daily to practice mindfulness, and it will become easier to maintain emotional balance when faced with challenging situations.

As you become more centred, you will gradually build your self-worth. Also learn to communicate with your own self. Write down your thoughts and objectively view your thoughts. If you need counselling to come to terms with your own emotions, seek professional help.

Once you read your own thoughts, you may find it useful to let go of things such as past grudges or of behaviours that you can yourself see are not serving the bigger purpose of your own life. In other words, learn to forgive and forget and move on.   

Another way is to ask people who are close to you to respect your boundaries and to take responsibility for your own emotions, and let others be responsible for theirs. Also, learn to acknowledge and accept your own choices and live according to your values. One last bit that always helps – stop trying to prove people wrong and don’t ever let your self-worth depend on others’ opinions.

Dr. Sanjay Teotia is an eye surgeon and is Senior Consultant, Balrampur Hospital, in Lucknow (U.P.) He is a prolific spiritual writer and his articles appear regularly in Navbharat Times and in Times of India, apart from YoursPositively                                 

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