Taking Things Personally: The Downside
Your partner is late – again. You begin to fume, assuming s/he didn’t consider you enough to call or text.
Your work colleague didn’t inform you about an important meeting – again. S/he is trying to sabotage you, it’s obvious.
Taking things personally: rapidly interpreting another person’s words or actions as negative comments about you without considering other potential explanations. This damages your self-esteem, pummels self-confidence and too often renders us feeling angry, guilty or defensive.
It’s not about you.
Once you accept your vulnerability to over-personalize and consider other explanations for another’s words or actions, you step out of your victim mentality and create choice for yourself. Really, taking ownership of these rapid reactions, appreciating they are not about you, is truly freeing. Now you have choice in how to address the issue.
What are your triggers, what presses your buttons?
Triggers are reactivation’s of old emotional wounds or frustrations that still sting. A host of similarities to the original experiences such as a comment, body language, voice tone or look can trigger an over-reaction similar to the source experiences. These reactions are unique to each individual but are invariably disproportionate to a current given comment or behavior.
Other triggers develop via repeated frustrations with someone such as their being chronically late.
Becoming attuned to your triggers: “The body keeps the score”
An emotional red flag may be a sudden, rapid heartbeat or quickened breath, your chest or stomach may tighten, or your jaws may clench. Any of these reactions are important signals. Noticing them rather than reacting out of them gives you the opportunity to grasp the messages fueling these feelings.
To quickly step back from the trigger and step into the present moment, take a few deep, slow breaths, hold each a few seconds, then exhale slowly and name the feeling. This brief exercise allows you to step into the present moment, consider possible alternative explanations and take proactive or protective action.
Expressing your needs calmly and assertively will have you feeling more empowered and comfortable within yourself than taking things personally ever can.