I walked into the school cafeteria for the start of teacher conference night and saw parents of kids from my son’s class. There were purses saving two seats at their table. Before I reached them, other moms sat down. Oh. They weren’t saved for me. I immediately started taking things personally. It was clear these moms didn’t like me and didn’t want my son to be friends with theirs.
Sound like rational thoughts? No. As adults and mothers, we interact with so many people—other parents, teachers, coworkers, friends, and strangers. We can’t let our thoughts go to those places or we’ll go crazy. But a simple tool in your bathroom drawer, a Q-Tip, can become vital in your efforts to be happier and healthier in all of those relationships. Here’s how.
No, the lesson from the Q-Tip isn’t to listen better. When I look at a Q-Tip I’m reminded to:
Quit Taking It Personally.
The Problem With Taking Things Personally
In the mid-50s, a form of psychotherapy was developed that today is known as Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy. In a nutshell, it says a person isn’t affected emotionally by events themselves, but rather by his or her interpretation of these events.
It wasn’t the unsaved seat that got me upset; I could find another chair. What made me upset was that I interpreted it as a snub. Because I took it personally, it felt like the act was intended to make me feel isolated and unwanted. Someone else’s actions that have nothing to do with you should not be allowed to affect your emotions. Why give that power over to another person?
Someone else’s actions that have nothing to do with you should not be allowed to affect your emotions.
Why We Take Things Personally
Well, we are humans and others’ actions affect us. And thinking of our own behavior and how others see us isn’t entirely bad. But I know that most of the time when I catch myself taking things personally, it’s because something has hit a nerve. Fitting in among the moms is important because I wasn’t always the most popular kid and I started projecting my insecurities onto another person.
I also see myself taking things personally because I think I matter way too much. Those moms had a lot on their minds. I was not one of those things and the snub was not about me. This reminds me of how popular the word “shaming” is today. One person speaks up about how they live their life and another person comments, “Quit shaming me!” It’s possible that it’s just not about you.
How To Quit Taking It Personally
1. Have a visual reminder.
A Q-Tip or a piece of jewelry is actually a great start to changing that thought pattern. Seeing the item will trigger you to ask, “Is this really about me, or is it about them?”
2. Consider other possibilities.
What else may have caused the situation to happen? Instead of thinking of the list of reasons you’re less than, consider what other factors could be at play.
3. Just ask.
If you can muster the strength to speak face-to-face with the other person, you’ll probably discover it had nothing to do with you. When you just let a situation go, you might eventually feel better, but actually clearing the air can help you regain your confidence and make it less likely you’ll take something personally in the future.
Do you find yourself taking things personally that you shouldn’t? Which of these cures do you think would be the most helpful?