There’s that famous expression, “It’s not personal, it’s just business” that makes some people twist their noses and cringe just a bit or a lot. Even though the expression is used in a business setting, it is a reminder of how easy it can be for people to take things personally. We’ve all been there, I know I have; but sometimes there’s that moment of reflection when you’re feeling like you’ve been offended or that the comment just made was meant for you and it makes you realize that maybe, just maybe, it’s not about you (at all).
Taking things personally isn’t something that does much to help your inner growth if it stops at the offended or hurt feeling. You can stop talking to the individual who said those words to you or did something that you think was directed at you and maybe it was totally personal, but once it’s done, it’s done. Closing off that relationship doesn’t do much for the next time the same scenario repeats itself. It also doesn’t bring you to question your hurt feelings, which means you’ve gained nothing through that experience except for hurt. What about making this situation another opportunity that you can turn around and learn from? Yes, inner growth can come from taking things personally too if you choose to look at it from a different angle.
Taking something personally has a connection with expectations, the whole idea of right and wrong or fair and unfair, and if that’s where you’re at in your life and what you believe in, then you’re probably not interested in what I’m about to say. The truth of the matter in a situation where we’re upset and/or offended is that we had an expectation and we feel something is right or wrong, fair or unfair with what was said and/or done. Maybe even a group of people have the same set of expectations and/or have the same idea of right/wrong, fair/unfair (maybe even a majority of people); but it’s different from what that person or those people you just dealt with expect and/or think on the same subject matter.
Instead of stopping at that hurt feeling and your expectations and ideas of right/wrong, fair/unfair; take a step back. Extract yourself and your opinion from that moment; start exploring by asking questions. What was said that hit a nerve or what was done that upset you and made you take this thing personally? If it was something related to performance, for example in a job, can you say with utmost certainty that you did your best? If the answer is yes, then why are you getting upset? Is it recognition that you want? If so, why? Do you still have something to prove? Or maybe is it because you feel underappreciated or someone who doesn’t do as good a job as you do at work got the recognition?
When asking yourself questions like these you follow up with answers and at a certain point you’ll be faced with a decision. You can accept or find a way you can change the situation. If you have nothing to prove, then you realize that taking this comment personally is really signaling that you still have some insecurity going on or if you don’t, then why are you upset? Maybe it’s fairness (justice) that you want. Again, this signals you need proof that confirms your own thought or idea. Whenever we need proof of something it signals a desire for confirmation that you’re on track, which then means inside of you there is still some doubt, even if it’s a spec. People who are confident in a thought or action, don’t look for confirmation from the outside.
This is only one example of why something can be taken personally, but of course there’s being told something by someone, which seems to coincide with something you went through and/or there’s an actual direct accusation of some sort. Whatever the situation you can still learn something about yourself if you turn your focus to you and why you’re taking this thing personally. You’ll uncover a lot of hidden answers, questions, more answers. This doesn’t mean you change your belief of right/wrong, fair/unfair, or anything like that. This is always up to you to know if you’re up for a transformation on those identified things.
The world has multiple perspectives and multiple scenarios that can take place; this means you are challenged daily with your expectations and right/wrong definitions, etc. When you realize this, and decide to go beyond the reaction of taking something personally, you pursue your inner growth in ways that will surprise you each time. Not only does this allow you to be a better you, but it also helps you to stay calm in a situation that you may need that clear thinking to make an even better decision for a better outcome.
Life experiences are yours to own if you choose to do so. Taking something personally is not good or bad, but it has its limitations since it doesn’t pursue inner growth or exploration if you stay stuck in that feeling (and then again, and again the next time it happens). Something to think about; and also to think about is when you interact with people who take things personally. This awareness can help you understand them better, reach out to them with a different tone and/or have a level of empathy that can transform the situation and result in a peaceful outcome.
How do you handle your moments of taking things personally or people you encounter that take things personally? What takeaways did you find that helped your inner growth journey?