• Laura McGregor, CCHT

Don’t Take Things Personally - Mindful Cuddles Session 17

Perhaps you sometimes find yourself feeling ‘under attack’ or taking comments that may not even specifically be about you as personal attacks.

Perhaps you sometimes find yourself feeling ‘under attack’ or taking comments that may not even specifically be about you as personal attacks.

There are several reasons why you may have got into the habit of taking things a bit too personally. Perhaps you were genuinely criticized and put down in the past, and now you’ve found yourself more ‘on the lookout' for a possible attack from others. This can become an over-generalizing experience so that you tend to see criticism even where it doesn’t exist.

Perhaps you tend to over-blame yourself for problems and therefore expect others to be as critical of you as you are of yourself. But whatever the reason, it’s essential to understand that taking things too personally is a habit that you can change.

Of course, we need to take our fair share of responsibility for things, but not to the extent that blaming ourselves – or feeling blamed – takes our focus away from the projects or goals we are committed to. After all, it’s the objective itself that counts, not how the people are pursuing the objective feel about themselves from minute to minute. When we take things too personally, we are putting ourselves at the centre of things.

In a moment, I’m going to describe the critical difference between ‘feedback’ that another person gives you and ‘criticism.’ But firstly, if someone is highly critical of you, it helps to remember that it may be because they are highly emotional in general or in that moment. Remember this: criticism is never 100% true – it’s often an overgeneralization or exaggeration caused by the accuser feeling overly emotional.

If someone is angry, they are in an extremely emotional state, and because of this, they will have less access to their ‘thinking brain.’ Strong emotions drown out clear thought and a proper sense of perspective. People do and say things they don’t mean when they are angry. And this will include things they might say about you.

So being too sensitive, always trying to fathom what others are thinking or ‘getting at,’ is just so much energy wasted. I invite you to trust that if people have something to say, they will say it, and if they haven’t, you can relax about it.

It’s not that you want to stop being able to take feedback from others, but you can take it as just that – feedback, not criticism.

But it’s also essential for you to be clear about the distinction between feedback and criticism.

Feedback focuses on what you are doing or not doing. It describes an aspect of your work or behaviour but is not about your core identity. For example, if someone calls you ‘lazy,’ this is a criticism, not feedback because it says something about what you are as a person. But if someone says they wish you would put more effort into a particular task, this is feedback. Why? Because they are not assassinating your whole character, they are just describing how they feel about one aspect of your behaviour.

So you can decide whether the feedback is worth responding to or not, and you can disregard criticism as an emotional over-generalization. Only comments that are time-limited and about what you do and not what you are can qualify as honest feedback.

If someone points out that your shoelaces are undone, they are not criticizing you. They have given you valuable feedback. You know specifically what needs addressing, and you can act on their feedback if you so decide. But imagine they say something like: ‘You are always so selfish!’ What they have given you here is nothing at all. There is no indication of what change is needed in such a statement. We always need specifics.

If someone does criticize you, it isn’t enjoyable, so you can quickly think of times when you are not like that. This will be easy because criticism is always an exaggeration. If someone calls me ‘lazy,’ I will ask them to be more specific. Because, when I think about it, I know I’m not lazy at all in many areas.

So this is not about letting oneself off the hook; it’s just about seeing the bigger picture and not getting sucked into other people’s negativity.

The more we do this, the more we can take things less personally. If you know something is just not true, or at least not always true; then you can just stay so much more relaxed about it. And you can remember that how people communicate and act is always down to them. You might be in the way of someone’s bad mood, but they are responsible for their attitudes, not you.

This script was created by Laura McGregor, some content was licensed from Hypnotic World and Uncommon Knowledge.

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