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Why do I take things so personally?

why do I take things so personally?

Have you ever found yourself:

  • Assuming someone is angry with you because they didn't smile when they saw you?

  • Believing that a friend's bad mood is because of something you said or did?

  • Interpreting a co-worker's silence during a meeting as disapproval of your ideas?

  • Assuming that someone's forgetfulness means they do no values your friendship?

  • Believing that a colleague's brief email is a critique of your work?

If so, then you are in the right place!

Understanding Personalization

Personalization involves interpreting others' actions and words as a direct reflection of ourselves. It often means taking the blame for a situation or event, even when there is little to no justification for doing so. Notice how each example above reflects a perspective being taken? Understanding that these are merely perspectives allows us to become curious about why we interpret things this way. This curiosity is the first step toward addressing and managing our tendency to take things personally.

Reasons for Personalization

Personalization often stems from two main areas:

  • Beliefs About Ourselves

  • Expectations About Treatment

Beliefs About Ourselves

We may have underlying beliefs about ourselves that are triggered by others' actions and words. In other words, certain situations "hit a nerve."

  • Consider a scenario where a friend's forgetfulness feels like a direct reflection of your importance in their life. Your friend might just be forgetful and prone to misplacing things. However, if we delve deeper into your perspective, what beliefs or narratives are at play? Perhaps you believe that you are not important, no one wants to be friends with you, or that you are always left behind and forgotten. In this context, your friend's belated birthday message would indeed sting, reinforcing those negative self-beliefs.

Expectations About Treatment

We often have expectations about how we should treat others and how we should be treated in return. When these expectations aren't met, it can feel like a personal slight because we wouldn't treat others that way.

  • Revisiting the scenario of your friend's forgotten birthday, imagine this is a close friend you highly value. You would never forget their birthday and always strive to make it special. The lack of reciprocation hurts because their friendship means so much to you, and you would never forget something important to them. Their forgetfulness feels like a personal betrayal because it doesn't align with how you would treat them.

By understanding these two areas—our beliefs about ourselves and our expectations about treatment—we can start to unravel why we take things personally and begin to get curious about our side of the interaction when communicating.


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