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How to Stop Taking Things Personally

by Amy McGrath October 27, 2014

My daughter was playing indoor basketball with a cardboard box and a beach ball.  She decided that the flaps on the box were prohibiting her from making her shots and got out the scissors to cut them off. Cutting thick cardboard with children’s scissors is a tough task.  She asked me if I would help her.  I told her to go get the heavy-duty scissors from the kitchen.  As I was getting ready to make the first cut, she snatched her beach ball out of the box.  She didn’t want me to accidentally pop it with the scissors.  I was surprised and quickly responded, “Don’t you trust me?” My daughter said nothing.

In our personal and business lives, it can be really easy to look at the reactions of others and relate them back to ourselves.  I know this because I used to do it all the time.

Have any of the following things happened to you?

  • Upset womanYou proposed an idea at work and when another idea was chosen instead, you were offended.
  • You met with some potential partners who told you it didn’t seem like a good fit. You were insulted.
  • You followed up with a ton of leads and no one got back to you. You took it to mean that people didn’t like you.
  • You wrote a blog or held a teleseminar and there was a dismal amount of interaction. You decided it must mean you were no good at these tasks.
  • You left a position and no one reached out to say goodbye. You felt unimportant and undervalued.

If your natural tendency is to take things personally, any of these events can be devastating. You begin to wonder:

  • Am I not trustworthy?
  • What’s wrong with me?
  • Why aren’t people drawn to me?
  • Why is it so hard for me to form new relationships?
  • Is my contribution even important?

Questioning yourself is the expression of self-doubt that gives way to internal torture.  You can never gain any traction when you are constantly having to answer a barrage of questions about yourself – especially if the answers you seem to generate are demoralizing.  The good news is that is it possible to break this pattern of thinking.  I have.

Moments after my daughter snatched the ball out of the box, I realized that her reaction wasn’t about her not trusting me and my cutting skills.  It was just a smart thing to do.  It was a simple precautionary plan.  If the scissors happened to puncture her beach ball, her fun would be done.

If you’re used to taking everything personally, a shift in your approach will take you far. By changing your thinking, you will start to find that other people’s decisions do not necessarily reflect your character and actions. You’ll start to blame yourself less and feel like less of a victim. And that’s when you’ll make some truly exciting beach ball slam dunks.

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