DON'T TAKE IT PERSONAL - A QUICK PRACTICE
“This situation has nothing to do with you.”
Wiser words aren’t often said. Yet when they are spoken, they’re received with disbelief. Do you ever assume someone’s talking about you, upset with you, or holding an expectation of you that you somehow didn’t get the memo on and now are failing to fulfill? Sure. Me too.
Taking things personally (also termed Personalization) happens all too often:
My boss is in a bad mood
My husband doesn’t want to have sex tonight
Two of my friends went out and didn’t invite me
My client didn’t show up for the call we scheduled
There are 2 moms on the other side of the playground talking and looking at me
In any of these scenarios, I could spin a lengthy yarn about how it’s my fault or how the person/people involved must be angry at me - thereby making me angry at them, or feeling guilty, or like I need to do something to make it up to them.
The thing is, most often it’s not about us. Yet even though we keep receiving this message that the situation has nothing to do with us, we still keep playing that old scratched up record in our heads.
So how do we let ourselves believe?
Here’s a quick practice you can do whenever you’re feeling all emotional on a personal level about things that really don’t apply to you. I picked up this gem from my business coach Meaghan Alton.
STEP 1 - LIST ALL THE FEARS, ALONG WITH EVIDENCE OF THEIR TRUTH
For this example, Let’s go down the rabbit hole with the two friends that went out and didn’t invite me scenario:
They’re mad at me. I told Sarah about the fight my kid got into with Sally’s kid, and then Sarah told Sally what I said and made me sound bad. Now they’re talking behind my back for sure
They don’t want to be my friend. I made that joke during our tea date last week and I remember Sally’s laugh sounding really fake and then they looked at each other in this weird way. I saw it.
I’m not as cool as they are. They didn’t invite me to see the band because they think I have bad taste in music. They’re judging me and making fun of me and now excluding me because of it.
Like wow. Some tangled webs we weave. But if you’re anything like me, that kind of dialogue comes up pretty darn quick when you start to second guess yourself & your relationships.
So take that list, and try this…
STEP 2 - ASK YOURSELF: “DO I KNOW ANY OF THESE THINGS TO BE ABSOLUTELY TRUE?”
Most often… the answer is no. Of course the answer is no. It is literally impossible to know what is going on in someone else’s head.
So why not try this…
STEP 3 - WHAT ELSE COULD BE TRUE?
Make a list of the alternatives, or reasoning that has nothing to do with you:
They both really love that band and own every album. So fun for them to share that time together.
I have plans with just Sally for a play date with the kids next week, and that certainly doesn’t mean I don’t love Sarah.
The night they went out I stayed home with my husband and played a board game, something we hadn’t done in a long time. It was really nice.
There’s something about the list of alternatives that more often rings true. When you can step back from your emotional patterns, and state facts, it’s much easier to let go of the hurt of personalization.
I’ve been flexing my de-personalization muscle using this practice for a while now, and I tell you, it’s damn freeing.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO PRACTICE?
In scientific research studies they’ve discovered something called “observer bias”. The gist is that many studies have been completed in the exact same fashion, but the result differ depending on the person conducting the study. Each scientist in the study, and each person in day to day life, is looking through a different lens. We each have different perceptions of the truth, based on our beliefs systems, backgrounds, past experiences. And so the way we see EVEN FACTS, can be distorted somewhat.
SO, if you want to change the way you internalize, or take things personally, you need to practice changing the way you perceive the situation. As Wayne Dyer so eloquently put it:
Whether it’s high ninja kicks, or rewiring outdated thought patterns; What we practice, we get really good at.