The “Happiness Secrets” series will focus on small mentality changes that I’ve started to implement into my own life, that I’ve found make me an overall happier person. “It is not about controlling your thoughts, it is about guiding your thoughts more in the direction you are wanting to go in.” – Abraham-Hicks
Why do we take things personally?
It’s really a combination of reasons, one of them being low self-esteem: people with low self-esteem will genuinely believe that someone’s actions are a personal attack against them. For example; Friend A calls Friend B. Friend B doesn’t answer because they’re busy in a lunch/at work etc. Friend A is upset because they don’t feel like they’re important, and that Friend B must also share that belief. Friend A continues to believe these negative thoughts, while Friend B continues on with their day normally.
Solution: avoid negative self-talk. It’s the first step in raising your self-esteem! It takes a little bit of time, but if you continuously correct your brain when it goes into a negative state, it will become second nature and require minimal effort. Pretend that there are two versions of you in your head- one is the happy you. He/she is always bright and positive. The other version is a mean old grump that sits in a corner of your mind with his/her arms crossed and pouting all the time. Every time that little grouchy version speaks up or tries to put you down, make the happy version bigger. Make his/her voice louder, and gently remind the grumpy version that nothing he/she says is true. It’s like you comforting you, and believe me, it helps.
Another reason is that we place our happiness in the hands of others- if the people around us are positive, encouraging and supportive, we’re happy. But if we have someone in our circle who is critical, negative and judgemental, it can seriously affect our psyche.
Solution: Take out a piece of paper and write down everyone you surround yourself with on a daily/weekly basis. Think about the last time you spent time with each person, and write down how that interaction left you feeling afterward. Sure, it could’ve been a “bad day” for that person, but by writing these emotions out, you’ll start to recall patterns with certain people. If they’ve been having a “bad day” for over a month around you, you need to distance yourself. It’s nothing personal, it’s just about doing what’s right for your wellbeing. Toxicity is like a cold- extremely contagious.
The fact is, human beings “construct reality from their own subjective perspectives,” according to Psychology Today. For example, if something is extremely important to you, it must also be extremely important to everyone around you. When you find out otherwise, this can seriously offend you, resulting in a whole boatload of negative feelings.
Solution: Practice empathy. Empathy is defined as “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another”, also known as putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. This can take some practice, but I found it helped to have a friend that I knew already had this mindset, to act like a coach. It helped to openly discuss certain situations and listen to their thought process and opinions, as it put things into various perspectives for me.
At the end of the day, taking things personally has no benefit to you or anyone around you. It causes anger, sadness and frustration. By actively seeking to eliminate this negative behavior, you’re choosing happiness. And why waste any time not being happy?