Whenever you decide to go against the grain and strive to reach some of your loftier goals, you can bet you’re going to come up against a considerable amount of criticism. For you to succeed in reaching these goals, you must learn to deal with this criticism in a healthy and positive way.
1. Give the benefit of doubt. If you have a habit of taking things personally, it means that you’re apt to assume someone is directing some form of aggression towards you when they could be just joking around or having a bad day. It might be your instinct to react emotionally, but pause for a second. Maybe it’s not about you. Learn how to control your emotions. Don’t jump to conclusions.
2. Refocus your attention. When you take things personally, you shift your attention from what someone said or did to how you feel. Unless you move on from that point, it’s likely that you’ll ruminate on the negative feeling and amplify it. Instead, focus on the other person.
- Look at how the person treats others. They might tease or insult everyone they meet. Some people are just antagonistic like that.
- Consider the person’s insecurities. Could they feel threatened by you in some way? If so, don’t feel bad for being your awesome self. Think about how you can help this person feel better about themselves.
- Keep in mind that the other person may have poor communication and emotional management skills. Imagine that there’s an inner child acting out, because the person hasn’t learned how to deal with things in a mature way. It’s much easier to be patient and feel compassionate when you visualize a learning child at the helm of their behavior.
3. Remind yourself that you don’t need anyone’s approval. If you’re especially sensitive to how people treat you and you often overreact, you might have a strong radar for rejection. You worry that you’re doing something wrong if you pick up on any kind of displeasure, and you want to fix it. But just because someone isn’t happy with you doesn’t mean you’ve done something wrong. In many cases, it means that person isn’t happy with themselves and expects you to fill in the blanks (which is impossible).
4. Speak up. Let the person know how you are feeling. They might not realize how hurtful or aggressive they seem and how it is affecting you. Use “I” statements. If this is recurring,use nonviolent communication to try to end it and resolve any underlying issues.
5. Stop taking compliments personally, too. If you base your self-worth on how often people compliment and validate you, then you’re allowing others to decide how you feel about yourself. If someone compliments you, it’s no more personal than a direct insult.They’re simply calling it how they see it, and that may or may not be accurate–only you can be the judge of that. If someone compliments you, that doesn’t make you a better person, it makes them a better person because they’re taking the time to be supportive and encouraging. Your value remains unchanged, because it’s something that comes from within.
Illustration by Molly Jacques