How To Not Take Things Personally

By Stephanie Kirby

Updated February 11, 2020

Reviewer Sonya Bruner


Taking things personally is a habit that can harm and even end our relationships if we allow it to continue. Why do we take things personally, and what does that even mean? When we take things personally, it means that we are misinterpreting someone's thoughts and actions and believe them to be targeted towards us. People who engage in this type of behavior often suffer from low self-esteem and have trouble loving themselves, which is why they easily believe other people are actively trying to put them down.

To stop this behavior, we must tackle both the habit itself and the underlying cause: low self-esteem. Here is what you need to do to address both of them:

Step 1. Realize That the World Is Not Out to Get You

I can almost guarantee you that you have met very few people, if any, who have decided to use their time to make you feel terrible. It's highly unlikely your boss gave your co-worker that promotion because he thinks your flawed. Your friend probably did not hang out with your other friend last weekend because they both hate the way you dress or the way you laugh. Out of all the reasons why people choose to do things that they do, it is unlikely that they make their choices based on what they think of you.

Realize that people have plenty of reasons behind their actions that have nothing to do with you. Then and only then will you be able to move forward. If someone is trying to make you feel bad, they will make it known, and it will be loud and clear.


Realize that people have plenty of reasons behind their actions that have nothing to do with you. Then and only then will you be able to move forward. If someone is trying to make you feel bad, they will make it known, and it will be loud and clear.

Step 2. Lower Your Expectations for the World

We are often let down because we hold people to high expectations. Reflect on the last time that you took something personally. Why did it happen? If you think hard enough, you'll probably conclude that you felt attacked because someone didn't do something to meet your expectations. Here's the thing: people do not think about meeting your expectations throughout their day. They have their own lives to worry about.

If someone has forgotten to acknowledge you when they've come into the room, they probably haven't done it because they think you're a terrible person. Lower your expectations for the people around you, and you'll see that these moments in which you feel personally attacked may only be occurring in your head.

Step 3. Challenge Yourself When You Feel Threatened or Hurt

Think about yourself as two different people. One side of you is taking things personally, and another side of you is a referee who is waiting on the sidelines to call you out when you misinterpret someone's actions. The next time you start to feel threatened or hurt by someone else, call the referee to the front of your mind. Ask yourself, did they do anything to hurt me intentionally? If not, ask yourself why you feel so affected by their actions. What was it that they did to make you feel the way you do?


Then, start looking at their actions through the lens of someone on the outside. Consider the possibility that the person's actions have nothing to do with you. Continuing from the examples used in the previous step, maybe your boss chose to promote another person in your office because they are the best person for the job. Maybe your friends decided to hang out together because they wanted to work on their relationship. Once you start to evaluate other people's actions through this perspective, you can often see the flawed thinking that takes place when you take things personally.

Step 4. Uncover The Insecurities That Keep Surfacing During These Encounters

While the insecurities you feel may seem all-encompassing, there are usually specific areas in which you are taking things personally the most. For example, let's imagine that you feel fine when you are with your friends and your family, but you tend to take things personally when you are dating. Listen to the voice inside of you the next time you are beating yourself up over your significant other's actions. Listen to the stories that you tell yourself and pay close attention to the sections that involve you. These are things that you truly believe about yourself, and these are the areas that you will need to target when you begin work to build your self-esteem.

Step 5. Start Working On Your Confidence And Self-Esteem

It's vital that you take this step seriously if you wish to stop taking things personally. Without confidence and high self-esteem, it's easy to succumb to the negative thinking that makes you feel inferior to those around you. Now that we've addressed the importance of this step let's look into how you can build your confidence and raise your self-esteem.

  • Learn More About Why You Feel the Way You Do- Believe it or not, there is a reason why you tell yourself the terrible things you do. It may stem from your childhood because your parents weren't supportive enough or it may come from people who bullied you in school. Whatever the reason is, identify it and start working through those issues with the help of a mental health professional.
  • Change What You Can, Love What You Can't- Everyone has a part of themselves that they would like to fix or change entirely. For some, this may be a personality trait, for others, a physical feature. Any of these features can be difficult to change, and it may not happen at all. The most important thing to remember when you are trying to become more confident and improve yourself is that you should change what you can and love what you can't.
  • Embrace Positivity- Negativity is a necessary and unavoidable part of life. What isn't, however, is the negativity that you keep forcing upon yourself. Ignore those thoughts that put you down. Stop engaging in activities that reinforce your negative thoughts. Start focusing on what you love about yourself rather than what you don't love as much. Embrace positivity, and you will find your confidence.


  • Look and Act the Part- It can be difficult to be confident if you don't feel confident. Tell yourself that enough is enough and find some clothes that make you feel powerful. Start walking taller and raise your eyes to the people around instead of letting them fall to the sidewalk. Start conversations rather than trying to avoid them. You and those around you will see this shift in behavior and treat you the way you want to be treated.
  • Set Boundaries for Yourself and Others- You can't live a life without boundaries. This is a great way to allow people into your life who will walk all over you. This is also an open invitation for you to walk all over yourself. Rather than letting people come in and tell you what to do, set boundaries. If someone disrespects you, tell them that it is not acceptable. If YOU disrespect you, tell yourself that it is not acceptable. Set boundaries and be assertive about them. Being respected by yourself and others will raise your confidence.
  • Take Care of Yourself- If you haven't already, you must incorporate self-care into your daily routine. What is self-care? Self-care is the act of making sure that your own needs are met in all aspects of your life. Start working out, eating healthier, and getting the most out of your life. Your body will know if you are not doing what you need to and this will contribute to low self-esteem.
  • Achieve Greatness in Small Steps- Rome wasn't built in a day and your confidence won't be built up in a day either. Confidence is built through small, intentional actions as well as small goals. If you have trouble following through on basic tasks, make a goal to organize a small section of your house today or to start taking daily walks. When you see that you can meet these goals, you start feeling more confident that you can tackle your larger goals.

As I mentioned in the fifth step, it may be necessary for you to visit a mental health professional to work through some of the difficult problems that are leading you to take things personally. If you think you can benefit from this type of help, but you don't know where to begin, you should visit Betterhelp is the world's largest e-counseling platform that can help you connect to affordable, accessible, and convenient counseling. Use the link above to take a short questionnaire that will help find the right counselor for you.

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