PART 2 (see Part 1 here)
By Telana Simpson
If you have heard others repeatedly say to you “stop taking things so personally” with a tone of exasperation and frustration, and heard yourself say “everybody is just against me, I can’t seem to do anything right” then it might be time to put down those victim-mentality glasses that taint the way you see the world.
I’m guessing that you feel always under attack, like you are never good enough, that nobody ever listens to you, they are always challenging what you say, and you feel so alone in the world.
In my previous article I talked about what the Victim-Mentality Lens looks like, and how it plays out in our lives (see Part 1 here).
What’s behind taking things so personally?
Not good enough
A deep seated and integral part of this lens, which leads to the way of being in the world where we take everything so personally, comes from the way we feel about ourselves. It comes from how we have been conditioned to define our sense of self worth (or self-esteem).
When I coach people to not take things so personally, as I unpack what is going on for them, we most often come down to the fear of not being good enough. It’s a fear that there is something wrong with them, and that is why everyone is against them and they have to continually protect themselves (which they often do by being defensiveness, aggressive or a doormat) or prove themselves (which they often do by over-working and people-pleasing).
Spotlight & Power
Another key part is that these people give away their personal power and over emphasise the opinions of others, to the extreme that they are always interpreting events and what people say as being about them. They feel powerless, out of control and like they are outside, looking in on themselves.
They may feel unsafe in themselves and this world. Then most events or interactions with others are interpreted as something that will protect them, maybe even validate them, or as something that will destroy them, specifically by exposing their deep flaw of not being good enough.
From the outside it appears like everything is about them.
From the inside, the person is so other-focused though, they feel like a spotlight is always on them.
Time for Change
There is hope though. As I mentioned in Part 1, this is just a lens we see the world through, and when we start to loosen the lens, even clean it a bit, we can find more light and start developing the skills to have the experiences we so desire. These are the experiences of being safe, engaging positively with the world and people, and having connection and meaning in our lives.
How to not take things so personally
To move away from the drama of the Victim-Mentality thinking, we need to try on some other lenses, and learn some flexibility and skills in dealing with people.
1. Wear the filter of True Self Esteem
There is a prevalent misconception of what self esteem is. This misunderstanding is just a filter, but a common one in our world today. It leads us to feel on the defensive and having to prove ourselves constantly.
It is when we have constructed the concept of our sense of worth to be defined by what we do. When we base our self esteem on our doing, we are continually doing things (like over-performing at work or pleasing others (as in “Other-Esteem”) in order to create and then prove our worth, because we never seem to feel good enough.
A far more useful lens to look at Self Esteem through is to define it as our being-ness, which we then express through our doing. It’s to understand that we don’t reach a point in life when we become a Human Being – we already are one from the moment of birth. And being a human, we have the potential to learn the skills of doing that will allow us to add our inherent value to the world – through our actions and contributions.
We are a somebody, and life is about getting to know the depth of our somebody-ness, and then sharing that with the world. We don’t do to become a somebody.
It’s the ‘inside out’ approach to develop True Self-Esteem that unlocks our inherent potential in a generative way. We don’t gain potential by doing, it’s the doing that shows the potential already there.
So try on the lens of True Self Esteem.
2. Empower yourself
When we wear the “Victim” lens, we feel dis-empowered. We lose our sense of feeling in control and then can resent it when others try to ‘rescue’ us. (learn more about this dynamic in relationships in my podcast here).
So to overcome this is to fully own your powers to respond. These powers are your ability to think, to feel, to use your voice and to take action. When you realise that these are the only things you can control, you feel em-powered, as you know your own power.
You can think and can choose, so use that power. Harness the energy of your emotions and channel that energy in a constructive way. Speak up. Use your voice- if it’s not aloud to respectfully express what you are feeling, then express yourself by journaling or seeking counsel with a trusted person.
And take action. You have to behave differently to get different results. Confidence also is developed by practice, and the more you practice using your response-powers constructively, the more response-able you will become, and the more confidently in control of yourself you will feel.
3. Learn boundaries
What follows from owning your own response powers, is to allow others to own theirs. Their abilities to respond is their stuff, so don’t take it on or try to control it. Allowing others to manage themselves, and to have their own thoughts and feelings, allows you to find that line between what is yours, and what is theirs. And this is how you become un-insult-able. After all, it’s a full time job just managing your own self – so focus on doing that to the best of your abilities.
Don’t take on other people’s stuff. You can still support and help them when needed. And you can put the boundaries in place so that you don’t take their views (especially of you) personally. You have to take insult to become insulted.
When you know where your boundaries are, then it’s far easier to question what is just the other person’s opinion and what is actual fact. And then you can use what is useful to further develop yourself.
4. Develop Inner Strength and Outward Focus
To counter the Spotlight effect that contributes to keeping the not so useful lens of Victim Mentality thinking in place, you need to shift your focus. By focusing your energy on your contribution you are making, and turning your attention outwards, (rather than focusing on how you think you are coming across to others – the outside in approach), you will find it’s far easier to de-personalise what is going on.
When we are focusing on ourselves from the outside in, all our energy is on ourselves. When we are focusing from the inside out, we get to put our energy out into the world, to focus on what value we can add, and rather use any feedback from others as information to help us improve.
The compounding effect of all these points I am sharing is that we start to develop an inner strength. We feel stronger and more capable of handling life when we come from True Self-esteem and own our powers; when we have boundaries to know when to protect ourselves and what is not ours to concern ourselves with; and we choose where to place our focus.
And when we experience this inner strength, we are less likely to feel like victims and that there is nothing we can do about our situation.
5. Don’t live on assumptions.
Then ask some more.
And then ask again.
And then listen.
Check what you think you heard and your understandings thereof, as so often what was intended to be a person’s message is not what we interpreted.
Language and communication is a tricky thing, and we are too quick to jump to conclusions. We then assume that what we think we concluded is the actual fact of the matter, and we act from there.
When we are seeing the world from behind victim-mentality lenses, we forget how they cloud the way we interpret things. Thus checking our assumptions often, and really listening to hear the other person, is a life strategy that can only help in all situations, and all relationships.
Don Miguel Ruiz (author of The Four Agreements) says:
“Don’t take anything personally. Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.”
My wish for you is that you are not the victim of needless suffering. And that my few suggestions and different frames of mind will help you to no longer take things personally.
Rather, I hope you experience the freedom that comes from living from the inside out, and that this helps to unlock your abilities to add your value to the world!
About the Author:
Telana is a dynamic transformational Personal Coach who focuses on communicating and relating. She works with people who want to change their lives, specifically to improve their communication skills and relationships and their ability to express themselves verbally, creatively, emotionally and physically. She specialises in self esteem, controlling emotions, overcoming self consciousness and anxiety, handling conflict, fear of confrontation and developing relationships. She is the host of the online TV show “ Let’s Talk Communication”. You can contact her through www.innercoaching.co.za or tweet her @Telana .