It’s Not Personal

Why do we take what others think, say, or do so personally? What is it about us and our belief system that interprets someone else’s actions (or inactions) as a judgement about us? When the boss rolls their eyes, we can see that they are discounting what is being said, yet when we take it personally, we may feel that WE have been discounted, not just the information we are sharing.

Most of us have learned or been trained to focus on the responses/reactions of others as a gauge of whether we are OK or not. If ‘they’ are not happy/satisfied/pleased, it must have been something we did, said, or something about us that created their dissatisfaction. We learned this through our training in an incomplete reward system. We only learned the first half of the reward system and not the second making it incomplete. When we did something that made others happy (sit up straight, say please and thank you, be nice to your brother, etc.), we were rewarded (smile, hug, lollipop, etc.). This had us learn that if we did what others wanted, we would (might) get what we want. And this is where it ended for most of us. We never got to the second half to internalize it so WE became our own internal reward system, and very few of our parents were able to show us how. No one taught them either. As a result, many of us learned, if others are not happy, somehow, it’s on us to make it better for them/make them happy.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to make others happy, yet unless it is something we are inspired to give, and give as a gift (without keeping score), we are actually seeking to change/soothe/control others in our attempts to get what we need from them (approval, acceptance, love, consideration). This pulls our attention away from ourselves and our own inner experience, and instead projects our attention outwards towards others and what they are saying/doing/wanting/rejecting instead. We use our energy to monitor how others feel and worry about what they think about us, instead of us considering how we feel about them. It’s time to bring our attention back to ourselves and realize that we are the ones that can give us what we need, and others are able to do the same for themselves. We so often mix them up.

When someone does or says something and we take it personally, we are making the situation about us, instead of just seeing it for what it is – the other person’s experience.

If we feel strong emotions and little choice in what they are saying, it is probably triggering our old well of feelings from our past that are ready to come up and out for healing completion and release. Often it is about how we think others see us vs. how we see ourselves. If we stopped caring how they saw us, and instead focused on how we see ourselves and on doing what feels best to us when we are with others, we would take our power back and allow others to do the same for themselves.

When we don’t need others to see us differently than we are, we stop caring what they think, and we can stop taking things personally. When we focus on taking care of what feels best to us, and let others do the same for themselves, we can stop taking things personally. Everyone is doing the best they can, and most of the time, what they are doing or not doing, has nothing to do with you. It has everything to do with what is happening to them.

To make the shift, we can switch from making assumptions and coming to conclusions about WHY people are the way they are or what they are doing/saying, over to the facts of what is actually happening. When we don’t know, our ego wants to fill in the gap of not knowing with a story it’s familiar with from the past. The hardest thing for it to do is to ‘not know’ what is going to happen, or why something has happened, yet the reality is, most of the time we don’t know, and we unconsciously create a story to fill in the blank.

We have a choice about that story when we bring it to consciousness. For example, in our home life, we can unconsciously assume the worst-case scenario and accuse our teen of frazzling our nerves when they didn’t call in at the designated time, or we can acknowledge that we don’t know what’s happening to them, and text to check-in while giving them the benefit of the doubt that things are fine. At work, we can unconsciously tell ourselves that our admin support was taken away when support meetings are canceled on the calendar, or we can acknowledge we don’t know what happened, ask what has changed, and learn what the actual issue is (technology). When we make up a story when we don’t have the information and do it unconsciously, we set ourselves up for taking things personally. When we notice the story we are telling ourselves and shift it over to the facts, we are back at choice.

It’s only personal when we make it personal. Most of the time, what others are doing/saying/feeling isn’t even about us – even when they say it is. Many times we are simply the person they are projecting their own unresolved issues/pain onto. It’s OK to let others see/feel how they do, even when we disagree with it or have a very different experience. When we put ourselves in the center of their story and feel we are the reason, problem, or somehow responsible, we make something personal that often really isn’t. It is up to us to decide what is true for us and to use the facts and our own internal experience and discernment, not driven by our fear-based stories, or others’ projections, to fill in the gap of not knowing. It’s time to allow others to be responsible for meeting their own needs as we focus on being responsible for our own needs.

How will you de-personalize what others do or say today?


Wendy Watson-Hallowell | The Belief Coach
Wendy Watson-Hallowell | The Belief Coach
WENDY is passionate about enabling individuals, organizations and communities to value themselves and each other in the ongoing process of change. Wendy has guided hundreds of individuals and over 750+ public and private sector organizations to achieve tangible increases in impact and performance. Her successful practice in mentoring and coaching has led to authorship of the book, ‘Live a Life You Love and Make a Living Doing It’. Over the last 30 years, Wendy’s skills have been honed in leadership roles at MTV Networks, The Rensselaerville Institute, and a variety of community based projects in her town. In 2015 she launched BeliefWorks and offers Belief Coaching as a way to address the root cause of what limits the results we can achieve both personally and professionally. This is an 'upstream' solution to change. Instead of changing limiting behavior, she focuses on changing the limiting beliefs that drive that behavior. In all cases, her clients and partners speak to the specific increases in achievement that her consulting, coaching and partnership roles make possible.

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