The Snag of Personalization

The Snag of Personalization

Often we want to take things that are said by, or the actions of, others personally.  How dare they say that to me?  Why does so-and-so not like me? Why would my boss jump on me like that?  There used to be a saying about having thicker skin.  In some instances we do need thicker skin, such as a work environment when corrected by a supervisor; potentially the correction, and/or the way it is done, could hurt our feelings when that was not the intention.  We need, at that point, to determine within ourselves if it was a professional correction or not.  

When you do experience taking things personally, that can begin a process of developing resentment toward someone if you do not know how to correct it or confront it.  Most people have experienced something being said or done that makes us feel inadequate, worthless, stupid, embarrassed, or pick another emotion.  When this happens it is generally a reflection of how we are already feeling about ourselves and drives the question of “what is wrong with me?”  Chances are, that was never the intention of the sender.

Life is built on perceptions, we all have them whether factually right or not. In an article from Psychology Today, Toni Bernhard notes two studies that show taking things too personally was associated with behavior related to depressive thinking, and that personalization is a cognitive distortion correlated with anxiety in young people.

If you get frustrated, before accepting the frustration as directed at you for some failing or flaw, remember their world does not revolve around you. That is one of the big pieces of personalization; it is all about me.  It is not, even if the other person is a very close friend or family member.  For many people, it is all about them, for their own life.  You can only control you, your reactions, actions, and statements.   No one can make you behave angrily, just like you cannot make anyone else behave in anger.

In each situation, be aware of your own emotional reaction and ask yourself if the response is needed, rational, and helpful.  If we all begin to change our negative reactions to each situation, identify what the emotion is and why we have it, it will go a long way to better understanding and having compassion with ourselves and others.  

In society, we tend to focus more on feelings and emotions and neglect the thought process which goes along with the emotions.  We have a brain to use, give it the opportunity to gauge your reaction to a situation before taking it personally and responding in an outward, negative way.

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