“When I take something personal, judgment is always riding shotgun” – Dave Fyfe
I absolutely used to think taking things personally was my very own super power. By taking something personal, it showed I cared and that I had a passionate position that I was willing to stand up, or even fight for. I saw this righteousness as what fueled and guided me on my own path through life. On the flip side, I saw those that appeared to be more easygoing as weak, lacking passion and simply not interesting to me. Because of this, I attracted a posse of taking things personally folks into both my personal and professional life.
The giant pitfall of taking (almost everything) personally is that day-to-day life is always hitting us with something that can be taken the wrong way. If I am using this information as my daily fuel, then I am almost always reacting to stimulus, and counter punching life, to use a boxing analogy (I boxed for a short time so I am allowed). This puts me in a state of hypersensitivity and into almost non-stop reaction mode. In reality this state is truly mentally, spiritually and physically exhausting and not sustainable.
Recently I gave a close friend some feedback and it was instantly clear to me, based on his aggressive response he had taken it personally (I have some experience with this). Because of this less than stellar reaction to what I felt was adequate feedback; I then took his response personally (Punch…counterpunch). Lucky for me, this happens to be a human I care a lot about, so before going deep into taking it the wrong way, I first got curious about our positions and how we both arrived on planet taking things personally so quickly.
Operating from a sincere place of wanting to understand his perspective and also owning my part of any misunderstandings, misinformation or poor communication. We took the time to talk it through and it turned out that he took my quick comment as dismissive and degrading, but in reality I was simply pressed for time. Once we offered our perspectives from the ground of mutual understanding, all the taking it personally faded away and we got back to connected and supportive and a potential disaster was easily averted.
The example I just gave had a happy ending and actually strengthened our relationship. But I can think of 100’s of times that the taking it personally spiraled out of control with both parties reading into situations and making up stories without pausing and asking for clarity. In extreme examples I have had this destructive spiral go into realms of alternate reality and paranoia that have wreaked havoc on important relationships, both personally and professionally.
What I realized is that when I take something personally, within a millisecond judgment follows. I start sizing them up like an adversary, seeing their shortcomings and inconsistencies. When I take something personally I want to build a case that I am right and they are wrong. How dare they do/say (or not do) this to me, who do they think they are. This way, the counter punch will hit them where it hurts and I will leave righteous and my ego intact. When I am deep in judgment my ability to be compassionate and understanding is pretty much non-existent and so is my ability to communicate effectively. When I am in judgment I find it difficult, if not impossible to own my part and will often forget what really matters.
This taking it personal/judgment cycle is frankly exhausting and steals the very essence of love/connection, joy/happiness and fun we all strive for. We all have limited time and energy throughout our day and we want to spend these precious resources on our all important hopes and dreams.
“What other people think of me is none of my business” – Eleanor Roosevelt
Having spent too much of my lifetime taking things personally and paying some extreme prices, I decided enough is enough as I wanted a new baseline belief to operate from. This new belief as it turned out was fairly simple. It is that everyone is doing absolutely the best they can with what they know at this time, including me.
Everyone is doing his or her best as simple as it sounds, it is in reality hard to implement in daily life. We have a tendency to put ourselves in other people’s shoes and think they could have, should have done better. As soon as we do that we often find a new path to judgment and we start to spiral into disempowering stories and beliefs.
We can often forget that their experience of life is radically different from our own and it is not fair to put ourselves in their shoes and judge them in the first place. We need to stay in our own damn shoes, taking care of the thoughts and feelings of the complicated (and sometimes tricky) human that is in them, is our only full time job. Thinking we could live someone’s life better than them is not only arrogant, but it also roadblocks the very thing we are striving for, deep connection and understanding.
With an open heart and feeling expansive, I can give the benefit to everyone that they are truly doing their absolute best. From this mindset it is pretty much impossible to take anything personally. With that being said this does not eliminate the need to engage in difficult communications. But when we do, we can come from a place of curiosity, compassion, empathy and truly move to a place of mutual understanding and meaningful connection.
We seem to be living these days in a deeply divided world. Let’s always keep in mind that everyone, even if we disagree with them, are truly doing the best they can with what they know.
“Seek first to understand, then to be understood” – Stephen Covey