Have you ever been in a class discussion and all of a sudden found yourself defending something that you said while the class berates you tirelessly? Even the teacher questions you and you feel small and defenseless, at the mercy of everyone else. Well, perhaps you were taking things a little too personally, and the rest of your class simply wanted to get a better understanding of something you said. Their criticism was not at you, but the idea you proposed. Separating your ideas from yourself is essential inside the classroom and out, and accepting criticism without putting up a fight is one of the most important things we all can learn how to do.
When someone takes something personally it is a sign of deeper problems that manifest themselves in aggressive or irritated ways. It is often a result of insecurity, low self-esteem, or another symptom of poor mental health. It also occurs far too often with high schoolers who struggle with identity, confidence, and many other emotional instabilities. High school is hard enough as it is, so why do we continue to take things personally?
When you take a comment or gesture personally it makes you dislike the “offender” and makes you want to retaliate. It also disrupts you internally and forces you to question whether the person who said something was actually right in the first place. This can lead to negative thoughts and in some cases even ruin relationships between people.
This issue doesn’t just occur in school—in sports, being coachable is one of the best assets a player can have. Over my years as a basketball player, there have been many instances where a coach tells a player to do something minor—such as run harder—and the player immediately fires back at the coach with scrutiny of their own. This type of reaction never ends well, especially when all the coach wanted was to push his or her players harder. Taking criticism and being able to learn and improve is essential. This is also a life skill. The quicker you learn to do this consistently, the happier you will be. However, it is much easier said than done.
Fortunately, there are many ways to learn how to take advice well and to not feel disrespected by others. It starts with awareness. Understand that if others are acting rude or disrespectful it’s not because of something you did—it is often a reflection of the problems someone is dealing with, which they decided to take out on you.
Also realize that your self-worth does not depend on other people. This idea is especially important, and is seen in the Psychology Today article, “How to Stop Taking Things Personally.” “When we take things personally we are giving certain individuals more power over us than they deserve or should ever be allowed to have. In effect, you are allowing someone to question what you feel and believe.” Remember, only you can judge yourself so don’t let other people’s opinions weigh you down.
Changing your perspective and looking at issues from the other side is another beneficial strategy that can allow you to see why somebody might be acting a certain way, and it can create a good learning opportunity for yourself as well.
Lastly, taking things personally is human. We all do it, but not everyone is fully aware of when and how they deal with it. We all are self-conscious at times, but if we could just understand that people are often so worried about themselves your mistakes don’t even cross their mind, then hopefully you won’t be take things personally anymore.