by: Alejandra Malaga Walters, Francis College of Engineering Well-being Leader
Worrying about what other people think is very common in humans. We cannot undo long-held beliefs overnight, but we can learn to be more objective about situations and slowly stop taking things too personally.
According to Frederick Imbo, an expert in communication and Neuro-Linguistic Programming, there are two strategies to stop taking things personally. The first one is to think whatever people say or do is not about you. Look at the other person’s intention and try to see it from their perspective.
We often tend to think that whatever a person said or did is about us and we get offended and feel the need to defend ourselves. Usually, we take things personally when we make certain assumptions, and many times those assumptions aren’t even true. Try to see things from a different point of view from your own. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes and try to assume the best. Remind yourself that you can’t always change how people perceive you, only how you react.
If the first strategy doesn’t work, you must use the second one. The second strategy focuses on “it is about me”. If in the moment, you can’t realize the other person’s intention and still get hurt, you need to consider why you’re having that reaction and you must work on yourself. Maybe their words hit an insecurity that you have. And when you find the problem that is bothering you, you can work towards improving that insecurity, give yourself empathy and speak up.
Oftentimes, what provokes us is not usually about a specific thing but about our beliefs about the world, beliefs that are based on fear. These beliefs are generally formed in childhood, according to psychotherapist Elayne Savage of Berkeley. She says they arise from rejection experiences that can take many forms, from not feeling supported by a parent to being the blank of bullies. After you realize where the problem is coming from you can learn to be more objective about situations and slowly stop taking things so much to heart. You would be able to own your actions and reactions and gain insight into yourself and those close to you. You can talk with your friends openly and tell them when certain things bother you. When doing this, it is important not to repress your emotions or avoid personal responsibility.
The truth is that it is a matter of perspective. Many times, we assume the worst, and in the end, is not what we originally thought. We put ourselves in complex situations and thoughts for no reason. Bringing those thoughts to our minds will only make our pain last longer, and no one likes or deserves to suffer. For this reason, we need to focus on “us” instead of “them”. Question yourself: “Is thinking this way worth it?” Assuming the best, instead of the worst, may set you free of overthinking and pain.