Don’t Take This Personally, But It’s Not About You

When you encounter someone totally rude and disrespectful in an unexpected place, it can often make you wonder whether it’s something you said or did to cause this behavior. This is called “personalization,” and it can truly cause a person with depression to consider himself as worthless or deserving of disrespect. Nothing could be further from the truth!

The truth of the situation

It’s important to remember that everyone has her own personality and her own foibles—and that not everyone is having a good day when you encounter them. A rude passerby on the street may be going through some sort of issue and may not even realize that he is being cruel. An aggressive customer may be overworked and stressed, or a short-tempered boss may be dealing with an ill family member. Or, then again, that person may also be guilty of personalization.

When you encounter a rude person it’s important to remember one thing: Their behavior likely has nothing to do with you. The truth, however, is that many of us take the weight of another person’s disdain upon our own shoulders. This is when we have to stop and say, “Wait, this isn’t about me!” and we have to assess, objectively, what just happened. 

Don’t take it personally

In his book, Anger Management, Peter J. Favaro writes “The person who personalizes life mistakenly thinks the world was specifically designed to make things for difficult for them in particular. ‘Why did my car break down today?’ ‘How did I get a boss who is such a complete idiot?'”He shares that the way to counteract this thought process is to expand your point of view to include the possibility that perhaps life isn’t as bad as you perceive it. Perhaps it’s not all about you.

Favaro sees this as a method of risk taking, and that viewing the world in this way allows you to see things from the perspective of the other person. This is also known as “empathy,” a valuable skill for anyone who deals in life in the real world on a daily basis. It allows you to break free from the angry life in which you live and expands your world view to enable you to take some responsibility for your own thoughts and actions.

Break free from feeling powerless

Therese J. Bochard describes how to overcome 9 Types of Hopelessness by making lists, assessing situations, reflecting upon successes and examining the evidence. She writes, “It is common for those who are oppressed to engage in personalization and self-blame. A strategy for counteracting self-blame is reattribution. 

“This involves considering all the likely causes of negative emotions. When individuals feel limited because of a perceived physical or intellectual disability, they may fall prey to labeling.” To attack harmful labels, define your terms. For example, if you feel or are labeled “stupid,” reflect on the actual definition of the term. Are you always “making bad decisions?” Are you always “careless” and “unable to learn?” Unless this description, taken directly from the “American Heritage Dictionary,” applies to you, then you are not “stupid.”

Empower yourself by learning how to recognize your strengths as opposed to your perception of how others view you. It’s not always about you, and you don’t always have to take things personally.