“Don’t take it personally?” We have all been in a situation when someone says an unkind word or acts unpleasant towards you. It’s an opinion or judgement so how can we not take it personally? This is something I’ve struggled with all my life, especially when I’ve heard: “Four eyes.” “Goodie-two-shoes.” “Nerd. “Ugly.” “You can’t write.” “You’re wasting my time.” “Shut up.” “I hate you.”
These words and phrases linger in my head. Although I don’t believe they define me, it still stings.
As children, we believe the world revolves around us. Only later do we develop the knack to walk a mile in someone’s shoes. I have come to realize that when people say something harsh, or behave poorly, it is more a reflection on them and not me. It is also about what’s going on in their life at the time. Perhaps they are going through a divorce, or there is a financial strain, or someone they love is ill. I remind myself that one person’s subjective view, doesn’t necessarily make the word or deed right or fair. However, it is difficult to think this way because my first reaction is to lash out at the person who is making me feel less than what I know is true. I must continue to believe in myself and gather up my super powers to send positive energy to the person who is trying to create negativity.
Not taking it personally is much more difficult when your child is the object of someone’s hurtful words or acts.
As a parent, how do you respond? How do you help your child respond and not take it personally.
My immediate reaction is to protect, intervene, and fix the situation. I don’t want to see my child uncomfortable, angry, or sad. As parents, we walk a fine line of being over involved or not involved enough to know what’s really going on in our child’s life.
I like to think I approach parenting in a mindful way, encouraging my son to speak up for himself and ask questions of the adults in his life who are giving him their feedback or opinions. Asserting oneself is very difficult for a teenager to do. It takes some creative coaching (not preaching) on my part, confidence and resilience on my son’s part.
Understanding how not to take things personally is something that must be experienced. There will be many many setbacks or difficult situations in my son’s life. As a parent, I can’t protect him from everything nor should I try because overcoming challenges is part of growing up.
If I were to write a letter to my younger self at age 16, I would write: “Don’t take things that other people say to you personally because their opinions are reflections of themselves. You are good, strong, smart, courageous, beautiful, loving, caring, and kind. Don’t stoop so low as to cut someone else down. Sometimes the best way to respond is to lift up your head, smile and say to him: “That is your opinion. It is not mine.”