Podcast Strong Mind Strong Body

Strong Mind. Strong Body: Why Do We Take Things Personally?

National Academy of Sports Medicine
National Academy of Sports Medicine
Maybe a client cancels at the last minute, a friend doesn’t respond to your text, or your coworker checks her phone when you’re speaking. Situations like this can lead us to take things personally, but what if we could put our energy toward something more positive?
Join NASM Master Instructor Angie Miller for a comprehensive, insightful look about why we personalize things and how we can stop.


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Angie Miller:
Everyone, welcome to our "Strong Mind. Strong Body" podcast. I'm your host, Angie Miller. And today I'm going to talk about how to stop taking things personally, you know how it is maybe a client cancels at the last minute, or maybe your friend doesn't respond to the text that you just sent.

Or maybe a co worker checks her phone when you're speaking, situations like this can lead us to take things personally, we internalize that hurt in that pain, and we feel like it is a personal thing. So today, I'm going to give you some straightforward talk about why do we take things personally? And more importantly, how do we stop taking things personally? How do we put our time and our energy and our focus into more powerful positive minded thinking? Okay, so I chose this topic, because let's face it, I think all of us at some points at some time in our lives have taken things personally, don't you think?

Because the reality is, though, that when we do that, it's emotionally exhausting. It's really tiring to try to figure out why someone said what they said or did what they did, it takes a lot of our time and our energy trying to figure out what makes other people tick, when really, those are things that we can't control, we can't control what other people say and do, we can only control what we say and do. So at the end of the day, taking things personally, it also wears the way in our self esteem. The problem is, is that it's a lot, again, a lot of stuff that we can't control. So let's take again, that client who cancels on us at the last minute, or the friend who doesn't respond to our text, but then you talk to another friend, and that friend says, Oh, I just got off the phone with her.

Or the friend who says she can join you for dinner. But then you see on social media later that she was out to dinner with a bunch of other friends. Or maybe you tried to talk to your partner about the friend who you felt like this deal. And the next thing you know, your partner's looking at their phone. Or maybe you speak up at a work meeting and you turn around and you see two co workers giving each other that knowing look, most of us, we would probably personalize at least one or two of those situations. We might feel resentful, or hurt. Maybe we even feel betrayed. Maybe we feel disrespected or offended. Maybe we're disappointed because after all, it feels inconsiderate. It feels kind of rude, right? But is it really about us? Do people really say and do things with us at the forefront of their mind? I'm going to venture a big guess here that probably not. Probably most times we don't even register in people's radar when they're speaking or acting or behaving. So why don't we internalize that and take it to heart? Well, according to Frederick, Mo, a communications expert, he says we personalize things because our ego gets in the way. Remember when Freud talked about the ego, anybody took psych 101 in college, I love that class. So our ego gets in the way we blame other people for hurting our frustration, because we believe that they should take us into consideration before they think x he can do right? He says that our ego doesn't want to feel wounded. Because we want to we want to feel acknowledged and heard and understood when you agree with that. I think that makes sense to me.

And so he talks a lot about the ego and how you know, we our egos jumps in and our egos like, wait, wait, you know, didn't you think about me before you did that? Chances are probably not. So a few of the other reasons that I think we take people personally is because we as trainers and group fitness instructors, we're people pleasers. We have this like inherent, like, I need to save the world, like we have our trainer tape on and we want to save the world. We want to make other people feel happy and successful. But the truth is, we all know that we can't please everyone we try. But we can't. We can't control what other people think of us. Whether they make their time with us a priority or whether they whether they value our services, we can't control whether or not someone is a good listener or they're attentive to what we have to say. We can't control any of those because those are just external variables that have to do with them. And even when we strive to always kind of do the right thing, even when we give it our all we're not always going to please everyone and some people are just going to overlook our efforts.

Can you believe that I know that's a hard pill to swallow, right? So we have to accept that we're just we're doing our best. We are good people with good intentions, and we're doing our best. And we just have to stay true to behaviors, and words and actions that align with our values, not to impress anybody else. But just to stay true to what gets us out of bed in the morning. So again, I'm Angie Miller, this is our strong mind, strong body podcast, and I am talking about why do we take things personal. And I think that all of us at some point in our lives has taken a thing or two personally something that someone said or done or situation that's taken place. So another reason because I'm starting with the wise, and I'm going to tell us how to stop. So another reason that I think we take people personal is because we assumed that it's about us. And you're like, Well, of course we do, because it is this and then I mean, my friend who dismissed dinner wasn't that about me. But just as I mentioned about ego earlier, our ego believes that it is about us. But what if it really isn't worth it has nothing to do with us at all. Maybe with our partner who checked their phone, when we were talking to them about the friend that we thought this does. Maybe he or she just got a really super important text message from their boss that they had been waiting for. Maybe the knowing look between our co workers was actually like a Yes, I'm so glad she said that. Because we've been wanting to say that, maybe they're on the same page, and they are actually on in our corner. So Frederick Embo says that we shift the focus from me like that hurt me why they do that to me, too, we, then we can avoid taking things so personal. Because if we try to see the intention, and other people, then we look at it from their perspective, we automatically broaden our lens, because see, we only see the way that it impacts us. But if we broaden our lens, or we look at their intention, and we look at it instead of me, we then we maybe gain more understanding instead of irritation. And maybe you know, sometimes our insecurities or ego just kind of takes over insecurities, and then we see or we personalize it and think the worst case scenario, but perspective just really broadens our lens. And not to mention, you know, that friend who joined other friends for dinner, that client who cancels that last minute, if that was ice, for some reason, a slight on their part. And if it wasn't, you know, the knowing look wasn't a look like they were on our side, or the friend just you know, wanted to go out with another group of friends because thought she would have more friend, fun, even if it is that we have to remember that other people's actions and words and behaviors is a reflection on what's going on in their world. It's not a reflection on us, we really don't know their concerns or their struggles. We don't know their priorities or their insecurities.
Maybe that friend, that group of friends that she went out with maybe they share something in common with them, maybe she's got a lot of stress going on at work. And it turns out that these people that she went out with work with her and she felt like she would be in an understanding empathetic space. But we really just don't know what's going on in other people's world. And let's just say worst case scenario, it is a job or it is done out of malice, or it is something to manipulate us, we have to remember that other people's words and actions, again, is a reflection on them. And it speaks to who they are not who we are. So it helps if we leave them with their stuff. So the third reason why think we take people personal.
And again, I'm Angie Miller, and I'm talking about why we personalize things and how we can stop. And I talked about the ego. And then I talked about because we think it's about us, we think what other people say and do is about us. And the third reason why I think we take people personal is we ruminate. My grandma used to call it making a mountain out of a molehill. It's when we take something that happened or something someone said, and we massage it so much to almost ad nauseum. And our mind starts playing tricks. We ruminate, we play it over and over, it just spins and spins and spins. So we think things like are they mad at me? Oh, did I say something wrong? Or why did they say that? What did they mean? or How come they didn't invite me? Or what was that knowing look that they just gave each other? So in the end ruminating is overthinking and it really gives a lot of power to situations and people when really again, we have no context. We really don't know what's going on in their world. We really don't know the meaning behind their words or their behaviors and sometimes they don't know the meaning behind their words and their behaviors.

Chances are they thought very little of it when they said or did it. It wasn't personal. It wasn't about us and against that helps if we broaden our perspective and see it through a wider lens. So those are the three reasons why I think we take people or take things personal. And that is just our ego. We think it's about us and we ruminate, we play it over and over again in our mind, and our mind makes it bigger than what it is. So but most importantly, I really just want to share with you a few ways that we can stop personalizing, because then the N personalizing again, it's it's emotionally exhausting. It's critical, you know, to our self esteem that we learn not to personalize things that happen all the time. Because so often, they're not personal, and they're not about us at all. So in order to kind of salvage our self esteem and keep our thoughts in a healthier place, I think it's important to keep in mind just a few healthy tips on how to not personalize situations. So the first one, and this might be unexpected. But the first one is practice empathy. What if empathy, rather than irritation is the first thought that comes to our mind when someone says or does something that offends us? And the reason why is because, you know, a lot of times, our first reaction is kind of like anger or irritation, or we feel kind of spicy. We're like, oh, the nerve of them, I can't believe they did that. Or maybe we're hurt.
Maybe we even cry, because we see on social media that they all had dinner without us. And it feels it feels hurtful, right? But imagine if we would, again, empathy isn't sympathy, empathy is putting ourselves in someone else's shoes. So what if we just take empathy for a minute, and we massage that and let's, let's break that down. So empathy is like, imagine being a person who is completely unaware of their effect or impact on other people, or maybe they don't care. Okay? So there are people like that, and we can be angry, and we can feel self righteous, or we can just feel empathy that, gosh, I can't imagine being a person who doesn't care about other people, or who has no personal insight, and just not even recognize my impact on other people, we wouldn't want to be that person. So maybe we just find a little space in our heart in our head to give them a little bit of empathy. Because thank goodness, we're not like that, right? Or imagine saying something that you didn't intend for it to come out that way, wishing you could take back those words. I don't have to imagine that one for very long. Because I feel like I do it a lot. I feel like I do it a lot where I put my foot in my mouth, do you.
So all of us have been there where we've said something and it came out completely the wrong way? And we're like, oh, where is the rewind button, I really did not mean for that to come out that way. So sometimes empathy is just helpful, because sometimes people just don't mean for things to come out the way that they come out. Or imagine just being in a bad place. And having the weight of the world on your shoulders. And the way you interact with others is just a reflection of that hardship that you're feeling and experiencing. Well, sometimes when people behave the way they behave, and and we hear things that they say or do it really is empathy is powerful, because we really don't know where they are in their world, we really don't know what they're going through. And imagine us at our worst moments, when we're at heightened levels of stress, when our job isn't going well, or we have too many responsibilities, or we're not sleeping or we don't feel well, we're not showing up as our best self. Wouldn't it be amazing if other people would feel empathy toward us and give us the benefit of the doubt during those moments? Because the truth is, we just don't know what's going on in other people's world. But we do know this, we do know that their words, their actions, and their behaviors are a reflection of what's going on in their world. We know it's not a reflection of what's going on in ours, but we definitely know it's a reflection of what's going on in their world. But you know, here's the deal. We can also practice empathy for ourselves.
So yes, I'm practicing or I'm promoting that we practice empathy for other people. But I think that a little personal empathy goes a long way to, I think that it's okay to just sit and reflect and think, hmm, darn, that kind of hurt. Like I saw my friends out there at dinner. And I just asked this friend to go to dinner with me, and that kind of hurt. And even though logically, I might know that my friend wanted to go out with coworkers because she really needed to deep dive into all the stuff that's going on at work and she needed a good listening ear. The logical part of me does not always connect with the emotional part of me. And so I think that it helps to give myself a little personal empathy and say, You know what, I can practice empathy for other people that I can also give myself some personal empathy. And, you know, while I'm thinking to myself, you know, that did hurt, and I have to acknowledge that maybe tomorrow, or the next day, I could go to my friend, and I could admit that it kind of hurt. And I can be a little vulnerable, and let my friend into that space, and be honest not to blame her, or shame her. But to let her know, you know, how I felt, and maybe give her a chance to explain, or maybe just, you know, give her a chance to say, Hey, you know what, Angie, I'm sorry, I bet that didn't feel good. But I want you to know, it really wasn't about you at all. It was just about me needing to talk to my co workers.
So again, I'm Angie Miller, and I'm talking about why we take things personal. And I talked about three reasons why we do and now I'm talking about some ways that we can stop. And the first way that I suggest that people learn to stop taking things personal is to practice empathy toward other people and toward ourselves, to try to put ourselves into their shoes and recognize that we don't know what's going on in their world, but also to give ourselves personal empathy and to recognize that even though we don't know what's going on in their world, it doesn't mean it doesn't hurt. And it's okay, if it hurts, and maybe we're certain people we can share that vulnerability and tell them in a day or two that it didn't really feel very good. Okay. So the second way that I think that we can stop taking things personally, is we can learn to leave some things behind. And I don't mean like, Let it go Let it go like Whoo hoo. I don't mean it like that. I think that that's kind of an overused cliche, oh, let it go. said no one ever in a helpful way, it can come across as very kind of patronizing, right. But I'm saying that sometimes we attach personal meaning to situations that don't have that aren't personal, right. So like when our friend doesn't respond to our text, and then our other friend says that she just spoke to her or sister doesn't call us back or partner, you know, feels like we feel like our partner's not listening. Sometimes we just have to let those things go. And remember that everything is that personal, when we hyper focus on those small nuances that people do without even really thinking about it. Because sometimes, again, they're just not in our world, they're in their world.
We get caught up in it erodes our positivity, we get caught up in like thinking about all those smaller nuances of people's thoughts and behaviors and actions. Like, you know, have you ever been driving and someone flips you off? Or they unroll their window and they start yelling at you? Well, I happen. You might be thinking, well, maybe you're just a bad driver. But yeah, just kind of heard. It makes me spicy. But sometimes I even take a personal like, was I driving badly did I forget to Like turn on my turn signal. And really, who says that, that's just, you know, not about the guy who flipped me off. And maybe he just had a fight with his partner, or maybe he's late for work. And he's blaming traffic, and it just so happens on the car in front of him. So sometimes, we just have to let those small things go. Because you know, that's a situation and a person that I just can't control. That guy in traffic doesn't know that I'm a good person. And quite frankly, he doesn't care if I'm a good person. He's just feeling spicy, and he wants somebody to take it out on right. So that's the kind of thing that I just have to let it go, where it's going to erode my positivity. That's the kind of thing when we let those small things build up. At the end of the day, we're likely to be like, Oh, I had a bad day. And then if we break it down, it might boil down to small things like the dude who flipped us off that we don't even know it's like, ah, does that really deserve that much space? I don't think so. So, at the end of the day, I try to remind myself to let those things go, I try to remind myself to practice empathy. What if he did just have a fight with his partner? He's just not a good space. I've been there before, have you? And then I try to use people like that as a reminder of the person that I don't want to be right. I don't want to be that person. So why am I worried that he's that way? I to remind myself next time I get frustrated in traffic not to be that guy. Okay. So again, I'm Angie Miller, I'm talking about why we personalize things and how we can stop. So I talked about practicing empathy, and then I talked about letting it go. And the third way that I think that we can refrain from personalizing things is to create distance. So if the top two don't work, if practicing empathy isn't working, if letting it go isn't working, how about creating distance between put some time and some space between whatever it is that that person just said to you, or whatever it is, that just happened?

Right. So some people are high responders, if that guy would have flipped him off, oh, their windows on rolled in there flipping him off. And those are the two people that you see speeding down the highway chasing each other honking, you know, almost creating, you know, wreaking havoc on other people's lives, because one person responded poorly. And so the other person, you know, bit the hook, and now they're responding poorly. So what if we just create distance between what just happened? And the situation and our initial gut reaction, which was like, Oh, you know, I can't stand people like that. What if we just put some time and space between it, maybe we breathe, maybe at the next stoplight, we just sit and breathe. And we remind ourselves that people only have as much power as we get them, right? People only have as much power as we give them. So how much power? Are we going to give to perfect strangers? Or how much power are we going to give to Little things like, my spouse checked his phone when I was talking to him, or my sister didn't call me back last night? Why deep dive into other people's muck because again, we don't know where they are in their world. So we can spend a lot of time and emotional energy on things that can't be unsaid or on done, or we can take our power back, and we can determine, okay, this was said this was done. What am I going to do in response? How am I going to salvage my dignity and self respect? Is this something that is worth me picking up and discussing with this person? Or is this something that's just better left alone, and maybe I should just let it go. So if we don't know, if we can't find that empathy, and we can't let it go, maybe we just create some distance. And then we, you know, come back to it later if we need to. And that is the fourth way that I want to talk to you about. And that is coming back later. So we create distance. And now we we decide whether or not we're going to come back to it. And this is the fourth way that I think that we can not personalize things. So now we've created distance, and maybe you know, we get home. And we decide that we're upset because our boss didn't respond to our project the way that we wanted them to, or those two co workers who gave a knowing look, maybe we find that they do that a lot in an attorney to really erode our self esteem. So we feel like it needs to be addressed. So we open up our computer and we type an email out. But but but please, here's the big caveat, please wait 24 hours before you send that email, let that spiciness get out of your system so that you don't say or do something you're going to regret. So maybe you write it all out, you tell your story, you tell your the way that you feel about this situation using i i statements, of course, but you give it 24 hours before you actually send it. So in 24 hours from now, if you go back and you read that email, and you still feel that strongly, okay, it's probably pretty safe to send, because your nervous system has calmed down, you're just in a healthier space. But if you can try to do it in person, the goal is that with time and distance, your emotions are more in check, right? So you can talk to the other person, you can let them know how you feel. You can talk to your friend and say, Hey, you know what's interesting is last night, I texted you, and I didn't hear back from you. And then I was talking to my you know, our other friend and she said that you guys have been talking and I'm just wondering, you know, I think I took a personal I'm wondering, was that personal? Or did you just have a lot going on?
Again, allowing yourself to be vulnerable and inviting your friend into that space and letting him or her explain where they were with that situation? Be prepared, though to listen authentically, not listen from a place of you know, wanting to blame or shame them, but listen authentically, because maybe there's something constructive you can learn from, maybe you said something to your friend and your friend had taken that personally. So she's taking a 24 hour break from you. But either way, you got to speak your mind. And when we get to speak our mind, I think it's peace of mind, don't you? I do. So you know, first way that we can learn not to or the first way we can learn to overcome personalizing people or stop personalizing situations is practice empathy. Number two, let it go. Number You know number three, try to create distance and number four, come back later. Okay, so number five. Last but not least, I think the last way that I have that we can not personalize situations is to be the bigger person. I think that sometimes in the end, we just have to know our worth. And if somebody does blatantly disrespect us and we do feel that it was blatantly disrespectful, we you know, isn't worth our time and energy um, If it, you know, is it worth going into the muck with them.
So my mom used to say never stoop to someone else's level or never seek revenge because it's your conscience, not theirs. And I would add to that it probably doesn't try probably doesn't work to engage with a toxic person. Because a lot of times you can't meet resistance with resistance. But of all the humans out there on this earth who are worthy of our time and attention, it's probably not someone who's mean spirited or insecure. So maybe we save that space for people who really matter. But you know what being the bigger person doesn't mean that we never address situations that need to be addressed. It just means that sometimes, you know, if empathy doesn't work, and we can't let it go, and we've given it distance, and we've come back to it, and we just decide, hey, you know what, I came back to it. And I think I'm just going to be the bigger person. So we've got choices. Bottom line is all of us, we're human. Sometimes we take things personal, it's not bad. You know, sometimes we're a little more sensitive, and we see the world through a little bit more sensitive lenses. Sometimes we're not sensitive, you know, at all. Maybe people just say things or do things that really impact us in a negative way. And it's our personal right to speak up about it, but we do have options. And so those are just a few reasons why we take things personal, and a few ways that we can stop.
I'm Angie Miller, I'm so glad that you joined us for this "Strong Mind. Strong Body" segment on personalizing situations. Alright, I'll see you next week.

The Author

National Academy of Sports Medicine

National Academy of Sports Medicine

Since 1987 the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) has been the global leader in delivering evidence-based certifications and advanced specializations to health and fitness professionals. Our products and services are scientifically and clinically proven. They are revered and utilized by leading brands and programs around the world and have launched thousands of successful careers.