What other people do to you is their karma. How you react is yours.
Much to my own chagrin, I take things personally. When someone says something hurtful or acts aggressively, I take it to heart. I mull it over. I internalize it. I put my own value into question based on their sideways behavior.
This is not who I want to be.
Let me tell you a little story. My uncle shaves his head and, to my knowledge, always has. Years ago, we were standing in line at the supermarket and I asked him, with teenage curiosity, if he shaved his head because he liked the style or because he couldn’t grow hair. Overhearing the conversation, my aunt quickly shot me dagger eyes and scolded me on how inappropriate it was to question a man on the balding state of his scalp. She informed my 17-year-old self that this was a highly sensitive subject for men. Suddenly, at the realization that I might’ve hurt my uncles feelings, and in the middle of the grocery store no less, I burst into tears. Sobbing, I apologized profusely for having maybe, possibly hurt his feelings. Snot running down my face, vision compromised by the waterfall of tears, I hyperventilated “I….am…soooooo….sorrrrr…yyyy.” I didn’t want to be the insensitive person that made him feel bad. He burst into laughter. He didn’t give a shit about his balding head. But he thought it was funny that I cared so much.
I’d like to be more like him.
The fact is, unless you’re my uncle, we often rely on the opinions of others to create our opinions of ourselves. We define our beauty, our intelligence and our happiness based on what someone thinks about us. When someone compliments you, your mood goes up. When you feel judged, your mood goes down. But here’s the deal:
People speak out of turn, they are clumsy with their words, and sometimes they hurt your feelings without even realizing it. There are also people that do it on purpose. They feed on making others feel small, building their own securities on the insecurities of others. Those people exist, too. Regardless of which camp your wrong-doer falls into, there’s a really important thing to keep in mind: It’s. Not. About. You.
Everyone has their own shit and their shit is not your shit. You have enough of your own already. Don’t mix up the two. These are a few steps I am practicing to stop taking things so personally:
1. Take a deep breathe. The natural reaction to an attack is to, well, react. But don’t. You will find yourself on a path of most resistance. Take a moment to pause, breathe and prepare yourself to react…differently.
2. Listen between the lines. Sometimes you’re on fire for a reason. Maybe you did actually do something wrong and that’s why the heat is on you. Try to understand what is being communicated to you, not necessarily the words being said. Not sure? Ask.
3. Remember who you want to be. We are not always what we aspire to be. This is a moment to practice being our future self. How would the best version of you act in this moment?
4. Be kind. To them. To yourself. Everyone has their own shit, remember? Maybe you were the recipient of someone’s spazz attack because they’re going through something. Be kind. They needed to dump the energy somewhere…but also be kind to yourself. Understand why you might be feeling triggered, why you’re taking their words to heart. Understand why you’re inclined to take it personally without actually taking it personally. You have your own shit, too, remember?
You can’t control the shade that other people throw your way, but you can control how you react…and how you react is what defines you.