Protecting your self-esteem: 4 keys to not taking things personally.

Without a doubt, we have all taken words or behaviors of our interlocutors too much to heart, under the emotional influence of the moment. But making it a habit can quickly affect our mental and psychological well-being. To counteract this harmful tendency, here are four tips inspired by methods from family and marital therapists.

1. Take a step back from the situation

Often, we tend to overly focus on our own thoughts and emotions, which makes taking into account other points of view difficult. As Maria, an experienced family and marital therapist says: step away from the narrative and examine what happened just the facts, not the interpretation. By practicing this objectivity, it is easier to better understand the real intentions of other people involved in the situation and to avoid the belief that it is a personal attack.

2. Questioning one’s interpretations

Sometimes, our mind lets itself be carried away by assumptions or hypotheses without challenging them. It is therefore appropriate to examine these preconceived ideas and ask ourselves whether they are rational or irrational, as advised by Maria. Thus, we can question the other person’s point of view and seek to understand why they acted in this way. This will not only allow us to better understand the situation, but also gain wisdom to no longer take things personally.


  • Your colleague criticizes you during a meeting: is it because they are trying to sabotage your work or because they want to improve the joint project?
  • Your friend is not responding to your messages: is it because they’re avoiding you or going through a tough time?

In each case, explore different possible explanations to avoid jumping to hasty conclusions that can unnecessarily hurt our ego.

3. Shifting your focus

We sometimes have a natural tendency to think that everything revolves around us. While this can be legitimate in certain contexts, it is essential to realize that we are not always at the center of other people’s concerns. There are probably multiple causes triggering their actions or words, some of which have nothing to do with us.

©Mei-Ling Mirow – Unsplash

To stop taking things personally, try to find other reasons that would explain the situation without putting yourself at the center of the story.

4. Search for Constructive Solutions

Sometimes our mistakes are indeed the source of problems encountered with others. In this case, it is important to acknowledge our wrongs and act to rectify the situation. But we should not imprison ourselves in guilt, which can paralyze us instead of moving us forward. As Maria says: ” seek ways to repair the situation instead of remaining stuck in shame“.

An example:

  • If you realize that you have lacked empathy towards your friend who is going through a tough time, offer to go out to talk and listen to their struggles.

In conclusion, learning not to take things personally requires constant and considerate self-work. By following these tips, you will be better equipped to face difficult situations without hurting your own self-esteem, while remaining attentive and understanding towards others.

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