One of the toughest challenges for anyone is to not take things personally. It is so difficult. Of course It is easy to claim: “I never take things personally; whatever people say or do it does not affect me personally,” but that would be a lie.
Everyone, to different degrees, take work and what others do personally. The more passionate one is about the work at hand and about the people involved, the more vulnerable one to signs of disapproval or lack of grattitude. “I am trying so hard because I really care about them getting the best possible service and this is what I get in return?” This is usually followed by feelings of sorrow, disgust, and anger. Then comes the self pitty:”This is what you get for staying here and putting up with this. I should have left to a place where Iget some appreciation.” More pain and agony. This goes on and on in the head in what I like to call the”self pitty party.”
Another wrinkle to this is that sometimes we beat ourselves on the head for taking things so personally. Then we get even more frustrated and emotional. Here is an example of a line that goes through my head when I take things personally: “Come on Ammar; you of all people. You teach others to be objective, professional, and deal with things in a cool manner, then you get frustrated over something so silly? shame on you…” Then I remember how people usually commend me on my subtle and poised demeanor in dealing with work or personal related issues. Then I get angy over being angry. It is so funny when I write about it, but to feel it is a totally different matter.
I think people should not take things personally ever. However, that is impossible. Otherwise one would not be human. I think what causes all this anguish is the lack of self approval, which is the self portrait that defines in one’s eyes: “who I am.” That portrait can change and vary depending on the mood. For examnple, when “I” approve of who “I am”; the imperfect, erring, yet beautiful creation of God, “I am” in peace with self and accept self as is. Then, nothing anyone does or say is taken personally at all. However, this state of mind does not last, under the pressures of the day. As this state of mind shifts, one gets prone to disapprove of self, or parts of self (because I want me better, stronger, richer, more perfect, etc.) In that state of mind, it is easy to disapprove of self and hence take things personally.
Some see in the disapproval of self a way to encourage self to be better. I think that would be fooling ourselves. Nothing good can come from beating ourselves on the head. We need to bravely accept who we are first, then improve on self, not out of disgust and disapproval of who we are, but out of love, compassion, and forgiveness of our imperfection.
Here is a word of caution: Emotional vampires out there can sense your area of weakness and attack you from that specific area. Here is a funny but sad story. A friend of mine had a theory that many of us were raised to take orders from our teachers and elderly in a demeaning fasion:”pick up that book,” or “go to sleep,” or “stop whining,” etc. So, he believes that giving orders to others in the same tone of voice as their abusive teachers or parents will result in the person doing the command you give him without thinking about it, having the same feelings of intimidation he had as a child when these commands were given to him. He showed me examples where he did that and it worked. He of course does not do it with anyone. He selects the “right” person to do this with. I do not approve of what he did, and it was very sad to see his demonstration and it seemed totally inhumane. However, in real life many do this and they will take advantage of your weakness to manipulate you.
Our negative self portrait, highlighting parts of ourselves that we disapprove, are never accurate. Usually they are far from the truth. So where do these negative ideas about who we are come from? I do not know but one thing I did notice: Most things that you disapprove of yourself are things someone in the past disapproved of you. Like a father who always told you that you are lazy, or an uncle who always teased you about being thin, etc.
Another way we build our disapproval of self is from disapproval of others from our past. For example, if a relative was too harsh on his kids and that affected you when you were a child, part of you might say “I will never be like that person” then you will be very careful not to be harsh on your kids, and maybe too critical or disapproving of yourself for the slightest harshness in dealing with your own children.
Our mind plays tricks and games on us where we are oblivious to our worst weaknesses while we convince ourselves that we have problems in our personality that we do not even have. Many people who say “I am too tough,” when they are very lenient. Others say “I am fat” when they are really very thin. All are games our minds play on us. When we tell ourselves that we are a certain way, we need to remember that most probably that perception is false. It is a figment of our imagination. We are who we are, and the best that we can do is accept, then improvement can come to us as human beings.