Are you one of these people who feels that life is unfair? Do people treat you unjustly? How do you feel when someone gives you criticism or feedback that doesn’t sit comfortably? How do you feel when people don’t respond to your messages on social media? How does your energy change when somebody comes into the room in a particularly good or bad mood? What if you suggest something and the other person doesn’t want to do it or disagrees with you? How do you react? What if somebody gets angry with you? How do you react then?
If you take things personally then these sorts of situations may make you feel anxious, angry, hurt, disappointed or demotivated. Maybe you doubt yourself or feel sorry for yourself, maybe you feel rejected. Maybe you find yourself regularly reacting to things, defending yourself and becoming entangled in drama.
This used to be my life, until I learned how to remove the “me” from the events that happened around me and how to react to situations with less emotion. I began to understand that what happens to us, what happens around us, the energy that people bring to us, actually has very little to do with us. It’s really about them: their values, their beliefs, their experiences, their needs and their desires, projected onto you.
When someone gives you advice or criticism, it’s usually not about you; it’s them telling you what they would do in your situation or giving you the advice that they would want to hear to fit the outcome they they want for you and that they think you should want too.
Once I understood this, I was much more able to filter out other people’s energy and stop seeing it as a judgement on me or as my responsibility to fix. These days I adopt an informal system I call the “four C’s”. You may find this system useful, so I will share it with you:
- Confidence: Remind yourself that you are doing the best you can, in the circumstances you are in; with the knowledge, skills and experience you have right now. When you know better, you’ll do better but for now, this is your best. So long as you are operating from a position of fairness, goodwill and authenticity then you can do no more. People are going to disagree with you on some matters but that’s okay. They’re entitled to their opinion and you are entitled to yours. It doesn’t mean you have to change, in fact you can’t change and you should never change just to please somebody else. Who you are will always leak out in times of stress anyway so be who you are. Be confident in your values and beliefs, make decisions that are in alignment with them and love yourself, even if people don’t agree with what you’re doing. If they disagree with you, they’re not disagreeing with you, they’re disagreeing with what you’re saying and doing; their disagreement doesn’t say anything about you as a person.
- Curiosity: When someone says something you don’t like, the first instinct can be to justify yourself, defend yourself, or counter-attack. That’s not helpful. You can’t change people’s minds that way. In fact people tend to think what they want to think so don’t try to change their mind or explain yourself. Instead, be curious. See this as an opportunity to learn. Understand that we all come into the world from different perspectives. When someone comes at you with anger and negative energy, it’s because they see the world differently or they don’t understand your position. Maybe you’re not communicating it effectively, maybe they’re having a bad day and you’re simply the target of their deflected anger. Maybe they’re genuinely trying to help you and they think they’re saving you from a big mistake. Ask questions: ask them specifically what they think you should do, what they’re not happy with. Explore it. Acknowledge their position and their right to hold it. Take the emotion out of the situation, rather than being sucked into conflict and negative energy. Remember: it’s not really about you.
- Compassion: Have compassion for the person coming at you in negative energy. They’re probably having a bad day or maybe even a bad life. After all, who is confrontational and unpleasant to someone else if their heart is full of joy? Having compassion doesn’t excuse the other party for their behaviour but it allows you to step away from a heated emotional response and understand that their energy is not caused by you and is not your responsibility.
- Containment: By this I mean boundaries. Our energy is our own. Somebody’s else’s energy is not your energy, nor is it your responsibility. It’s not up to you to calm them, fix them or cheer them up and neither is it their responsibility to do the same for you. If necessary, withdraw to maintain the boundary. Take care of your energy, respect yourself and respect other people’s boundaries, as well as your own. Understand that sometimes people may need to withdraw to take care of themselves too. If you suspect someone is ignoring you, consider that they may have something occupying their time and energy elsewhere that’s entirely unrelated to you, or perhaps they simply need some alone time to recoup their energy. Respect their needs.
In summary, remember that whatever goes on around you, happens at you or to you, is often not about you. Nurture your good energy, respect yourself, have confidence in your decisions, hold to your values and allow others to disagree with you or withdraw from you, without it being a judgement on you. This will enable you to stop taking things personally and will improve the quality of your life.