Is it possible to stop taking things personally?

Yes, all you need to do is have more self-esteem, develop a secure attachment style, get that internal validation on track, and you’re golden. Got it? Good. If only it were that simple.


Some of us trust easily and appropriately because we’ve had a safe experience of life. We trust ourselves and we trust other people. Yes, there are wobbles and doubt sometimes creeps in but, on the whole, we don’t tend to struggle to believe that people are worthy of being trusted and that things will generally work out.

And some of us don’t trust anyone. Ever. Safety was not something we had in childhood - or feel in adult life. We are constantly on high alert, looking for signs that we are acceptable and worthy in what other people do and say and being vigilant for any indication that our value might have dropped.

If you fall into the latter category - even a bit, or only sometimes - then it probably feels very difficult not to take things personally because your worth is tied up in how other people see you, instead of how you see yourself. What might that look like in practice? Here are a few examples:

  • Someone you’re dating tells you that they don’t feel a spark. You argue that ‘spark’ is dangerous romcom rubbish (which it is but that’s not the point here), rather than accept that they are not interested. When that doesn’t work, you get angry and lash out because losing them feels like you will cease to exist.
  • You get chatting with someone at an exercise class and get on really well. As you’re leaving, you say one thing that they seem to react weirdly to. You go home and feel overwhelmed with intrusive thoughts about not being likeable.
  • Your neighbour is selling their flat and puts a For Sale sign up. This is against the rules of the apartment complex. You don’t just point this out but send multiple threatening emails and make it your personal mission to ensure they get penalised. This makes you feel a bit better about the fact that they didn’t bother to tell you they were leaving.
  • Someone in your life who matters to you doesn’t reply to your texts within what you consider to be an acceptable window. You can’t concentrate and only feel good about yourself again when they finally come back to you. If they don’t reply at all it feels like a reflection of your worthlessness.
  • A promotion comes up at work and your manager indicates that you’d be perfect for it. You do your very best to get the role but it goes to someone else who didn’t really seem to try at all. You feel absolutely devastated and convinced that it’s because the person making the decision just doesn't like you and you’re no good at what you do.

These are just a few examples that weave in all kinds of issues around trust, attachment style, and how able you are to disconnect your self-worth from the actions of others - many of the things that will influence how personally you take things. If you do tend to take things personally then probably not a day goes by without an example or two of this. 

How to stop taking things personally

1. Stop being so hard on yourself

There’s nothing wrong with you if you react like this. If you feel like a victim, respond with anger, lash out or don’t have an ideal ‘adult’ reaction to difficult situations, there is nothing to be ashamed of.

Cultural narratives around this all seem to focus on ‘rise above it’, etc. But the reality is that many of us are coming at life with deeply hurt - and frightened - parts of us that get enormously triggered in situations where there is rejection or failure or loss. It often simply doesn’t feel possible to react any other way.

The first step is to apply a boatload of self-compassion and not shame yourself for whatever your reaction is. If you would eventually like to be able to respond differently, then you need to accept yourself as you are in that moment.

2. Get curious about why this is your response

Most reactions can be traced back to something. If you take things personally, it’s not your fault - it’s most likely to be what was modelled to you as a child or a reflection of having low self-worth. However, at this moment in time - reading this - you have a choice to start examining the alternatives. Because even the most ingrained reactions can be changed so there are always alternatives. You don’t have to keep doing what you’ve always done.

3. Start noticing what triggers you - and what is triggered in you

For example, are you being triggered by rejection to the point of fear or terror, as if you can’t survive without that person in your life? This is the starting point for finding solutions because when you know what makes this response happen - and what the nature of the response is - you can begin looking for solutions, alternatives and the healing that can free you from these cycles.

This part of the process is especially powerful when done with a coach who can reflect back on what you may not be able to see yourself and help you explore the options for managing your triggers.

4. Fill in the gaps in your self-worth and self-esteem

This is a big and chunky topic that can take many forms - it’s going to be different for everyone. But it really is a good idea to spend some time looking at where you feel the most ‘worthless’ in life and where you’re automatically assuming that you’re not as good or deserving as other people.

This could mean tackling an inner critic that tells you rejection is unsurvivable or ego stories that make you feel like you’re always the victim. It might be about breaking through a rigid comfort zone or getting into your body more (instead of trying to think your way to confidence and self-esteem). It might be just sitting with painful feelings about your worth as a person, rather than numbing yourself with distractions like food, Netflix or dating apps.

5. Acknowledge the situation you’re in

There are some situations in life where, no matter how solid your self-worth or internal validation is, you’re still going to feel personally attacked. Sexism in the workplace is a really good example of this - being belittled, put down or held back because of your gender.

If you’re in that position then it’s really important to acknowledge that this is a tough situation that anyone would take personally. It’s not you, it's them. Just acknowledging that - and talking to others who might have experienced the same - can often be enough to lift the anger that can accompany something like this. 

A toolkit for taking things less personally

Every time you feel like you’re slipping into that hurt, resentful state, gently guide yourself back to these things:

  • How someone else behaves says everything about them and nothing about you. I know it’s hard to accept this if you’ve never yet believed it but your worth remains the same even if someone rejects, criticises, hurts or shames you. 
  • We’re adults, and adults can deal with disappointment. Being disappointed is temporary - you can let it go if you choose to and you don’t have to react to it. Yes, it hurts but it’s survivable hurt.
  • What is for you won’t pass you by. It just won’t. All that’s happening when you are rejected or turned down etc, is what isn’t for you is being removed to make space for what is.
  • You can’t please all the people all the time and you don’t even need to try. In fact, if you’re truly being your authentic self then not everyone is going to like or value you. The sooner you accept that this is fine, healthy and the same for everyone else too, the easier life will feel.

What is so often missing in wellness narratives around this today is the reality that you can’t ‘get rid of your faults and flaws’ by ignoring the part of you that they come from. Whatever part of you that is hurting needs attention - and that doesn’t come from putting your feelings in a box, forcing yourself to move on before you’re ready or suppressing real self-expression so as to maintain an exterior that others will find acceptable.

It comes from embracing the parts of you that you’re not that proud of - or fear make you unlovable - and giving them what they need that maybe they didn’t get earlier in life. For example, if you have ever been told you play the victim that’s probably because, at some point in your life, someone has made you feel truly powerless. Shaming yourself for that isn’t going to make it go away. Trying to force yourself not to feel like that isn’t going to make it go away. Deep diving into why you feel like that and what you need to stop feeling like that, is.

Resilience coaching is a safe space in which to show up with all of these different parts and start making more sense of why you react like you do - so that you can ease into genuine change and stop taking things so personally.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Life Coach Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Winchester, Hampshire, SO23
Written by Alex Pett
Winchester, Hampshire, SO23

Alex is an ICF trained and NLP cert coach focused on helping people to deepen their resources to adapt and bounce back - and go on to thrive. She works with resilience to help clients build confidence, recover from burnout, be assertive, set boundaries, find joy and move beyond limiting beliefs. Clients achieve tangible change in 6-9 sessions.

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