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Last Updated on December 1, 2020

How to Not Take Things Personally for a Happier Life

How to Not Take Things Personally for a Happier Life
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We sometimes get offended by what other people say or think very hard about some things that other people do. You may experience emotional unrest thinking about what you might have done wrong for someone to do or say what they did.

However, most of the time, these things aren’t because of you, and sometimes, they aren’t even about you at all. When you take things personally, you put unnecessary pressure and negativity in your mind. So you may ask, how to not take things personally?

What Does It Mean to Not Take Things Personally?

Well, here is what it means to take things personally. Lisa walked into the elevator at work to get to her office floor. She met a colleague and greeted her as she would on any other day.

However, Lisa didn’t hear her colleague’s reply and instantly assumed that there was a problem. She spent all the time in the elevator, about 5 minutes, coming up with different reasons why she had been ignored.

Bottom line: she believed that it must have had something to do with her personally. Finally, she got to her office, and while she went about her work, her boss walked in barking requests. Her boss, Heather, had stopped with the friendly smile and gentle tone she used during Lisa’s interview.

Now, it was mostly terse emails, a lot of frowns and didn’t validate Lisa’s work as much as she would like. Although Lisa was very good at her job, she wasn’t sure about that anymore with Heather’s attitude towards her. She started to doubt her abilities and took things personally.

If there is one thing we can get from this scenario, it’s that Lisa was not a happy person. She needs to discover how to not take things personally for a happier life.

So, what should she have done differently? Let’s start by finding out why we take things personally.

Why Do We Take Things Personally?

As her job grew more stressful, this also had a ripple effect on Lisa’s personal life. However, she took the behaviors of her colleague and boss personally because she felt responsible.

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She blamed herself for their response. Thinking about, if only she were more sensitive or smarter, then she would be able to fix all their problems.

But this is so wrong. Many of us are wrestling with the problem of feeling like everything is about us when, actually, it probably is not.

When we don’t take everything personally, life will be so much better. But this is actually more common than you think as it is a pattern of the human mind. We tend to assume personal responsibility for occurrences that we have little to no control over.

We see events happening around us and think that it’s because of us. In the process, we internalize these problems, words, and actions, and make our roles in them bigger than they really are. And when the event turns out negative? We somehow believe that we are the cause. It is like blaming but targeted inwardly. So, it’s a form of self-blame.

This spirals out of control with emotional effects such as depression, anxiety, and stress being a part of your daily life.

The thoughts we carry around influence our reality as they are connected to our feelings of control and happiness. Taking things personally only leads to a negative outlook, which doesn’t contribute to a happier life.

How to Not Take Things Personally

Let’s get back to Lisa. She believed that her colleague didn’t respond to her greeting, and it’s all her fault. Apart from the fact that she was wrong about her colleague not replying to her greeting, Lisa jumped into conclusions and made it all about her.

Here are some tips on how to not take things personally.

1. Investigate Your Thoughts

The best place to start is your thoughts. Most times, we unconsciously encourage thoughts where we blame ourselves for almost every situation.

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In the elevator, Lisa’s thoughts were, “if my colleague couldn’t respond to my greeting, then it must be because of something I did; If Heather is unhappy, then I must not be doing well at my job; If the company is struggling, then it must be my fault.”

You need to investigate your thoughts, which are specific to the situation. The next step is to ask yourself if these are true. If you think they are true, how sure are you?

Here is a different way to look at it. “If my colleague couldn’t respond to my greeting, then she may have been too occupied with her thoughts to notice”; “Heather manages about 20 employees, and I have been doing good work, so it could be any of 19 people”; “Heather has a life outside of the company, so she may have other problems affecting her mood.”

Doing this puts the situation in perspective. When Lisa had the first set of thoughts, they felt very personal. However, if she had investigated those thoughts, she would have seen that they were much less personal. When you examine your thoughts, you will realize that you may have invented a huge chunk of it.

2. It’s Okay to Ask Questions

Rather than basing our thoughts on assumptions and taking things personally, you can ask questions if you are really disturbed about it.

Let’s imagine how things would have gone differently between Lisa and her colleague in the elevator:

Lisa: I greeted you and got no response, is something wrong?

Colleague: Oh, I responded. I guess I wasn’t loud enough, sorry about that.

Lisa: That’s alright. How’s your family?

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What’s the result of this conversation? Lisa will understand that it was never about her, and by encouraging dialogue, she has one less thing to worry about.

Let’s see how the conversation with her boss would have gone:

Lisa: I realized that you have been snapping at me a lot lately, is it something I did?

Heather: Oh, of course not. You’re great at your job, I’ve just been stressed lately.

With this, Lisa knows that her work output is still excellent, and Heather’s attitude has nothing to do with her. Taking things personally is a ticket to getting worried over nothing.

3. Don’t Worry So Much About What Others Think of You

One reason why you take things personally is that you care so much about the approval of the person involved. A lot of us have been conditioned from birth into thinking that you must be accepted by everyone.

However, the truth is that not everyone will like you. In fact, not everyone has to, especially since you can’t control the thoughts of others. So, if you want to stop taking things personally, you need to accept that you can’t influence how people respond to you.

Accept yourself, and you will be able to attract those who will accept you for who you are. With those people, you don’t have to constantly worry about what they think of you because you know that they absolutely love you.

4. Get Out of Your Head

Most times, when you feel judged or criticized by someone, you may have blown it out of proportion because you are in your head. We’re always acutely aware of our weaknesses and flaws.

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Therefore, when you think a statement from a co-worker was actually criticism, they may not have been talking about you at all. Instead, you projected your insecurities into that statement and took it personally.

Has there been a time in the past where you took something personally but later realized that what was said wasn’t about you? So, next time you’re tempted to take things personally, think about this.

5. Build on Your Self-Confidence

Improving your self-confidence gives you a decent level of immunity to the actions and comments of others. That confidence acts as a buffer, meaning that you won’t instantly jump on a negative comment about you and let it define your thoughts.

People with a low level of confidence are more likely to bristle at any negative comment thrown at them because they are quick to believe that it is true.

Yes, you have your flaws, but that self-confidence will let you realize that it’s not enough to hold you back or get in your way. You will encourage the positive thought that you can fix it, making it easier for you to shrug off these comments.

6. Look Through a Different Lens

When you shift perspectives, you will be able to look at things beyond your experience. If Lisa had looked at the office through Heather’s eyes, she might have been able to see that managing more than five people was a lot of work.

She may have also noticed that Heather’s attitude wasn’t always targeted at her. Lisa would have also seen the tons of responsibilities that come with managing the office. This would have helped Lisa realize that she wasn’t the cause of Heather’s attitude.

When learning how to not take things personally, you need to realize that not every situation will revolve around you. Instead, be willing to show empathy.

Final Thoughts

Empathize with the other person’s position instead of being locked up in a narrow self-absorbed point of view.

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As much as you can, use these tips to understand when you’re about to take things personally and avoid them. When you don’t take things personally, you will be able to have a richer and more productive life.

More Tips on Living a Happier Life

Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)
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You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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