How to Stop Taking Things Personally

April 7, 2015 Fay Agathangelou

Taking things personally is a sign of low self-esteem. When you take things personally, you might be sensitive to the words or actions of others or you interpret things in a negative way. Perhaps someone says something which you take as an insult or you assume a person doesn't like you if they walk past without saying hello. Taking things personally may cause you to feel inadequate, ashamed, or even angry at yourself or the other person. It's disempowering and can worsen your self-esteem. However, you can build your self-esteem when you stop taking things personally.

Why You Might Take Things Personally

When you take something personally it’s a reflection of your own insecurity. Deep inside, it may reinforce your negative thoughts about yourself. Remember that if you have a negative view of yourself, you have a distorted perception of reality. You might automatically interpret something in a negative way or treat it as a personal attack. Perhaps you feel that it exposes your mistakes or flaws of which you feel ashamed. This can be very problematic, especially if you base your worth on the approval from others or if you are a perfectionist. When you take something personally, the chances are you interpret it in a different way to what was intended.

The good news is that you stop taking things personally and build your self-esteem.

How to Stop Taking Things Personally

  • Realise that other people's rudeness is not about you. When someone is rude it’s likely to be a reflection of their own issues. They might be having a bad day, going through a rough period, or it might just be their personality. It's important to know that rudeness is not okay and it's not your fault. You deserve to be treated with respect, however, people aren't always nice. While you can't control other people, you can stop taking things personally and instead be kind to yourself. 
  • Ask yourself what else the comment or behaviour might mean. For example, if someone doesn't smile or say hello, they might be shy, have something on their mind, or they didn't see you. If someone is critical, they may genuinely want to help you and it might not be intended as a personal attack.
  • Take comments or criticism in a constructive way. If you are criticised, ask yourself if there’s any truth to it, and what you can learn. Take the lessons and let the rest go. Even if it wasn’t said in a nice way, you can still learn something. As well as learning from your own experience, you could learn from the other peoples' mistakes. See the positives in every experience.
  • Take a different perspective. Ask yourself how an unbiased outsider would see the situation. Are you misinterpreting the reality and is it really as bad, or as negative, as you perceive it to be? Another perspective is to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and imagine how they would see it.
  • Realise that you can’t please everyone. No matter who you are or what you do, there will always be people who dislike or criticise you. You can't change other people and all you can do is be yourself.
  • Let go of perfectionism. It’s okay to make mistakes and to have flaws, it’s part of being human. You won’t learn and grow if you don’t make mistakes.
  • Know that you’re not defined by your mistakes or criticism. Your worth is who you are as a whole person despite of them.
  • Realise that your self-worth depends on you. It does not depend on what others say about you.
  • Get mental health help. Overcoming personal issues can be challenging and you don't have to do it alone. It's important to know that there is help available and it's okay to seek it.

It does require effort, persistence and time to stop taking things personally, especially when it's something you're used to doing. However, it's well worth the effort. You will find that your self-esteem and overall quality of life will improve when you stop taking things personally. You are worth it and you can do it.

APA Reference
Agathangelou, F. (2015, April 7). How to Stop Taking Things Personally, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 18 from

Author: Fay Agathangelou

July, 29 2021 at 7:59 pm

I’m having a hard time. I gave up my solidarity because I thought being around family would help my loneliness. Now, I’m living with my family wishing I had my solidarity back. This has definitely been a pattern with me. I wish I hadn’t given up learning how to be happy alone. I gave up😔

Janet Hamilton
July, 8 2020 at 6:07 am

I have very low self esteem and no confidence

July, 8 2020 at 12:18 pm

Janet, you are not alone. We are all on this journey together. I encourage you to continue reading our blog on Building Self-Esteem and see what you can learn from our sharing of our experiences. Keep commenting and reaching out, and if you're not already and have the capability, try to find a professional to discuss the best actions for you to take. Recognizing that there is something you want to change is a great first step. Thank you for reading and commenting, we appreciate your sharing with our community.

April, 14 2020 at 2:05 am

I try very hard to learn from my mistakes, but I find it even harder to realize my mistakes in the first place. You see, there are not a lot of people that can or will point them out to me in a way that I can understand them. They simply attack me and yes, I get defensive and take things very personally at that point. My gut instinct is to defend myself and that never turns out well. I know my self worth runs high, and my self esteem runs low. I am a perfectionist but only to a point, I can admit my mistakes and accept the consequences for them when they are pointed out to me in a constructive way. That is how I learn.

April, 15 2020 at 11:03 am

Dee, I hear you. I think the author is trying to get us to stop thinking that we are making a mistake in the first place. The thing that the person is reacting to may not be right for them, but it may be right for us, so in fact, it's not a mistake at all, simply a difference in point of view. It is good to be able to learn how to see things from someone else's perspective, but that doesn't mean we're wrong.

June, 5 2019 at 9:23 am

It sounds great not taking it personally, but what if your 45 and have been beaten down enough times (not literally) that you find it hard to not take it personally. Or like your at work and someone just blasts you about something and it pisses you off. You try to let it go, but the fight or flight kicks in and my fight kicks in and I cant help but come back at them. It just sucks some people are just aholes!!

June, 11 2019 at 12:14 pm

Hi Alan,
I hear that. There are unpleasant situations and people in our lives that we can't avoid. In my opinion, it's important to distinguish the difference between 1. not taking it personally, and 2. not reacting. If someone treats you in a way you interpret as abusive, reacting to that makes a lot of sense to me–this is self-advocacy. However, I find myself thinking about the difference between defending yourself, and attacking them. Do they need to co-exist? Perhaps, sometimes, yes. Perhaps other times, no. Life is complicated, I don't think there is a definitive answer. I think the most important thing is to be in control of your reaction. If you think about it later and regret attacking back, that might be an area to explore.

Annie Stout
January, 13 2019 at 9:31 pm

I just don't understand. I am in management and always let the staff know that it is ok to make mistakes, almost everything can be fixed. We just have to fix it before the customer calls then all is good. When I make a mistake there is a couple people that act as if it is totally unacceptable and dump all over me. I recently quit because of this. I am a perfectionist but only on my self. I think I am a good kind person and I don't deserve this.

Not my name
December, 28 2018 at 2:29 pm

Not taking things personally helps to see it more objectively and not get caught up in negative patterns. It can help you with problem solving to see clearly what the dynamic is. Maybe it is time to try something new.

James Garner
October, 19 2018 at 11:24 pm

It sucks when i either wave to a coworker and they don't wave back, or i'll say "good morning" to them or " hi" or "how are you doing", and get absolutely no response. I get the impression that some people just don't give a shit, and i walk around getting upset, swearing under my breath, or saying, "goddamit what's the matter with these people. It's not that hard to say hello you know!!.

Not my name
December, 28 2018 at 2:25 pm

I repeat myself and get louder. If I wave and they dont respond, I might walk up to them or say good morning to them.
People usually won't ignore you the second time because the first time could have been a mistake, but they know they'll look bad if they ignore you when you're clearly talking to them.

Judith Hooter
January, 3 2019 at 3:29 pm

Totally been there. Unfortunately as we become adults not everyone actually grows up. Some times people stay in high school mode behaviour. But intentional or not, adult bullying or not, we have to take the adult road. Smile, say hello more then once, join in conversations when necessary. Take the high road regardless, even when it always seems uphill. If it gets to be to toxic, change jobs if possible. If you can't, then try to take comfort in knowing, alot of people have had to deal with the wrong envirmonent for them in a work area. It can help us to grow from the experience. But your not alone. Remembering your situation in my prayers. Take care

September, 7 2018 at 11:23 pm

I meant to say that being with someone is all I've ever wanted

Jude Cory
November, 15 2018 at 5:41 am

Debbie, you're worth every star that shines in the sky. Disability doesn't make anyone less worthy of life or love, instead it makes them special. Now, see it that way and you'll love yourself mode than anyone can love you. ?

September, 7 2018 at 11:20 pm

This will probably sound pathetic, but here goes. I am a 60 yr old woman (just turned), I am disabled and alone. I am slowly coming to realize I will probably be alone for the rest of my life. Please tell me how I'm supposed to accept that when it's all I've ever wanted. I've been dealing with rejection my whole life.

October, 15 2018 at 4:47 am

I just read your comment, and i can identify with you in some ways. I, too, am 60 and have struggled with rejection my whole life. No, I'm not disabled nor alone. I have poured my life into my children and now they are married and gone, caught up in their own lives and I know the pain of of feeling lonely, left out and rejected. I just want to encourage you that having people in your life do not make the difference. In fact, it could make matters worse. It begins and ends with acceptance and loving yourself, and the grace of God to do so. Then loving your neighbor as yourself. The things in this article are truth, in spite of how we feel. Embrace your life and live it to the full. Spend yourself on something that fulfills you. Give your effort to something that reflects your inner beauty and know the satisfaction of making your corner of the world a better place. Lose yourself in a passion project. You may find love along the way, but let go of making that a goal. There is so much more to living than that. Learn to enjoy the company of yourself. These are the hard lessons I've learned through the rejection of those I've loved most. My life goes on, and it's up to me to live it. God bless you with grace, peace, and the knowledge that He has a plan for your life!

Rachel Wright
May, 15 2018 at 10:45 am

Yes, I know I have low self esteem and it was not always that way. I love how this article is point blank in pointing that out and it makes you stop to think that there is something to that.
I am working daily to build my self esteem without the help of others.
Now to stop taking things personally, it's about them and not me.

Kris Winans
March, 26 2018 at 10:26 pm

It effects my work life.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

February, 28 2019 at 9:33 am

Me too, it can be anyone at work pointing out my flaws, even though I'm trying my best to do the best job I can, when it's not up to par and it is pointed up to me I feel so dissapointed in myself and I take the criticism as a stepping stone to better myself but at the same time it hurts my feelings that I am such a dissapointment to the person who took the time to teach me right while I still got it wrong.

February, 11 2018 at 10:27 am

It's all true but how do you apply it when it been ingrained in you thinking. Personal Standards

January, 6 2018 at 8:01 am

Loved the last statement. My Self Worth depends on me.

June, 9 2017 at 11:29 am

Very good suggestions - I want to follow it all

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