I’m sure you’ve heard the advice to not take things personally. It’s pretty popular in the personal development spaces and I can’t say that there’s not some value in that advice. You can’t go around taking everything personally because that’s a recipe for disaster! Eventually it’ll be too hard to do anything so you’ll end up stuck.
What I also believe is that most of us don’t need to be that extreme. Most of us don’t take every-single-thing personally; so the advice not to take anything personally feels a little off-putting. After all, some things are personal! When you care very deeply about something of course you’re going to take criticism personally…and maybe that’s OK.
Here’s my adjustment to the old advice of don’t take it personally: When you care, you’re going to take it personally; just don’t let that feeling keep you stuck.
It’s OK to take things you care about personally. If you’ve been working hard for a year and your performance review doesn’t reflect that, it’s personal! If you spoke to an ideal client and felt great chemistry and they didn’t hire you, it’s personal! If you try a new personal style and get criticized by someone you care about, it’s personal!
There are real things that you care about, that you’re going to take personally. Instead of judging yourself for taking things too personally, what if you let yourself feel the sadness, disappointment or whatever other feeling you’re experiencing so that you can move through it?
I’ll let you in on a little secret – trying not to experience something you’re feeling is a guaranteed way to get stuck or stressed out. Please, if you’ve been trying to will yourself to stop taking things so personally, give yourself a break. Let yourself experience the feelings of caring about something and having it not go as planned. Vent to a friend, go for a walk, sit in silence. Let whatever comes, come. Then get back up and get back to work on the things you care about – because they’re personal.