As adults, many people persist in taking others’ behavior personally with the assumption that everything is about “me”. Yet, nothing other people do is because of us. It is because of them.
During childhood, we take everything personally. The human judgment center is in the prefrontal cortex, which does not fully develop until we are in our late adolescence. Since the brain has not fully developed, children will always jump to the conclusions that everything is about them. Kids think “the sun is out because I want it.” or “They are upset, it must be because of me.” The narcissistic mind of a child results in a sense that they are the center of the universe, “me, me, me, always about me.”
When we take something personally, we assume that we can influence their mind, we can control their behavior, or we can make them feel a certain way. We try to impose our mind on their world.
When we take things personally, we feel offended and disrespected. Our reaction is either to defend ourself by exerting dominance or submitting passively. Either way we are provoked by someone’s criticism and view it as literal, personal and serious.
We can make something big out of some behavior that is so little. This never works. In an imperfect world, imperfect people often make mistakes that are not intentional and therefore, hardly a matter of criminal activity that warrants guilt and punishment. When children knock something over accidentally, is that a fault? Or is it a human imperfection? Do such “faults” have to be “found in the name of “justice?”
Some take it upon themselves to provide accountability and prevent others from getting away with it, which they assume will avoid more problems in the future. The purpose here is not to improve relationships or to secure cooperation, it is to show responsibility.
All humans are independent, responsible actors who live in their own mind, a world completely different from anyone else. Yet we seek others approval and want to be viewed as competent. When we take with false accusations personally, we reflexively attempt to correct and prove others wrong. We want to defend our innocence, which only serves to heighten the conflict. In this circumstance, we need to be right, which makes everyone else wrong, unless they agree with us.
Even when a situation seems personal, even if our closest family or friends insults us directly to our face, it has little to do with us. What they say, what they do, and the opinions they give, are about their own minds. Their point of view comes from their own emotional memories and learning experiences that have shaped them into the people they are today.
The key to not taking things personal is unconditional self acceptance. All humans, are born lovable and worthwhile. All humans will never be worth more or worth less. All humans will never be superior or inferior.
No matter how much money, status or power we have, we will never be a better person. No matter how little appreciation, respect or comfort we have, we will never be a worse person. Our success and achievements do not make us a more loveable human. Our failures and losses do not make us a less lovable person. We are always going to be good enough. If we accept that we are unconditionally worthwhile and lovable, it is not necessary to believe or rely on other people to tell us that we are wonderful.