We may be the protagonist in our own story, but we’re not the center of everyone else’s. They are. Depending on who you are dealing with you may be anywhere from secondary to insignificant in their world. If one of your goals is to increase your confidence, you can’t measure self worth by the words or actions of others. Their words and their actions are not about you.
Ouch. But the great news is that whatever you have done from a great achievement to a perceived failure, most people are too busy getting on with their own lives to worry about what you are up to.
They aren’t talking about it for weeks behind your back or even thinking about it at all anymore. In most cases, most of the time, they moved on…a while ago. If you want to increase your confidence, you need to move on too.
When you find yourself up against a problem, remind yourself that it’s more about the situation, the circumstances, or the work itself, not about you. Resist the temptation to deem it a personal attack. Most people won’t have time for that and if, by chance, they did, then that time is going to be limited.
If it is meant to be personal, learn to deflect it by assigning meaning only to the situation at hand and as a reflection back on the person who is delivering the statement. Don’t interpret it as a reflection of your value as a person. Let me repeat that. Don’t interpret it as a reflection of your value as a person.
Here’s a scenario. Suppose your boss is a jerk. We know we shouldn’t take it personally, but on a day-to-day basis it may be difficult. Sometimes you’ll hear the phrase “It’s not personal, it’s business”. If someone is treating you poorly, it becomes personal. What do you do? The good news is that you can choose how personally you want to take it. It may truly seem like it’s about you, but it’s possibly not at all.
Here are four strategies.
1. Get some perspective. Will you care about this in a year? Sometimes we take things more personally because we lose perspective. Let an hour pass (key for me, I’ve learned). Then ask yourself “Will I care about this in a week, a month, a year from now”? If the answer is ‘yes’, then you might have cause for concern, but usually the perspective will help dissipate the emotion.
2. Change your focus. Go ahead and divert your energy to something else. Allow yourself to get absorbed into something that will distract you from the situation. This will also give you perspective and help you to not obsess on the situation. Develop a sense of identity outside your place of work. Volunteer work, hobbies, sports, close friends, and a faith community are a few examples of how to diversify your energy when you need to step back from a situation for perspective. It’s harder to be brought down by one situation when you have a sense of self beyond that one area. People who care about you in other areas will help ground you at times like this.
3. Cultivate positivity in your life. It’s hard not to fixate on the negative especially if it’s focused on you. In those moments it’s easy to lose balance. If you have ample reserves from a full emotional bank account you’ll find it easier to handle. If you consciously know your strengths and positive attributes you can buffer against someone else’s negativity. Letting go of both praise and criticism from others is a muscle to strengthen. Believe in your worth. Take constructive feedback and work with it. Let the rest go, as it doesn’t belong to you. Cultivate the positive.
4. Remember the words of author Don Miguel Ruiz. In his book The Four Agreements, Don Miguel describes the second agreement this way: Don’t take anything personally – Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.
It really doesn’t matter who gossips about you, who blames you, who rejects you, or who disagrees with your point of view. When you take nothing personally you don’t even bother to defend your point of view. Whatever people say doesn’t affect you because you are immune to their opinions and their emotional poison.
Put these ideas into practice and begin to notice that your confidence will be less wavering and more consistent.
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