Human beings are hard-wired to worry and care about what other people think of them. No matter how much we tell ourselves to stop taking things so personally, it can be difficult, especially if our upbringing and life experiences have taught us to fear (or even expect) rejection.

However, the misery that many of us cause ourselves by worrying about what other people think and how they will react is largely avoidable.

How often do you find yourself making up a story in your head about why someone didn’t get back to you, or was perhaps a bit off with you when you met up, or a comment they made in passing? We convince ourselves that what happened means that this person is angry or upset with us, or doesn’t like us, or has gone off us. But where’s the evidence?

Of course, this story might actually be correct. If we know we’ve behaved badly, then we need to deal with that situation, talk to the person concerned, apologise and try to make amends.

But for most people perhaps, nine times out of ten or more, the other person’s action or attitude was either all in our heads, or nothing whatsoever to do with us.

It’s not all about you.

Maybe that person was preoccupied with worries you don’t know about, or they are secretly worrying that you don’t like them anymore, or they are simply really busy and had every intention to get back to you, but forgot and then felt embarrassed about how long it had been. Ultimately you have no way of knowing what’s going on in their heads and lives, but you can be pretty sure that’s it’s not all about you.

Even if it was about something you did or said, there’s little point in going over and over it in your head. If you feel you were in the wrong, do something about it. If you feel they have a problem with you, but they won’t say what it is, either ask them directly (and non-confrontationally), or let it go. You can’t control what they choose to say or do (or think).

How to stop taking things so personally

All you can control is what you say, do and think. Always act in integrity, and then remember that much of what affects us emotionally is about how we react to what has happened, rather than what has actually happened.

As this quote from Miguel Ruiz puts it:

‘’Whatever happens around you, don’t take it personally… Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves. All people live in their own dream, in their own mind; they are in a completely different world from the one we live in. When we take something personally, we make the assumption that they know what is in our world, and we try to impose our world on their world.’’