Don't take it personally.
I have avoided this topic for quite a while and last night a status update from a friend got me thinking about it again.
My stand on this is a bit, well, radical. Maybe even, well, dangerous. Let's back up a few steps though. When someone starts a conversation with don't take this personally I'm already on guard, senses alert and I'm ready to respond. They have warned me. What else should I do? I ask three questions.
Yep, three questions:
- Are they talking to me about me?
- Is this thing they are talking about directly to do with me?
- Is it a judgement or comment upon myself and the things I think, say, or do?
If I answer yes! to any of these then by golly it is personal folks! No amount of excuses, spin doctoring or perspective shifting can change that.
When someone tells you that you are responding incorrectly always be sure to find out who is doing the measuring of correctness. It has been easier since I learned the trick phrases that many employ. Such as: now I don't want you getting all worked up or more classically don't freak out and take this personally.
I've learned to pause and wait for the impending answer to question number 2. (It almost always follows straight after the opening statement or warning against your response. Is the conversation, being one sided, encouraging, supportive and generally uplifting? Or is it you telling me how to be me? I know how I feel, these feelings live in my veins daily. I know how to hear what you are saying and when it is to me, about me, like I'm not really there then it is personal!
Question three deals with content and delivery - is the conversation about how much better they would be at being you? Is the admonition against being too sensitive and taking things too personally directed at what you say, think or do?
If it is about you, to you and there is an expectation of response by you then IT IS PERSONAL!
When the lights turn red suddenly -that is 99.9% not personal.
If you see someone turning the switch at the light after waiting all day for you, probably that's the percentage that I left for wiggle room for it to be personal.
When the courier loses your package - that is not personal.
If you see them dumping it in a trash container then it could be a personal issue. This is unlikely.
When someone says you should do things their way, and be happy they suggested it that is highly personal!
Good or bad (and have you noticed that you are never too sensitive or taking things too personally when it is good stuff, celebratory stuff, easy to handle stuff? Yeah I noticed that too!) things said to a person, about that person with an impression, indication or direction that they take said things as long awaited much valued information should be taken personally.
My healing journey is deeply personal and I choose to share it. I do reserve the right to be sensitive and to take things as personally as I need to. If you tell me my shoelace is undone, not personal, thanks for the information. If you tell me I'm wandering around again with untied shoelaces, and hasn't anyone ever taught me how to tie a bow for goodness sakes and you actually dress yourself daily - now THAT is personal!
Healing is hard work but laughter makes the load lighter. I'm afraid that too many of us think life is all serious all the time. We were robbed of our joy, and it is our duty as survivors to seek, hunt down, put in a brightly colored bucket or cartoon pillow case every bit of giggle, joy, sunshine and dandelion fluff we can find! We should celebrate being alive, living and healing and I celebrate you!
Don't let anyone steal your joy, diminish you as a person or cause you to think of yourself as worthy of their campaign for change!