Do you tend to take things personally? Are you hurt by the opinions of others? Maybe it's time for a different approach.


Our daughter is currently working as a Head of Department and regularly deals with difficult people and uncomfortable situations. I'm in complete and utter admiration of how she stays separate from the issues, doesn't get caught up in them, dragged down by them, take them onboard more than necessary, or carry them home on her shoulders. She rides the waves of other people's upsets without taking it personally, deals with what needs to be addressed, and then moves on. That's such an admirable quality in my opinion, and one I wish I was better at.

I asked her how she manages to demonstrate self-differentiation so well when I struggle with it still, and this is what she said....


The first thing she told me was that she's had to put in some diligent work over time to be able to separate herself from being upset by the behaviour, opinions, manipulations, and guilt that can come from other people. 

I'm not sure if you've read anything about the 5 Love Languages by Dr Gary Chapman, if you have then you'll understand what she said next....and it was that Words of Affirmation is her top love language - so what people say to and about her has a high impact (I can relate to that because it's my love language too). Other people's words can make a big impression on her both positively and negatively.

She, (like her mother), thrives on hearing that she's done a great job, or is an asset, or that she's appreciated. Comments like: ‘thanks for helping me out with that’, or ‘thanks for sorting that for me’, or ‘you’re a life-saver!’ make her day. It's the feeling that you’re valuable, that you’ve value-added, that you’re making someone’s life easier or better because of what you did. We all love to hear that, but what happens when people say less kind things? She told me that the way she handles problem people is to not internalize the stuff that comes from those who don't have her best interests at heart, or who have issues that have nothing to do with her personally. Why take ownership of upsets that come from people who haven't earned her respect, or whose opinions aren't coming from a good place? She just lets it roll off.


That all made so much sense to me. Why do I allow myself to be impacted and defeated by the opinions of people who don't love me or understand me? Why worry about negative feedback from people who are on a different path to me? Why personalize something that probably has nothing to do with me? Why be so insecure in myself, that a throw-away comment can cut me to the quick? And a final question - how did my daughter get to be so wise?

I've come to see over the years that so much of my self-worth has been tied up in the opinions of others. One off the cuff critical comment can set me back significantly - where I question why it was said, and whether there's a truth in it I didn't realize. So much over-thinking and over-analysing where I should have heard it, considered it, and more often than not, discarded it and moved forward - confident in my own certainty and assuredness. I've wasted a lot of time wondering about stuff and churning it over, when I should have left it in my wake based on the intent of the person who said it.

Overthinking ruins you. Ruins the situation, twists things around, makes you worry,  and just makes everything much worse that it actually is.


A lot of what people say to us comes from their own understanding and their own experiences. My daughter says that it’s not about dismissing them as unkind people, but understanding their actions or words come from a misguided place. Their words/actions/opinions don’t matter, because they don’t know the truth (and it’s not our job to convince them to change their mind). So, if someone is critical of her, she can dismiss it because she recognises that it’s not coming from a place of maliciousness - more from an ignorance of all the facts.

She told me that she honestly believes people are good and act out of what they think is right (they may not be right, but they honestly think they are). For instance, if a person is patronising towards you, it's not necessarily because they're a mean, nasty, or unempathetic person who wants you to feel belittled, but because they honestly believe they know better and are trying to explain things simply because they think they can help. This makes it easier to dismiss their unkindness, because we can understand that their intention wasn't to be cruel, even if their words were.

I always prefer to believe the best of everybody, it saves so much trouble. Rudyard Kipling


It's important to learn that not everything is a judgement or a criticism. Part of letting things roll off is assuming that people don’t mean to hurt us or judge us – it's about assuming the best/kindest interpretation of their words, rather than the worst. Assuming the best in other people, and trying to love people, and seeing the good in them, rather than only seeing the unkindness that they may present to you.

Another big one for me is remembering that comments that come from others online can be misinterpreted as criticism very easily. One person's observation doesn't have to be right or wrong, it's just what they think and want to share. There's a lot of freedom in being able to reply with an "okay" and then move on without the need to justify ourselves. Other people often have issues we have no idea about - and their comment comes from that place - not from what we've said or done - we just copped the fallout!


I'm going to take my daughter's wise words and start applying them to my own life more often. When something someone says to me hurts my heart, I'm going to ask myself:

  • Do I value that person's opinion?
  • Is that person coming from a position of love?
  • Does that person have my best interests at heart?
  • Is this actually a criticism? (Or are my own insecurities making it seem that way?)

I'm betting that more often than not, the answer will be "no" to at least one of those first three criteria, and in that case I can let it wash over me and not take it to heart or allow it to hurt me, and the fourth is a good reminder when I'm feeling judged. I'm also learning to use the 'delete' and 'unfollow' buttons on Facebook, and turning off my blog comments for a while has been good for me too.

I find it amazing that 99% of interactions can be positive, but that little 1% has the power to cut like a knife if I allow it to. I plan to listen to the 99% who love me, and ignore the 1% who honestly don't understand my journey - or who need to push their own agenda where it's not needed or wanted. Give me sunshine and light any day - and the knowledge that the only opinions and comments I need to listen to are the ones that come from people who value me and want the best for me.

All I know is that my life is better when I assume that people are doing their best. It keeps me out of judgment and lets me focus on what is, and not what should or could be.


Do you let the opinions of others impact your life? Do the 1% drown out the 99% at times? Do you feel the need to justify yourself to people who haven't earned the right to speak into your life? Or are you as wise as my lovely daughter, and you've learned to disregard the dross and move on happily with your life?


Do you tend to take things personally? Are you hurt by the opinions of others? Maybe it's time for a different approach.

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Cresting the Hill - a blog for Midlife (Middle Aged / 50+) women who want to thrive
Do you tend to take things personally? Are you hurt by the opinions of others? Maybe it's time for a different approach.
Do you tend to take things personally? Are you hurt by the opinions of others? Maybe it's time for a different approach.