NOT TAKING OTHER PEOPLE'S COMMENTS PERSONALLY

I've learned to not care about what people think of me. I know who I am, I know what I stand for, and I know the things I do.

NOT TAKING THINGS PERSONALLY

I'm someone who internalises the actions and words of other people. I often take things very personally and feel sensitive about what other people say, especially if they're someone in a close relationship to me. I know all about self-differentiation and not allowing the behaviour of others to impact me, but there's a big difference between knowing something and putting it into practice in the heat of the moment.

Recently I had a difficult encounter that reminded me how important it is to not take other people's unkind comments personally....

A CAUSTIC ENCOUNTER

Last week we had a family member over for a meal (something we do regularly for them) and I was blindsided by a very critical, judgemental comment this person made with no knowledge of the situation, no giving the benefit of the doubt, no taking past history into account, but with the certainty that they were perceptive enough to pass comment due to their position in the family and their right to speak their mind.

I found it very confrontational and very hurtful - not totally unexpected, but still completely unnecessary and out of line. I'm an open and direct person, but that doesn't mean I go around blasting people with my opinions, and I expect the same consideration from those I'm close to.....and was thrown for a loop when this person made their snarky statement. 

TAKING SOUND ADVICE

After the person left, I spoke to my husband to make sure I wasn't over reacting or hearing incorrectly, and to have a sounding board for my feelings and the fallout from it all. Fortunately he agreed that the other person was out of line, that their comment and attitude was unnecessary and ugly. He's agreed that it's right for me to put some distance in place to safeguard myself from further hurt. 

you set the standard for who gets to be in your life

One of the lessons I learned from the years I spent in a toxic work environment is that I need to be proactive in protecting myself from situations that cause me pain. We can't avoid all the hurt in life, but we can choose to not expose ourselves to it intentionally.

I read a great comment in a newspaper article a while back that said:

I have gotten to the point in my life where I've learned to not care about what people think of me. I know who I am, I know what I stand for, and I know the things I do. So do my friends and family - that's what, and who, matters to me.

WHAT I'LL REMIND MYSELF OF WHEN THINGS SEEM PERSONAL

These affirmations from Peaceful Mind Peaceful Life were a great reminder when it comes to putting encounters like this into perspective:

  • This is not a reflection of me or my worth.
  • My power and worth lie within me always.
  • I do not absorb or claim this person’s energy.
  • I embrace my best self today.
  • I am worthy no matter what others think.

no matter how much it hurts, rise up, keep going and be strong
via: power of wordz

CHOOSING TO FORGIVE AND MOVE FORWARD

As I get older and wiser (hopefully) I'm choosing to not take things so much to heart once the initial impact has passed, or to hold feelings of resentment or anger towards other people. I'm choosing to forgive, and to realize that unhappy, bitter people hurt other people thoughtlessly and often. And just because someone is in your family, that doesn't give them the right to overstep repeatedly - once is a mistake, more than that is a pattern and needs to be dealt with or distanced from.

I don't know why I'm still surprised that there are hurtful people in my world, I'm not sure why it catches me unawares when someone shows what lies beneath the surface. I wonder if it's because I expect people to get kinder with age rather than meaner or more critical? What I do know is that we can learn from every encounter - we can learn who not to be, we can learn what we need to do to not be harmed by poisonous people, we can choose not to become like them, and we can hold our heads high and ignore the peanut gallery.

removing yourself from hurtful situations

WHAT ABOUT YOU?

Have you had to distance yourself from a hurtful person? Are you ever surprised by what lies beneath another person's surface behaviour? Have you any tips on how to not take things personally? I'd love to hear from you in the comments if you do.

RELATED POSTS


I've learned to not care about what people think of me. I know who I am, I know what I stand for, and I know the things I do.

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Cresting the Hill - a blog for Midlife (Middle Aged / 50+) women who want to thrive
I've learned to not care about what people think of me. I know who I am, I know what I stand for, and I know the things I do.

32 comments

  1. Hi Leanne it is hard not to take negative comments to heart. We can try to let them wash over us but sometimes our sensitive nature takes over. You don't need people like that in your life because life is too short to have them invade your space.

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    1. Hi Sue - you said it perfectly! I don't need mean spirited people in my headspace these days - especially when they're not even aware of the damage they cause. I'm happy to create some distance and remind myself of what healthy boundaries and healthy relationships look like for the present time. :)

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  2. I have a ridiculously thin skin - it's impossible for me to read reviews in case amongst the good ones I find a not so good one which I will then internalise and overanalyse. I tend not to confront people who have hurt me mainly because I know that was probably not their intention - it doesn't however mean I'll forget, because I won't.

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    1. Hi Jo - it helps to know that others struggle with this too. If someone wants to make a judgement about me or criticise me in their head, that's fine....but when it comes out of their mouth thoughtlessly and with no real basis.....well that probably says more about them than it does about me. Time to draw the line.

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  3. So sorry you had to encounter that. I know that it is doubly hard when it comes from a family member. I have had to set boundaries due to a family member who has repeatedly overstepped and then absolved themselves of all guilt/blame over our estrangement. I forgive but know it is in my best interests to remain aloof. Family are used to being forgiven and know that we love them. But if they do not recognize their own bitterness and hurtfulness and take ownership of their words & actions, then we must protect ourselves from that as how we can. You are right to distance yourself. Take care of yourself first.

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    1. Hi Allison - thank you for your very wise words and for your understanding. I second guess myself over whether I'm being too 'sensitive' etc, but repeated incidences of letting things pass by and never receiving acknowledgement or an apology has firmed my resolve this time. I won't hold a grudge or feel any animosity, but I also won't put myself in the line of fire any longer - and they can deal with the consequences for a change. x

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  4. I hope you can see just by the small number of comments as your post published that you are not alone! I am sorry it happened to you, and in circumstances which were friendly and personal. I know I too can be (for me) over sensitive and I am a feelings person. However, I have learned to care first for me more over the last years and to be less of a “people pleaser” to be kind to me first.
    It’s helped me to realise that the person who has caused offence is troubled themselves and takes the stance of judging others….first. It’s an unhappiness un that person, not directed at you. So my advice is to reduce time spent with that person for now. I had to do this at times with my dad, as we clashed and he spoke very freely in criticism so I said to him what I would and wouldn’t talk about and it worked. It also made me feel I was in greater control over those visits which at times I dreaded.
    Take care,
    Denyse x

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    1. Hi Denyse - I wonder if it's older people who belong to the generation where they believe they can 'speak their minds' without any thought of how it might affect the feelings of the recipient? This person is my MIL and elderly, but I can't keep making excuses for someone who has been loved, cared for, invited into our home for meals, and generally been made to feel valued for all these years, and yet feels that she can pass judgement on things she knows nothing about. It is so far out of my realm of how a parent should behave. So, I still believe that I need to be pleasant and not unkind, but I don't have to put myself out there to listen to her negativity or her meanness - and I can hold her up as an example of who I don't want to be to my own family - I'd hate to think I'd hurt my DIL in any way and wouldn't hesitate to apologise if I overstepped - so hopefully I'm heading down a different and kinder path. You're example is a very wise one indeed. x

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  5. Dear Leanne I absolutely feel for you. We are of similar age and, as I have aged , I have realised that the old adage of putting one’s own life jacket first is absolutely true and valuable. I hope you are trussed up tightly now. Very very difficult that it is a family member but she has no right to be unkind. I really look forward to reading your blog posts. You are a wise and obviously loving woman.

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    1. Oh Gillie, thank you for your kind words. I am so drawn to kind people these days - those who are quick to defend, and quick to empathise. It frightens me that I could become mean or (more) judgemental as I grow old, but my husband reassured me that he "didn't marry his mother" and that was such a relief! I think if we make good choices, we can steer our thoughts, actions, and personality towards goodness and gratitude as we age - that's my plan! :)

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  6. Dear Leanne This is powerful. I too am sensitive to negative comments and I think that I try to hard to understand where someone is coming from. Nasty is nasty no matter what. If someone hurts me I have learned to stay out of target range, period.

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    1. Hi - I really like the idea of "staying out of range" - I felt like an easy target and I think the hurt came from all the care and love I'd given this person over the years, and yet they still devolved back to the quick shot of nastiness when the opportunity arose. I'm not sure if it's defensiveness, meanness, or just being "ornery" - but it wasn't nice and I'm definitely stepping back - we need to protect ourselves after a few hits don't we? x

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  7. Leanne, I wonder what her rub is? Have you ever asked her, or is the situation too uncomfortable to address? After ten years of near silence between my mother and I we are starting to break the ice, (cordial texts and I recently visited her) but I will never address the core issues of our problems. I don't feel that need anymore. Although the visit did surface feelings that I thought were resolved and I got mad all over again. I don't want to be cold towards her, but I can't be in her life either. Forgive and move on as best you can. I don't have the energy to walk on pins and needles.

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    1. My husband said - "don't go there, she just gets worse if you 'poke the bear' " I think there's been a family history of never holding her accountable for her comments and judgements - it's allowed her to think she has all the answers and the right to give her opinion - even if it's hurtful. She will never see her part in it, will never apologise, and will just get defensive if I try to address things (been there, done that). So last week was the final straw and (after 40+ years) I'm putting my heart and feelings first and creating some distance - I'll be interested to see how long it takes for her to notice. I won't draw my husband into it, he can still visit her etc, I just won't be there to smooth the way any longer. It's sad but also consequences of her choices I guess.... Like you, I just don't have the energy to play the game anymore.

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    2. Hi Leanne, this is Suzanne BTW, I don't know why it popped up Anonymous. I have enjoyed reading everyone's comments. All good stuff.

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    3. Hi Suzanne - thanks for letting me know - Blogger can be a bit of a "naming" issue if you're using an iphone etc. And yes, the comments have been really helpful in knowing I'm not alone or over-reacting to this. x

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  8. Leanne, I feel for you. It has happened to me many times by family members and I believe in giving people a second chance but as they have refused to take responsibility for their nasty behavior I chose to cut all ties with them to preserve my mental health. Everybody is responsible for their actions and I refuse to play the game. There's a reason for their behavior but if they are not willing to work with you to resolve the issue, you're beating your head against a brick wall. Better to let them go or to keep minimum contact. I would like to add that we have to stop the self-critic who says that we might be too sensitive. We have to trust ourselves and put the responsibility where it belongs, that is with the other person. I love all the quotes that you provided. Your post is what I needed today as tomorrow is my mother 's death anniversary and the hurt feelings are resurfacing. Intellectually we know what we have to do with people's nastiness but it's dealing with feelings that is difficult. We have to make the mind heart connection. Stay strong. You're not alone. Thank you for sharing. Take care!

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    1. Hi Yvonne - you are so right about beating my head against the wall. I won't even try to resolve something where she can't see the hurt she causes. My usual response is to be upset, tell myself that it's "family", suck it up and move forward. This time I just felt that it means that I'm allowing her to never have consequences for her behaviour. She spouts a lot of moral platitudes, but certainly doesn't put them into practice. I won't confront her - I don't want to cause a rift in the family, but I'll quietly pull away and not put myself in her firing line anymore. She's mean spirited and that's on her. I'm so sorry that you've been through similar pain and that your own mum was awful to you - when they pass it's never resolved and we have to move forward knowing we were true to our own values and let that be our guide. You've been through a lot and I truly hope you find peace in your heart in the days ahead. xx

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  9. Hi Leanne - Sorry to note that you had such an encounter. Sometimes occasions that normally should be hearty and enjoyable surprisingly turn out be unpleasant.
    Since I am sensitive, what others say affects me. There have been plenty of occasions when comments of my friends or relatives have hurt me. One such was as recent as last week and I struggled to boost my morale and move on rather than get bogged down.
    I am not sure if they meant to hurt. But the reality is I am hurt. I think everyone should be careful about what they say, sensitive about other people's sentiments.
    Yes, the best way is to keep a distance and protect oneself.
    What you say is the right attitude: "We can't avoid all the hurt in life, but we can choose to not expose ourselves to it intentionally."

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    1. Hi Pradeep - it's surprising how many people hurt those they care for (judging from the comments). I guess I'm surprised because I put extra effort into minding my words and actions when I'm with my close family. Why would you choose to hurt those you love? Getting older and crankier is used as an excuse, but why not choose to get older and wiser instead? I'm sure things will eventually resolve because I'll choose to be the bigger person and let it all go, but for a while I choose to step back and lick my wounds in private - if I'm not in her orbit she can't hurt me with her words. Like you said "I am not sure if they meant to hurt. But the reality is I am hurt."

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  10. Hi, Leanne - I'm so sorry that this happened to you. I always wonder what people are thinking (or not thinking) when they blurt out hurtful things. You advice above is very wise. Bottom line, those comments are a reflection of the speaker, not you.

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    1. Hi Donna - thank you for that - I have questioned myself at other times when she's said snippy things and whether I'd done or said something to cause it. This time was a total out of left field judgemental comment with no basis and no facts - just her "wisdom" about stuff. To be honest, I wanted to give her a few harsh words, but that just causes unhealable rifts - so stepping back, keeping quiet, waiting things out, and letting my husband be the frontline works for me - man it makes getting old look miserable when you encounter people like this (so glad my own mum is a far better example of how to age well!)

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  11. Hi Leanne, This subject is always a challenging one for me, especially when it involves specific family members who will always be in our lives in some shape or form. I wish this was not the case since life and time is sooo precious. Yet, I cannot change another person. Unfortunately, she has alienated herself from everyone…it is complicated. You and I know about the distance part and safeguard ourselves…yet I try to include and be kind….and the unexpected caustic, irrational comments….. You and I often read similar ‘self-help’ sites and books and you have likely read how we have to distance ourselves, even with a close family member. Otherwise, my life is pretty darn great! 99% of friends/family in my life enrich my days and make this world a better place. I will continue to focus on this. (Sometimes easier said than done…) Always nice to connect with you Leanne and read your empowering words. xx Erica

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    1. Hi Erica - I always appreciate your insights and I think we're once again on the same page. I've tried so many times to forgive, to make excuses, to understand her history etc etc.....but there must come a point when someone is actively choosing to ignore the hurt they cause, or to be so oblivious that no discussion will ever open their eyes. I don't want to cause a break in the family, I don't want my husband to feel he has to choose, so I choose instead (hard as that is) to step away a little - not completely, but with intentionality as to what I will accept in regard to where she's included in my life. I feel like my home is my sanctuary and nobody (nobody!) has the right to violate that in any way - so it begins with my home, and we'll see where we go from there. It's so sad to see someone slowly wither into such a dry husk... :(

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  12. It's so hard when this happens Leanne and although older people often feel they've earnt the right to say anything, it's not always for the best, but does reflect more on them than you. I'm sorry this happened to you and you were hurt. It's unkind and uncalled for and no-one deserves that, especially by a family member. Keep your head up and keep doing what you're doing, wise words but often hard to follow through, I know! I'm also very sensitive and know what it feels like to be hurt like this.

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    1. Hi Deb - thanks for your kind words and understanding. It's hard when it happens, and when it reaches a point where we just give up after so many years of brushing it off. I really hope that I learn to age differently to this - to remember other people's feelings and to also remember that we can think something without actually saying it!

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  13. Thank you for sharing this, Leanne. As you must have realized from the comments, it's most often family that feels the most entitled to say hurtful things or be intrusive. We tend to give family much more leniency than we do with others. Over the years, I've learned to distance myself from family members who repeatedly hurt and gaslight you when you try to clarify or resolve things. My mantra is 'I wish you well, but I don't want you in my life' - putting my peace of mind over these relationships.

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    1. Hi Corinne - I do think we try a lot harder to keep the peace with family because we always hope we can smooth the waters and keep everyone happy. I'll try, and I'll try, and I'll apologize if I've overstepped, but this was a bridge too far and I'm just tired of her lack of discernment and basic kindness. It's helpful to know that others whose opinions I've come to respect have dealt with similar issues - it makes me feel less alone. x

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  14. Leanne, I had to walk away from your post and then re-read it as it actually triggered me the first time - reminding me of times when I was hurt by other's comments. For me, I still react in the moment, but I am now able to not let it spiral me down. (I am a work in progress!) I do appreciate your comments about distancing yourself from those who repeatedly hurt you with their words. I even pinned the quote about removing yourself when you're not respected or appreciated. Definitely something I need to think about. Thanks for being open about a topic many of us struggle with.

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    1. Hi Pat - I'm sorry it hit a soft spot for you, but it also helps me to know that others have struggled with similar issues and I'm not being over the top with my hurt or pain. I know it will ease gradually (I'm less bothered now than I was last week) but I'm also learning from the toxic woman I worked with, that I can't keep exposing myself to other people's unkindness. I can step away a little without causing a fracas, lick my wounds, and decide how much I want to keep this woman in my life. I think the biggest thing for me is that my home is sacrosanct and I will not allow that to be changed by people who come through the door...

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  15. I'm sorry you went through that, Leanne, but it sounds as if you handled it well. I've definitely gotten better about not taking others' comments or opinions to heart as much as I used to, but it's hard not to feel the sting when something like this situation catches you off guard. It's great that your husband is such a good sounding board for you. We all need that. Also, I love the affirmations you shared with us.

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    1. Hi Christie - I keep thinking "I'm too old for this kind of stuff" and then I get hit by someone's rudeness or lack of consideration and realize that we're never too old to be hurt by another person (especially someone we're close to) and that some people never learn to not hurt others. Stepping back and having some boundaries is still fairly new for me - but it certainly gives me a sense of being in control of my response and my life. :)

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Thanks so much for your comment - it's where the connection begins.