Don’t Take This Personally


The other day I overheard a conversation that ended with a common exchange. One person said,”So that’s how I feel, don’t take it personally.” The other responded, “How could I not take that personally?”
Whether it be from with our siblings, opposing political parties, or a darker sense of humor, words and actions seem to be taken far too personally these days, which only seems to make life that much harder. What I’ve discovered is, aside from the rare jackass who goes to great lengths to be intentionally spiteful, most people’s actions are based purely on self-serving reasons that have nothing to do with anybody else. Let me repeat that: the actions of others do not revolve around anyone else, and that includes all of us. A person reacts to situations and makes choices because they are thinking of their best interest, their own happiness and self-preservation that they have every right to seek out. Sure, you don’t have to like it, and you may not even agree with their choice, nor do you really have to support it. That is your right. On the other hand, you are also not allowed to be individually slighted by another’s decisions nor feel personally attacked.
It happens daily. We’ve all seen a perceived offense get interpreted badly and have witnessed the horrible repercussions that come from reacting to it. Greed, spite, jealousy; in my neck of the woods it is simply called Drama. I’m sorry to say that in my youth I gained experience on both sides of this topic but now go out of my way to avoid it every chance I get.
I grew up as a Muslim and an Indonesian, both groups that, not the guiltiness of our Creator. While away at college last year, I learned that nothing is really personal, and if you take it so, the guilt you try to project on others in order to validate your wrongly perceived feelings only makes things worse.
A lot of my views on the world have to do with perception. By simply perceiving a situation differently you can easily alter it, dealing with any problem or challenge in a faster, more logical way. By taking out emotion, your choices become clear and easy to defend, and thus your possibility of feeling guilt diminishes greatly.
Many have told me that they can’t be as emotionless as I am in situations, but they have it wrong. I’m not a very cool or collected person. That I can remain calm in just about any given situation doesn’t mean I’m not a raging torrent of highs and lows, it just means I can mask my reactions better. I have very strong opinions on any topic you can come up with, but I just happen to know when to pick my battles.
If all the anger, frustration, and bitterness generated from taking things personally was turned into enthusiastic support and positive inspiration, we as a society might get a lot more done and finally see some real, tangible change for the better. Why be petty? If others seem to be living their life to a fuller potential than you are, it should not be your goal to tear them down, but to push yourself to a higher level. If your lover rejects you, it wasn’t meant to be, so move on accordingly. If your co-worker got the promotion you feel you deserved, work harder or find a better job.
I know this is all easier said than done, but the attempt alone is important in these matters. Sadly, what bothers me most is that a lot of people don’t even want to try, they are happy with the status quo. Thankfully I never am. Sometimes my high standards leave a lot of room for disappointment, but I tend to keep that to myself as well. All I’m saying is we as a society need to loosen up, work a little harder, and keep on truckin’. At the end of the day, may we all lie in bed with the notion that we were our best selves, and that will be good enough. Feel free to take that personally.


~ by Indira Singgih on November 14, 2010.

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