It's Not All About... You

By Heather Widmer, LMHC, CAP

Have you ever been in a situation that left you feeling like you did something wrong? Or that nothing you do is ever good enough? Maybe a situation that left you feeling excluded and wondering how you can fix it? What if I told you that often times people’s behavior towards you, particular outcomes or certain circumstances may actually have nothing to do with you. 

We often fall into the trap of personalizing: the act of internalizing situations and accepting some form of blame for the unfavorable outcome. When you take things personally, you might be sensitive to the words or actions of others or interpret things in a negative way. Maybe you internalize what someone says as an insult, or you assume a person doesn’t like you if they don’t say hello or acknowledge you a particular way. Personalizing leaves an individual questioning themselves and their relationships and can leave one with decreased self esteem and heightened anxiety, anger and other emotions. Personalizing also decreases our ability to practice empathy and acknowledge others’ experiences.

I believe the enemy uses personalizing to cause separation in relationships by forcing us to focus on our inadequacies. A point of peace comes when we are able to stand true and firm in our identity in Christ, to accept and take ownership of our strengths and weaknesses, and allow space for others to feel how they feel. A specific intervention which I find particularly helpful in working through personalizing is creating a space for positive self talk and challenging the negative voice that tends to personalize. Being able to identify what the voice sounds like will allow you to speak back to it from a loving a constructive place. Imagine someone made a comment and you internalized it as negative in some way. Speaking back to that voice could sound like: “I know I am a loving friend. If I’ve upset them in some way, I trust they will come to me. Maybe they are having a bad day.” You may find that this self talk will not only put you in a place of empathy, but may decrease the severity of how you feel from the situation that occurred. 

Take a moment to think of when personalizing last impacted you. Was it in the workplace? With a friend or spouse? Maybe even a stranger? How did personalizing make you feel about yourself and that person? To help experience freedom from personalizing and self blame, remember the same God who created you in His image is the same God that will direct you toward truth and growth. If personalizing is something you struggle with, connect with us today, so we can help instill that truth in your life.