As a Special Education Teacher I have to have thick skin. I teach children who have autism and many of these children come without filters. On any given day one of my students could call me stupid, or old, or fat. Most of my students are not being malicious, although I have been called an asshole in the context of a student being angry at me. To thrive at my job ( and survive) I just can’t take it so personally.
I’m human though, and if I happen to be not feeling quite so attractive one day and a student asks me why I have lines around my eyes, sure I can notice what I like to call a “trigger” in myself. An insecurity I happened to be feeling about myself was triggered. A trigger feels like a little “ping” in my body.
I have choices here as to how I react. I can get angry, I can get depressed, in other words, I could take it personally. I could also choose to step back from it being so personal, and I could simply notice that I had been triggered, then let it go.
If I choose to step back and notice, this is self awareness in action. This is mindfulness.
In my awareness have to ask myself if silently beating myself up over my appearance benefits me in any way? Of course not. My student energetically played a part in this awareness. This encounter and my acknowledgment of it is my version of mindfulness in the classroom.
Let’s take this awareness out of the classroom. We can all be students and teachers. Ask yourself, “Am I taking this personally?”
I’m not saying that if some random stranger calls you stupid, fat, or some other nasty thing that you need to be OK with it. Nor am I saying that you should take shit from people in your circle. What I am trying to shine a light on is your awareness of your own triggers and how you then choose to deal with them.
Are you aware when one of your insecurities is triggered? How do you choose to react?
You see a really fit and attractive woman walking down the street. Her clothes show off her body. Do you appreciate how good she looks. Do you feel a ping in your body and silently say “bitch”? Do you make snide comments about her to your friends?
Someone at work gets praised for doing a good job, maybe they even receive some type of promotion or bonus.They have worked really hard, and they really deserve it.
Do you acknowledge their hard work?
Did you feel a ping in your body when you heard the news and then complain about it to your friends?
You read something on FB that got you all fired up. Perhaps you read someone’s political post that differs from your beliefs. There is a lot back and forth nasty banter on FB these days.
I could go on an on with various examples of possible triggers, but ask yourself if you connected with any of the examples I gave. How often are you taking things personally? How often do you then react in a not so positive way?
I often read about people whose feelings are being hurt for one reason or another. I hear about it on the news. While there can be legitimate reasons that someone is upset over something they hear, read, or see, there are just as many instances where they are over reacting. If you find yourself constantly feeling that ping in your stomach, and constantly taking things personally, it may be time to do some self reflection.
Please know that I am not writing about extreme cases here. In no way am I writing about someone being bullied. I have zero tolerance for bullying and I could write a whole different post about what’s behind the motives of a bully. What I am talking about here are those small insignificant events that seem to get under your skin. Those insignificant events that you physically feel inside your belly.
I’m talking about the people who “bother” you. I’m talking about the FB posts that annoy you. I’m talking about those moments when someone else’s happiness or good fortune aggravates you. I’m talking about those tiny dramas that go on inside of your head where you feel insulted or disrespected. I’m talking about many of those times, that if you are honest with yourself, the other person wasn’t really directing anything at you…..but you took it personally.
My mother used to always say, “Don’t make a mountain out of a mole hill.” Her advice serves me well. Life can have many mountains to climb. I know I’ve faced mine, but I certainly don’t have to create more of them.
Neither do you.
There are plenty of legitimate times that something is going to upset you in one way or another. My desire for this post is to help weed out the times when you maybe you simply don’t need to take it personally. Awareness of triggers of your own insecurities is the first step toward changing them. If you resonate with anything I have written here, then simply question yourself the next time you feel that “ping” I’ve been talking about. Look a little deeper, and remind yourself that you don’t need to take it personally.