Hey you. Yes, YOU! Well, I was just wondering – do you have a hard time not taking things personally?

I know I do. Or at least I have. Until I learned that the saying “it’s not about you” is actually true. Like really true.

So how do you learn how to stop taking things personally?

Have you ever met someone and right off the bat you felt like they didn’t like you? How about a relationship that’s been around for a while and then BOOM there’s a shift and you don’t know why? Or maybe you’ve had a relationship where something bad did happen but the reaction seemed much larger than the problem?

These experiences are notorious for stressing us out. And, they come with a bunch of negative consequences. Headaches. Panic. Anxiety. Sadness. Depression. Drinking too much. Smoking too much. Overeating. Undereating. You name it. These situations keep us up at night. Make us tired. Cause us to behave unlike ourselves in other areas of life. Lead us to talk about it over and over again with others. Then others get totally sick of hearing about it. Next thing you know, it’s 7 years later and you’re still orbiting their social media for clues. Ha, okay… Hopefully not 7 years. But seriously. You know what I’m talking about.

It’s not easy to go directly to people and ask ‘what’s going on?’

Especially if we just met them. “Hey, I feel like you didn’t like me just now when you met me – what’s up with that?” Ha! No way. It doesn’t fit the scene. But even with people we already have a relationship with – it can be really tough to confront a shift in the vibe. What if they act like they have no idea what we’re talking about? Will it make us look crazy? Will it make us feel worse than if we didn’t say anything at all? And what happens if they totally ignore our approach? Then we really might start to wonder what we did wrong. We might even wonder, “were we important to them to begin with?”

But I’m here to tell you that unless you have done something really just plain terrible, awful to a person, it really, truly, probably, most likely is not about you

People project feelings onto us all the time.
Projection is a term Sigmund Freud used to describe what happens when others attach THEIR feelings to US. It’s a way for the person who is projecting to feel more okay with their own negative feelings. The traits they don’t like in themselves. The disappointment they feel about their current place in life. Basically, it’s a way to make it about YOU so it doesn’t have to be about THEM. It’s a way that people seek to avoid the discomfort in their own world by finding fault with you.

This happens so much more than I can ever believe sometimes. And it happens in all kinds of relationships. Friends. Strangers. Couples. Parents. Kids. Siblings. Teachers. Students. Everywhere.

But the problem is, we (the object of the projection) take this personally. We assume that something about us, what we did, what we said, what we didn’t do or say is responsible for why someone doesn’t like us or starts treating us differently.

Comparison is the thief of joy. -Theodore Roosevelt

Consciously and unconsciously we are in a near-constant state of comparison. Our society is ruled by it! Do you have a nicer house than me? Is your partner better than mine? Does your partner make you happier than mine makes me? Are your clothes nicer than mine? What kind of job do you have? Do you actually like your job? Is your career advancing faster or further than mine? Do you have kids? Does raising kids to look easier for you than it does for me? Are you happier than me? Are you growing more than I am?

Are you doing or being anything that I’m not but that I wish I was?

*This is the linchpin of comparison. And, comparison is the linchpin of projection.

Being perceived as better, smarter, wealthier, luckier, happier, or more successful is fertilizer for projection. But note that I write perceived. It doesn’t actually have to be the reality for people to perceive it as truth. We must not forget…

…people’s perception IS their reality.

This is how many of us think.

Be aware that if who you are threatens the status quo of someone you come into contact with – how they react is NOT ABOUT YOU.

Consider surrounding yourself with people who you feel and believe are genuinely happy for you. Excited for your growth. Supportive of what you earn. Impressed with how you exist. Choose people who seek to will that into their own lives versus feel bothered by it.

Those that feel bothered are likely projecting their own feelings of not being enough, having enough, or knowing enough onto you in the form of not liking you. Wanting to ignore you. Wanting to create boundaries between themselves and you. Why? Because something about you OR something they perceive to be true about you, threatens their current state of being.

So try and remember this next time you are wondering what you did wrong. Or if you’re trying to understand why someone doesn’t like you. Odds are – it isn’t about you. Even if the other person has convinced themselves that it is.

If you follow my instagram, you know I post a lot of short-phrased memes on the regular. Unless you see someone else’s name at the bottom, it’s very much my own. They come from personal, academic and professional experiences and I’m happy to share them with you.