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Claire Nielsen: Why do some people take everything personally?

It is our responsibility to notice what we are thinking, and to own that this is our perception based on our own deep beliefs.
In all fairness – we are all a bit narcissistic, some just more than others.

To follow up from last week’s article “It’s not about you”, I felt it important to address the other side of the coin. What if you are one of those people who is accused of making everything about you and taking everything personally? 

If you have been accused of this more than once from more than one person in the past while, maybe it is something to look at.  It takes courage to address our own behaviour patterns but when we do, we actually feel empowered and stronger – not weaker.

I heard a saying about 30 years ago and it took a couple years of percolating in the back of my mind before I really understood it. “If you can take something personally, you will take it personally.”  After that nugget of truth fully registered in my subconscious, I started noticing when I was making a problem or adding to an existing one. I noticed when I was looking for things to take personally, just to complain about them when I had a suitable audience. This was exhausting and very unempowering.  I had to let go of some friendships that supported and encouraged this way of thinking, who were often competing with their victim and judgement stories.  These are toxic relationships and don’t serve us in our quest to be mentally balanced and happy.

Do you often think people do things you don’t like on purpose just to upset or control you? “You did that just to piss me off” or “You are trying to control me by…”

Do you hold people responsible to know what you expect, what you feel, what you need or want, and what it takes to make you happy? And if they fail to deliver or if they make a mistake, do you assume they did it on purpose just to upset you?  Does your behaviour get you attention? (Negative attention is still attention.) Do people in your life constantly have to explain themselves to you or make you feel better because of how you perceived something? Are you lonely or feel insignificant or unimportant?  Are you acting in a defensive way due to the need for self-preservation, with the world view that life isn’t fair and the universe is out to get you?  Do you suffer from low self-esteem and fear that you won’t be noticed, that you aren’t valid or you aren’t good enough?

Our egoic mind will often attach to the very unempowered feeling of victim or loneliness, proving a belief that we are not worthy of love or other people’s attention. When we feel victimized we then justify lashing out with resentment, anger and/or aggression, holding others accountable for our perception. 

It is very hard to sustain a meaningful relationship with people like this.  Their angry negative personalities drive people away, which further reinforces the idea that they are unlovable and not worthy attention… and the behaviour cycle continues.

You may have attachment issues if you struggle to form healthy connections with others. A big part of forming meaningful relationships is being able to be vulnerable with someone else, but many people view vulnerability as too risky. They desperately want to matter to other people but they’re not sure how to make that happen in a healthy way.

It is our responsibility to notice what we are thinking, and to own that this is OUR perception based on our own deep beliefs.  If we believe that we are not worthy of magnificence and a life to have gratitude for, then we will see life as a series of shortcomings. If we believe we are victim, we will notice all the things in our life to justify the belief that we are getting a ‘raw deal’.  If we are jealous or resentful to others for the perception of their ‘perfect life’, we are trying to hurt them by drinking poison.

What can we do to turn this around?  The first step is to acknowledge that this is a personality trait we may possess. (In all fairness – we are all a bit narcissistic, some just more than others.)   If you notice people being resistant to you it is important to ask yourself why.  What were you just thinking or saying prior to eliciting this negative response in the other person.  Did you just lapsed into a pattern of victim mindset. With mindful self-awareness you can notice whether your thoughts are making you feel empowered (good about yourself) or making you feel victimized and mistreated.  What comes out of your mouth when you are feeling victimized or unempowered is going to draw a response from others. It is your responsibility to look within and decide to change your thinking. We are not our thoughts and just because we think something, does not make it true.

The only way to really stop making everything about yourself — or at least avoid it — is to become more self-aware.  This idea has been around for a long long time.  Biblically, “Know thyself in body, mind and spirit” speaks to understanding of our own mind. We must notice our thinking, especially our attachment to negative beliefs that don’t serve us, and cause us to suffer. Suffering can be an addiction itself (a big distraction) for those who don’t feel worthy of happiness.

In noticing the thoughts in your head, ask if they are healthy or not, and replace negative ones with positive thoughts that empower you and bring you into a present and peaceful state of mind.  Seems simple enough right?  It is not – we are creatures of habit most of us are not even aware  of our thinking – but we are aware of our feelings. We have more than 30,000 thoughts a day so it is normal that they aren’t all going to be lovely peaceful and blissful.  But the more positiveness thinking we can generate, the more self-empowered and confident we become – as our mind starts believing and putting into practice our new set of beliefs. 

This is a deep topic so this short article has just touched on some brief explanation and suggestions for navigation. Counseling is a great option to understand this in a deeper way.  Spiritual connection, in whatever modality you choose, can also be a way to bring loving understanding into this relationship dilemma.

Claire Nielsen is a health coach, author, public speaker and founder of The information provided in the above article is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional health and medical advice. Please consult a doctor or healthcare provider if you're seeking medical advice, diagnoses and/or treatment.