A very important part of changing our thinking and thus changing our lives includes the aspect of learning how to avoid taking another’s behaviors personally. What exactly does that mean anyway? Well, first of all, it’s a valuable lesson to understand that no one else’s choices are about you. When you take another’s choice personally, you create a faulty and distorted lens in which to see all life. In reality, behavior comes from what one has to gain – even if the only thing he/she has to gain is to be consistent with him or herself and past choices. No one is really doing anything to you personally. No one picks you out to purposely hurt you without the primary goal of gaining something for themselves. You never have to feel a loss of self-esteem based on someone else’s choice. All choices are made based on how the choice will benefit the person making it – not purposely to hurt you. People are just not made that way. However, sometimes it can feel like others are purposely doing things to you. Let’s look at some examples to better explain this.

When you are lying in bed at night thinking about your day, are you not the center of your own world? Of course, you are. You are lying in bed every night thinking… “I” this and “I” that. You might think, “Why did I say that?” or “What was I thinking?” or “I have to get that done,” etc. You might think, “I wonder if he meant what he said?” or “What was she thinking when she did that to me,” or What should I do?” The point is that all your thoughts come back to you. Well, guess what? Everyone else is in bed at night thinking the same thing: “I,” or “me.” Everyone is the center of his/her own thoughts and choices. If someone else is thinking of you, it’s through the lens of how it affects him.

Think about it. Maybe you and your husband haven’t been getting along quite as well as you were in the past. You notice that your husband is spending lots of time away from home, and eventually you find out that he has been cheating on you with your neighbor. The cheating is not necessarily about you. It probably was not planned to “get you back.” You don’t have to take it personally and suffer a loss of self-esteem or beat yourself up about it. Regardless of what each of you contributed to the relationship or maybe lacked in committing to the relationship, your husband still chose to cheat because he had something to gain by it. Obviously, he became interested in someone else – that’s about him. Regardless of what you did or did not do, he could have made a different choice that could have kept him in the relationship if he had wanted to. He could have: asked you to go to a marriage counselor; informed you that he felt that his needs were not being met; informed you that he didn’t think the relationship was working out; or he could have just told you that he is not interested anymore and is planning to get divorced; or anything else. His choice to cheat may have been a combination of his lack of remaining committed, his frustration or intolerance of you, and/or his interest in someone else. And, indeed, you most likely contributed in some way. But still, his choices do not make you a failure. You do not have to lose self-esteem because of his choices. You will probably feel some sense of loss, which is quite normal and justified. Obviously, the relationship is just over – and that’s all. Change happens, and it’s time to move forward. It’s not about you personally. It was a combination of events that led to this incident. Everyone needs to own his/her own choices.

When a thief goes out to rob someone, his goal is to gain someone else’s money. The fact that he chooses a victim is secondary to his main goal of getting the money. It’s definitely about what he has to gain.

Even if the a situation is a positive one, it’s still about the person making the choice. If you decide to give a large sum of money to charity, of course someone else is going to benefit. But, the initial goal is about you. First, you are being consistent with your own positive identity, then you feel good about doing a positive deed, and finally, someone else benefits from your kind heart. Your choices are always about you first; otherwise you would never think to make them.

Understanding the difference is difficult sometimes when your heart is breaking from a painful event or loss. But the point is that if you can sort out all the faulty and distorted thoughts, you can focus on the real pain of the event and get through it quicker. Taking it personally only creates a faulty lens of failure and victimization that could affect how you interpret future events as well. When you understand that everyone is responsible for his or her own choices – good, bad, or indifferent, it’s easier not to take it personally and you can maintain a healthier view of life!

Author's Bio: 

Cherie Scheurich is a Licensed Holistic Minister, a Licensed Professional Counselor, and a Certified Holistic Life Coach. She has many years of experience helping others work through serious life-changing traumas as well as achieve the lives they desire. Visit Cherie at www.LotusHolisticLife.com for more tips on life's outlooks and coaching options. Lotus Holistic Life also offers a variety of self-help curriculum and a wide variety of holistic products.