Highly Sensitive Refuge
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Highly Sensitive People: How to Stop Taking Things So Personally

I’m a coach for highly sensitive people, and my clients often ask me something along these lines:

I’m a highly sensitive person, and I always take everything so personally. It’s starting to affect my relationships. How do I stop taking things so personally all the time?

This is a tough one. Highly sensitive people are more prone to noticing their surroundings and small changes or details. So even the slightest change in someone’s tone or actions can cause a tailspin of overthinking — especially when it comes to people they are very close to. It can be extremely easy to slip into frantic, worried thinking like this:

Are they mad at me? What did I do? Why did they say that? Is their tone different? Did they just slam that door on purpose or on accident?

You get the picture.

Think about all the times you’ve asked these questions out loud to someone. If you routinely take things personally that weren’t meant to offend you, chances are that’s what actually annoys your family and friends. It can become a vicious circle.

So how do you stop taking things so personally?

Get to the Root of Your Reaction

First, get your hands on one of my favorite books (it’s a quick read!), The Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz. It’s really helpful to re-read often. The book outlines “The Four Agreements,” which are:

  • Be impeccable with your word.
  • Don’t take anything personally.
  • Don’t make assumptions.
  • Always do your best.

All of the sections are great, but focus on the section about not taking anything personally. In the moment, it can be hard to actually put it into practice. So let’s start with a brain dump. Get out that journal and get ready to get introspective:

Why do you feel you take things personally?

Really sit with this one for a while. HSPs have a tendency to take things personally because they’re so in tune with everything around them. It’s very easy to become overwhelmed or notice little details people might not want you to see.

Be fully honest with yourself and write down everything you’re thinking and feeling. No one will see this unless you want them to.

Write about the last instance that you took something personally. Write down the whole story of what happened. How did it make you feel? How did you react? What would you like to change in the future if a similar situation arose again?

6 Truths to Remember When You’re Taking Things Personally

Now that you’re getting into the thick of it, try these six tips to avoid taking things too personally.

1. Remember that people are selfish — and that’s okay.

Even the kindest person you know is somewhat selfish. We all are, and we have to be to survive. It is basic instinct. Sometimes forgiveness is a beautiful thing. However, if you are around someone who is constantly selfish and putting you in danger or hurting you physically or emotionally, you need to stay away from that person.

2. Everyone is doing the best they can with what they’ve got.

People tend to react based on past experiences and their own perceptions. Chances are even when something feels directed towards you, it isn’t. The person angry with you might not even realize the true root of their feelings. For example, if a friend is extremely angry at you for being late to lunch, it may stem from a deep pain that their mother never picked them up from school on time. There is no way to know everyone’s triggers.

3. You can’t change someone else’s feelings or reactions.

But you can choose your own. You get to choose how you react to someone or something. You get to choose if you accept or deny negativity that is directed towards you. Try to come from a place of love, not fear. Trust me, you’ll sleep better at night. Basically, you get to choose if you start a screaming match with the friend in the example above or let it go and start clean with a nice lunch.

4. Take a step back and don’t jump to conclusions.

It’s so easy to judge, jump to conclusions, and make up a whole huge drama in your head before anything bad even happens! Being an HSP, you might sense some energy that isn’t directed towards you. You might also be more sensitive to someone’s comment, even if this person doesn’t mean anything bad by it. Have you ever created an entire soap opera in your mind only to find out the situation isn’t that bad after all? It is human nature, so don’t judge yourself for that. Take a minute to breathe and step back from the situation to assess what is really going on.

5. If you never ask, the answer is always no.

I love this saying, and I remind myself of it often. If you feel a friend is mad at you, but never ask and just assume, chances are they probably weren’t mad at you at all. Always ask for clarification on a situation if you need it or if a bad feeling persists for a while.

6. Let it go.

When you’ve done all of the above, there is nothing left to do but let it go. Give yourself time because chances are it won’t happen in a day. Journaling helps!

If your relationships are affected because you take things too personally, and it’s hard to stop, you may find it helpful to see a therapist.

You’ve got a lot to gain by not taking things so personally. As your relationships become less strained, you will discover a whole new level of peace and calm.

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