Your boss calls you in to her office to complain about something you overlooked in a project you just completed. You’re off the project. It feels like all of the hard work and effort evaporated with just that one problem.
Or your professor asks to speak to you after class for a moment. He suggests that maybe you’re not really cut out for the major you’ve chosen in college, and hints that maybe another major would suit you better.
Your boyfriend calls and says that you and he need to talk. He’s breaking up with you, after what you thought were two pretty good years together. Sure, you fought from time to time, but what couple doesn’t argue?
We all have times when we find it difficult to avoid making too much of our mistakes and perceived failures. But how do you not take rejection personally? How do you not feel like your world is crashing down around you?
Below are seven ways to avoid personalizing errors and rejection.
Not taking rejection personally is a skill you can learn, just like any other coping skill. These tips can help get you started.
- Don’t catastrophize criticism. If you get a rejection, it doesn’t mean you’re never going to be successful. If you get negative feedback on a piece of work, it doesn’t mean you have no capacity to become better at it or that you’re not talented.If you find yourself personalizing rejection or negative feedback, ask yourself whether you’re catastrophizing — blowing it up into far bigger of a deal than it is.
- Be gentler to yourself about your imperfections, mistakes, and times when you’re not as good at something as you’d like to be. If you can learn to be nicer to yourself about your imperfections, you won’t automatically jump to feeling attacked when other people make comments.
- Frame taking rejection well as a positive goal. For example, frame refusing to personalize at work as part of being professional and robust. Recognize that demonstrating your ability to accept negative feedback likely will bring you accurate feedback. When people worry about hurting your feelings, they are more likely to provide confusing feedback.
- Learn to label your emotions accurately. Emotions drive thoughts as much as thoughts drive emotions.
What emotions trigger personalizing for you? Some common ones include anxiety, embarrassment, disappointment and anger.If you can label your emotional reactions accurately, you can then focus on doing some appropriate self-care to deal with that emotion. Once the emotion subsides, so will the personalizing.
Often, appropriate self-care for emotions just involves accepting that you’re having the emotion and patiently waiting for it to pass. The things people do to try to “get rid of” their emotions usually end up causing more harm than good.
- Put yourself in situations in which rejection is likely but doesn’t have any major negative consequences. Doing things such as making requests when you expect you might be told “no” will help you learn that rejection often isn’t personal. Learning through doing behavioral experiments is the best way to change thoughts.
- Don’t be overly eager to please because you’re afraid of being disliked. People who personalize often have attachment anxiety. If you act overly eager to please, you’ll just end up believing that it’s the only way to be accepted. Be warm but have good boundaries.
- Believe in your capacity to become someone who doesn’t excessively personalize things. I see a lot of people who seem to have accepted that they’re doomed to a lifetime of being the way they’ve always been. You can change your cognitive style.