Why (and how) I Stopped Taking Things Personally

Every now and then, I make myself jot down a list of things that have been stressing me out.

The items on the list keep changing and so does the length of the list.

Though there’s one thing that remains constant. My inability to get these stressors under control.

Wait, a minute, let me tell you what I actually mean.

I am aware that no matter how hard we try to solve problems or try to distract ourselves, there will always be reasons to worry about.

Even the relationships we are part of, owing to their dynamic nature, constantly bring new causes of worry. We cannot do much about the factors that are beyond us.

However, we can certainly do something about the things that are under our control.

Our mind, our thoughts, our mindset, our beliefs and also our attitude towards life in general.

You must be wondering that if I already know how to tackle the problems in my life, why haven’t I addressed all the issues that keep bothering me?

The answer is,

I have been too scared to say it aloud to myself that I need to change.

I understand what needs to be done to make a shift to a rather stress-free area in my life, but I’m afraid of actively working on it.

I fear, I’d disturb the peaceful order of the family.

I dread upsetting the people I sincerely care for.

The excuses are endless, but so are the nights I’ve spent worrying.

Let me share a few examples.

After my divorce, when I had been struggling to get back to a normal life, I was discouraged from joining a full-time job with these words;

“Being a woman who is now solely responsible for the upbringing of a child, you better stay at home and care for the home and the baby.”

Every time I stand up for myself and my rights, people attempt to shut me up with;

“You’re a fast, feminist woman who wouldn’t accept male authority. No wonder your husband divorced you.”

The list of such incidents is endless and so are the harps that are shot at me to bruise my soul.

The pain, the hurt and the pinch of the constant remarks made on my marital status or single parenthood or my current financial situation or worse because of my gender (a woman) were costing me time, sanity and money.

I’d get so upset with the comments that if it was in a business setting, I’d avoid taking up any projects with the said party in the future.

If it was a neighbour, I’d limit our interaction to a formal greeting in the future.

When it came from the family, I’d stay disturbed and angry and would try my best to limit interactions by keeping myself occupied all the time.

The downside of this was, I was perpetually barring myself from human interaction because I was constantly living in the fear of a personal attack.

I would avoid feedback for the fear of a rejection or a negative remark.

Every time I confide in a friend or a family member, I receive the same advice.

“Stop taking things personally.”

Sometimes the phrases varied, but they all meant the same.

“Don’t take life too seriously.”

“You need to harden up”

“Learn to be resilient”

And it just doesn’t stop at that.

What follows is also rather predictable, irrespective of the problem and who I’m seeking advice from.

“It’s not about you, it’s about them. You need to have thick skin in life. You can’t control what other people think or say. What others think of you is none of your business.”

That’s all well and good, but it still hurts.

And most importantly, how can I stop feeling bad when someone says hurtful things to me? How can I make it happen?

This nagging thought made me work relentlessly to find answers to the questions that have been troubling me.

I wanted a way out.

Do you take things personally? I always have. When I stopped taking things personally, I took a leap in personal growth. I stopped blaming other people for my unhappiness, built a life on self-awareness that's HAPPY, peaceful & mindful. Read the full article to learn the steps to be in full control of your life & the goodness this approach brings. #theerailivedin #personalgrowth #mindfulness #beyou #happy #selfcare

The initial steps:

One day, when I had finally had enough, I decided to work around the one advice I’d grown tired of, “Stop taking things personally.”

In my journal, I deconstructed the problems, the remarks and the situations that had hurt me the most.

When I re-read all I had written, I made some interesting observations.

I was failing to see anything beyond my criticism long after the conversation had ended.

I was letting other people hurt me with their words, without having the courage to speak up for myself. This was despite the fact that I knew what I was being told wasn’t the complete picture.

I was letting people trespass in my personal life and question the choices I’d made.

I had been reacting too fast, without taking a moment to use logic, analyse people’s words and act accordingly.

These observations led me to conclude that, maybe:

I had come to believe people’s version of my truth and there was nothing I could do about it.

I was clearly overanalyzing situations and replaying conversations in my mind. This had to stop.

I was lacking in self-confidence. I lacked the conviction that the decisions I’d taken stood on sound analysis.

I was failing at setting clear boundaries. I wasn’t giving a clear message as to when the people needed to stop trespassing in my personal territory.

I needed to stop reacting without giving myself enough time to see why I was letting the hurt, the slight get the better of me.

I was clearly a people pleaser who was draining a huge chunk of her energy seeking validation in other people’s approval of herself.

This was the moment when another realization struck me.

Being a single mom, I have had an immense influence on my child. While all parents are their children’s role models, I have this double responsibility of making sure I model the behaviour I wish to see to see my child emulate.

This is a daunting realization. Though it wasn’t the very first time I had felt that way. This understanding has given me the needed nudge from time to time to make massive shifts in my attitude, mindset and habits.

On a handful of occasions, I had noticed Pari come back from school, angry, upset and in tears when she’d had an argument or a fight with a classmate.

I have been empathetic and patient with my child as we openly talk about what she could do in such situations. However, I couldn’t help but note how I’d been advising my child to not worry about what other people said or thought about her, I wasn’t doing the same myself.

This was why I could feel the pressure build up in me to go ahead and plan a strategy that would help me check myself in the tracks of letting other people have power over my emotional well-being and my life in general.

What could I do to change my mindset?

The first step was taking a step back and to acknowledge the sources of my hurt, anxiety, stress, anger, frustration and unhappiness.

I had to take up the responsibility of my moods, my actions, reactions, perceptions and interpretations.

Ultimately, I had to aim at defining clear boundaries for everyone a part of my life and also for those whom I had brief interactions with to not let anything they said or did affect my well-being.

All of it hinted at one thing.

I had to train myself in self-confidence.

I had to learn to trust my own instincts, to stand by my choices.

I needed to work on my beliefs and have an acceptance of the life I lived, while mindfully letting go of all the thoughts, beliefs and emotions that were nibbling at my soul.

I needed to be at peace with myself, my life choices and my life to be able to stand up for myself and not be discouraged by people’s perceptions.

I had to stop blaming others for my unhappiness.

It was a lot of work to do, but I was clear that there was no way around it.

I had to find the answers to the questions that were feeding my self-doubt.

I had to stop making assumptions and start asking more questions to get a better understanding of what drove a person to say what he/she did.

Though I started right away, I was rather generous in allowing myself as long as it takes to seek the answers I was searching for.

Over time I understood that when you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

The real challenge was getting to that point.

Identifying the triggers:

I had to work on the triggers by first identifying the emotional causes that were giving me grief:

  1. Deep down, I agreed with the critique.
  2. I perceived myself being treated unfairly in the situation and wished people would stop doing whatever it was. But it was merely wishful thinking.
  3. I often felt excluded. I was constantly blaming the rejections and failures on my not being good enough.
  4. I had unrealistic expectations. This was the bitter pill that I ultimately had to swallow.
  5. People’s reactions made me experience an emotional flashback. I’d connect a hurtful memory of the past to the current situation allowing it to blow up without logical thinking.

Seeking answers within: 

Once I had my triggers jotted down in my journal, I began working on channelizing my energy and all the positivity I could find, inwards.

One step at a time, I talked myself through all the painful memories to assess them open-mindedly. The more I delved, I realised that the clearer I got about my choices and be accountable for their consequences, the better I felt on the inside.

The happier and clearer I got on my inside, I found the cynic in me make room for a calmer, content person in me.

The newfound peace started reflecting on my relationships and interactions.

I now had answers to the questions my conscience had been asking me.

This state of self-awareness slowly boosted my self-confidence.

I no longer needed to rely on other people’s view of me to validate my feelings and neither did I had to believe what they said to/ about me.

So what should I do when someone said unpleasant things about me or anything part of my life?

At first, I tried apathy.

To not care or give a damn about what other people talked or thought about me.

But it didn’t work.

I could not go on in life, without feeling anything. It was not possible.

Trying to change everybody around me wasn’t plausible either. Besides, even remotely attempting to do so implied that I didn’t like them as they were.

After much hit and trial, I learnt what worked best for me.

I chose to respond from a place of self-awareness.

Mindfulness helped me get there. It helped me to consider the possibility that whatever has happened might not be personal.

My answer to people’s hate, criticism or critique has been to respond in a way that I could clear the air.

I needed to communicate without a need to be right but also without a need to please the recipient of my message.

Saying things as they were, not letting the hurt from past experiences cloud my mind, has had amazing results for me.

There’s a reason why they say, “haters are gonna hate.”

No matter what you do, how you do it, there will always be people who’re not going to like it.

Overthinking things, latching our ego onto comments, situations, people’s reactions, glances and more is a surefire way of letting go of our happiness and peace of mind.

It pays to remember that no one, not even our parents, our children, our significant other, our best friend, the universe and everyone-in-between owes us anything.

Instead of focussing our energy and time on their actions we must direct it inwards, to our conscience that is ALWAYS striving towards our well-being.

It calls for taking back the reigns of power. From others to ourselves.

It is vital to think logically and understand that negative feedback (in any scenario) does not necessarily mean the person doesn’t like you, doesn’t care for your beliefs or doesn’t respect your capabilities. This helps shift the focus from rejection to what can be done to attain a positive outcome.

What if the negativity persists?

Yup, it happens.

And it will repeat itself till you build up a mechanism, a personal one to tackle it.

Here’s what I do.

I have it written in my journal that,

I am not my thoughts.

I am not my opinion.

I am not my reputation.

I am not what people perceive me to be.

How does this work?

Visiting this gives me a split-second break in my train of thoughts. Often the one I need to return to my state of self-awareness.

There have been times when I have laughed out loud.

Yes, I did just that, to break free from my reverie. And no matter how crazy that sounds, it ACTUALLY works.

What good did stopping to take things personally do?

Do you take things personally? I always have. When I stopped taking things personally, I took a leap in personal growth. I stopped blaming other people for my unhappiness, built a life on self-awareness that's HAPPY, peaceful & mindful. Read the full article to learn the steps to be in full control of your life & the goodness this approach brings. #theerailivedin #personalgrowth #mindfulness #beyou #happy #selfcare #quotes #positivequotes #inspiration #quotestoliveby

When something external is capable of disturbing you and triggers an unpleasant emotion, it is highly likely that we have some important work yet to do internally.

This applies to the habit of getting angry quickly and also to being hypersensitive towards people and life in general.

From the time I started focussing all my energy on strengthening my core, leading a more self-aware life, I noticed that I had reclaimed happiness in a new way.

Now I was solely responsible for all of my feelings and I felt I was in better control of my emotions. With this new mindset, I knew that I had nothing to do with how the world perceived me.

I could feel a burden lift off my shoulders. I was no longer struggling to skim through the people I interacted with because I was now comfortable in my own skin.

I became more open to social interactions.

I learnt to take feedback on my work in a positive light.

And the biggest gamechanger was how this new mindset impacted the relationships in my life.

I had freed everyone part of my life from the burden of the responsibility to treat me right (the way I’d not feel attacked).

My child could act childlike without me feeling her feisty, defiance was a threat to my authority. My friends could openly discuss their married lives with me without making me feel out-of-place. I no longer dreaded questions about my marital status. I could freely seek advice on my personal matters.

Choosing to not dwell in the past, even if it was just a minute ago needs a mindset shift.

It allows us more room to LIVE NOW, to easily let go of our bad days and shoos our unpleasant encounters off.  It opens up ways of embracing positive opportunities and connections.

Consciously learn to stop taking anything personally, so you can go ahead, give yourself the permission to discover, embrace and step into who you are and whom you want to be.

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The Song On My Mind: Ae zindagi, gale laga le ~ Sadma

Finding Love, Again!

Everyone has a different way of dealing with a heartbreak. Beyond the pain, the crisis it stirs up lie the questions that make it so hard to come to terms with the loss of love.

What did I do wrong?

Will I be able to survive this?

Will I ever be able to love again?

And the list goes on, often repeating itself.

In the past six years, I have had this repetitive, stubborn list of questions trouble me, lead me into episodes of depression and worst of all tempt me into indulging in self-harming behaviours on a number of occasions.

This blog has been my biggest solace. Every time, my mind struggled with the withdrawal symptoms of the drug of love, I’d go back to my archives to read the sequence of events that made me choose to step out of my marriage.

How I fixed my broken heart to find love again - The Era I Lived In
Even though I had been strong enough to decide that I could no longer live with my ex-husband, my heart couldn’t cope well with the loss of love. The coping mechanisms that got me through in all sorts of life battles were failing me.

The trials in the court and the hardships my ex-husband’s betrayals gifted me did help me get over the trauma of our separation, but the void left by the tragic death of my marriage, sought love to make it feel full again.

I was confident I wasn’t seeking romantic love but what baffled me further was the fact that my child’s undivided love too didn’t quench my want for love. I clearly remember the times, when I’d sit by the window with a book in hand, staring at the words but failing to make any sense out of them. My mind would be so occupied solving the mysteries that led to the failure of one of the most important relationships of my life that comprehending anything said or written was a struggle for days at an end.

They say time heals everything. I beg to differ.

Time heals only when we prepare ourselves to allow the healing to happen. It is only when, we are proactive in trying to move on that our mind, our soul, prepares itself to take the leap of faith. We have to be willing for closure, to be accepting that it’s all over.

In those troubled times, I pushed myself to read. More than I had ever before. Genres that frightened me, because these were the non-fiction books written by the experts who dealt with people quite like me. Though I wanted to be healed of the misery, a part of me was resisting the possibility of having the last traces of the love washed out of my system.

Maybe, I was addicted to being in love even if it meant to be with the man who just wasn’t right for me. Maybe, the memories of my marriage fed my craving for being loved. Maybe, the memories where I laughed freely, travelled at whim, owned everything needed to live comfortably were making fun of the present me, who was stuck being a single parent with virtually no support.

It didn’t take me long to forget the man I was in love with, but the longing for love lingered.

The overwhelming helplessness would often leave me breathless. I’d become a living ghost who went through her day, running errands, working insane hours but having no memory of what filled my working hours. I seldom looked at myself in the mirror. I have no memory of how I looked, whether I’d even combed my hair or what I wore on some of the important occasions in those years.

With time, I did gradually overcome most of these challenges. What remained was my craving of being loved in a way I’d feel enveloped in a warm embrace. I yearned to live a life brimming with the assurance that I wasn’t alone in this. And most of all, a love that would rejuvenate my numb mind, fill each moment of my life with the zest of an achiever, the confidence of a teenager and the resolve of a feisty child trying to get to the candy jar.

My wishes were finally granted.

Not by wishing them upon a shooting star.

Not even by having someone new step into my life.

Neither could the assurances of my family or the love of my child make it happen.

I found the love that I craved for, by learning to love myself.

The love I searched everywhere for, couldn’t come to me from anywhere beyond me. No one but myself could have loved me the way my soul craved to be loved.

Nothing else in the world could have filled the gaping void that my heartbreak left me with the way self-care did.

It wasn’t easy.

It didn’t happen overnight.

This revelation was gradual but the healing it brought along has been phenomenal.

Are you struggling with a heartbreak? Do you feel you can never love again? Read on my blog the one strategy that helped me overcome the trauma of being cheated upon by my spouse, surviving a divorce and finding love again. #theerailivedin #divorce #heartbreak #selflove #love #perspective #girlboss

Today,

I am confident that I do not seek validation from the outside world.

I believe that I am enough.

I am ready to face life without the crutches of false hope.

I am positive that I am strong enough to shoulder the responsibilities I’ve been entrusted with.

I am aware that the life ahead is tough, but I’m equipped with the emotional strength I need to face it.

This is the beginning of how self-love transformed me from being broken to being alive and thriving.

“Something like that. But you know, there’s an upside here. Because when you spend so much time just intensely wanting something, and then you actually get the thing? It’s magic.”

All of a sudden, I feel like crying. In a good way. In the best way. Because I know exactly what she means. It’s butterflies and haziness and heart eyes, but underneath all that, there’s this bass line of I can’t believe this. I can’t believe this is me. I can’t quite articulate the sweetness of that feeling. It’s finding out the door you were banging on is finally unlocked. Maybe it was unlocked the whole time.”
~ Becky Albertalli

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The song on my mind: Duur ~ Strings

Why I stopped setting yearly goals & started living every day to the fullest

2017 has been an important year of my life. A year when I changed gears to make some of the most-anticipated-yet-most-postponed changes.

Around Christmas, I was ready to publish a long (read 2800 words approximately) post sharing at length all that I had been doing in the one year when I blogged sporadically, almost disappeared from the social media scene and never making enough time to read the many blogs I dearly love.

Still, more than a month later, this is practically my first post in 2018 (barring the two book reviews I did in the past weeks).

This is about to change from this minute on.

Yup! that’s true and there’s an important announcement too. But before that, let’s catch up on the lost time.

Let’s begin with what kept me occupied in 2017.

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you would remember my distress over my discord with my strong-willed child. This left me thinking or rather worrying endlessly. The anxiety thus induced made me hop from one parenting article to other on the Internet, dive into the pages of the highly trusted books on parenting.

But at the end of the day, I wasn’t at peace. The tricks and the tips were effective, but only in the short term. This was when I decided that I needed to prioritise and consciously focus on resolving the issues that had been adversely affecting my well-being.

After much speculation and introspection, I realised that I had to work on the many issues, the many grudges I had been unknowingly holding in my heart. Though I was open to the possibility that power struggles between me and my child were more cause of my over-expectations than because of my 5-year-old being defiant to authority, I had never expected the sequence of events that followed.

Of new beginnings and friendships - The Era I Lived In

In the final months of 2016, I started cutting down my work. What started with restricting my work hours which were borderline crazy at that point, ended up to going on a back burner by the time the first quarter of 2017 ended.

I consciously started investing more time and undivided attention to Pari. As a mother, I had imagined making this switch would come rather naturally to me but I was in for a surprise even at this bend. It was tough for me to not let my dedication towards my child waiver given the impending worries of my savings plummeting with each passing day.

Ah! the perils of being a single parent.

I was constantly weighing my need to work more hours against working out what I had been doing to upset the fine balance of my peaceful existence with my child.

If you’re a parent or a caretaker of a feisty child, you’d be well-aware how these little bundles of Sun-like energy crave for an extra dose of attention, quite unlike other children of their age. Though I often try to avoid it, in my mind I can’t help going back to my childhood days for reference to understand what my child might be feeling or expecting of me at times when I fail to understand her tantrums and moods.

While on some occasions my guesses work, at others, our stark personality differences play havoc with my craving-for-peace mind. Another roadblock had been my constant desire to take a break from being a full-time caregiver to my child and elderly parents by binging on social media updates.

(Thankfully) It didn’t take me long to realise that being away from the Internet would actually do me good when I needed to cling on to every ounce of peace and well-being. I desperately needed to live every day like it was the day that would change my relationship with my child forever.

I was hoping for a miracle while toiling to make it happen. I’d be lying if I say, that I never lost hope. There were countless occasions when I’d end up in tears, feeling frustrated, wasted and not being a good enough person to become a mother who could understand her child.

Around the time, somewhere in June last year, when I had almost convinced myself that I was being an emotional fool by giving up my work and working on my mental, emotional well-being while the whole world juggled these two effortlessly something major happened.

Our next door neighbour’s son, aged barely 43 years committed suicide. We have been neighbours for generations. The blow shook our whole locality for a number of reasons. The prime being, the man in question was much loved by one and all for his loving, friendly nature. But that was only on the surface. He had been suffering from mental health issues for a long time.

Among others, my parents had on many occasions subtly hinted his parents that he needed medical attention. But, as expected those words of advice fell on deaf ears. Today, the world has lost a compassionate young soul only because his family didn’t see his mental illness as anything that needed urgent attention.

Needless to say, I was shaken to the core. I had somehow been thrown face-to-face with the reality of life. The writing was clear on the wall.

We can’t take our lives and well-being for granted.

We simply shouldn’t do it, lest we not fear to lose the ones we love or ourselves.

From then on, I knew, I had my priorities etched in stone. The well-being of my child and my own-self were paramount. I had to make the adjustments that seemed uncomfortable at the time but were definitely achievable with meticulous planning.

Life wasn’t going to be easy there on.

In the six months ahead, I decided to take the bull by its horns. I chose to take the leap of faith and stand up for myself, even if it meant openly challenging the people and their beliefs that were causing me immense pain and grief.

I gradually but steadily started choosing myself over everything else. My health, my emotional well being, my peace of mind, my sleep started to matter over making others happy by working like a machine. The repercussions of such an approach have been scary, as expected.

Among others (that I shall be sharing in my future posts), the events I mentioned in my Car Story too happened around this time.

Did I falter? Did I second guess myself? A lot.

Did I give up? Hell NO!

Sometimes when we yearn for signs from life to help us know if we’re doing alright they come in the most unexpected forms. This time it came in the form of another unexpected death from a massive heart attack to a 40-year-old man who lives at a stone throwing distance from our home. It all came down to the unhealthy lifestyle that killed him despite no medical history supporting his cause of death. He was a successful restaurateur and was happily enjoying lunch with his family when in a matter of minutes, all was over.

I’m not sure by when (if ever) will I be able to overcome the shock of the realisation, that the stressful, unhealthy lives we lead in the modern times have only added to its uncertainty.

Around Christmas, the very first signs of progress in my relationship with Pari began to show up (the details of which needs another series of posts). It was the start of a beautiful friendship, I’d only dreamt of until that day. In short, our days were now calmer, loaded with smiles. Pari’s incessant banter was now music to my ears, I wasn’t in a rush to judge or hush her up.

This year, I decided to bring our very first Christmas tree home. I am happy to report that despite its humble nature, it brought along loads of cheer to my family. It somehow gifted us a reason to bond over and return to being the warm, loving, happy beings we had ceased being somewhere in the past 8-10 years.

I was happy that I had managed to live up to my Word of the Year for 2017 ~ transformation.

This was exactly when I thought I was ready to post about the happy turn of events in my life. I even had planned on a Word for the Year 2018. I was pretty sure, I was ready to rock the New Year.

Why I Stopped setting yearly goals & started living every day to the fullest

Just when 2018 dawned and so many of my favourite blogs rolled out their New Year goals and Word of the Year announcement, I learnt about the death of another 42-year-old young man. This time, it was a family friend. My elder brother’s best friend from school days. He died from a massive heart attack in the middle of a board meeting.

Since then, I can’t help but believe in the futility of postponing happiness, peace and most importantly our fitness to an unseen day.

Today, I no longer believe in living life on a yearly basis. That appears to be too long a time frame to go lax about what we ought to be doing today.

I’ve realised the fruitlessness of always focussing on the bigger picture. Living my 24 hours laden with uncertainty has taught me to value the goodness of everyday life.

The word of the year that I’d chosen for 2018 doesn’t seem to mean much now.

Afterall, all we have in our control, is today, just now.

Today, I am working on adding more meaning, more value to my everyday.

Today, I want to do all that I have been putting off for a very long time.

This is why I am going to be working hard to capture this realization, this new-found peace and my journey of attaining it in words before the motivation fizzles out.

I have also decided to go ahead and put into action the one wish I have had from the first year of this blog.

To write emails to everyone who has touched my life through this blog in one way or the other. To express my gratitude to those with whom I have lost touch owing to them stopping to blog or me not finding enough time to read their blogs. To be in touch with those who’d love a one-on-one personal connect with me through emails.

This whole idea came to me seeing the sheer number of emails I receive from people who have never left a comment on the blog or made their presence felt in any other way.

Every relationship needs time and care but above all, it asks for the people to stay in touch, regularly. That’s exactly what I am going to do via my newsletter.

Besides, I love writing emails and have subscriptions to many newsletters for my love for reading emails.

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Before I put this into action, I wish to take consent.

I have no intentions of spamming anyone with emails.

Flaunt your awesomeness and sign up for my newsletter by simply filling the sign up form.

I’m sure you’re wondering what are the emails going to be about?

 

You can find answers to all your queries in the Newsletter FAQs.

In short, I can assure you it’s going to be much more than what I share on my blog. It will have snippets of my personal diary (that I don’t really share on the blog) and loads of positive vibes that keep me going and would hopefully enrich your life too.

The best part is, you can unsubscribe anytime.

Yup! no questions asked.

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Then, add theerailivedin@gmail.com to your contacts and simply sign up right now!

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The song on my mind: Kal Ho Na Ho (Title track)