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When Social Anxiety Makes You Take Everything 'Personally'

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“It was nothing personal.”

That’s the phrase I hear every time someone upsets me. I know they may not mean to hurt me, but I take everything to heart. It’s just who I am. I’ve realized I have very high expectations of people, which is why a lot of my friendships/relationships with mentors have ended badly. People are afraid to tell me things because I take everything personally.

I hate that phrase. I am not a hateful person (at least I try not to be) but there are a select few things in life that I hate, and that phrase is one of them.

This post is a culmination of many years of many people telling me “don’t take it personally,” “you shouldn’t feel that way,” “you don’t need to be upset,” etc.

First of all, how dare you tell me how I should feel. My feelings are valid and true. They may not be “normal” feelings, but they are feelings.

Secondly, everyone reacts differently to things. What may seem like a “small” thing to you may trigger unwanted memories and behaviors for others. For example, when someone yells at me or a group of people, I am triggered emotionally to the point where I cannot do anything physically/mentally/emotionally/socially until I cry my eyes out and talk through my feelings with someone trustworthy.

Yelling freaks me the heck out, as I know it does for many other people as well. It’s something that has bothered me since I was a child. It’s why I barely ever yell at my kids at the daycare, even if I am trying to get a child’s attention who is far away and not paying attention. The only time I ever do yell is if it is vital for their safety that they hear me.

Because I sometimes have unrealistic expectations of people and take almost everything personally, I am often quite sad and lonely. It’s one of my many flaws — I admit to this flaw and I know I need help. However, not a single person on planet earth is perfect. Whenever I do overreact, I blame myself and the other people involved in the situation. I need to stop doing that. Feelings are fleeting. I know I am not the only human being out there who takes everything personally. I am a person who wears her heart on her sleeve. It is a blessing most of the time, other times, it can be rather dreadful.

None of these feelings are my fault nor should they dictate the way other people view me. I tell people I overreact or explain how I felt towards something they did or said because they have the right to know. They may say sorry or validate my right to feel the way I do/did. Most often, the common response is “It was nothing personal.” I find this phrase incredibly offensive and used out of context. If it truly was nothing personal, then why take out your frustration on someone else, call them names, gossip, make fun of something they did, criticize their art and/or vision?

If it was nothing personal, you could have written down your feelings.
If it was nothing personal, you could have punched the wall.
If it was nothing personal, you could have gone for a walk.
If it was nothing personal, you could have prayed about it.
If it was nothing personal, then why do the actions you claim “aren’t personal” hurt another person in the process?

To a lot of you, I am probably reading into this too far. However, that is what I do. I know I need help. I’m getting it. I know I need to stop taking things to heart so much. I’m working on it. However, this isn’t a change that occurs over night. Like any kind of change, it will take time. So, forgive me if I overreact again after I post this blog.

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Thinkstock photo via LanaBrest.

Originally published: September 11, 2017
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