The Power Of Not Taking Things Personally

The stories we tell ourselves have the power to help us release the need to be habitually offended.

I was at an event recently when I came into contact with a self-admitted twitter troll.

The dude walked up to me, and followed up his hello by asking me what the name of my blog, Must Love COWS, was all about, and questioned why there was no theme to what I wrote about.

Being human, and having the life experiences I’ve had, I found his interrogation approach pretty gross. I mean, the reference to Cows instead of Crows was a dose of contempt that surprised me for sure — there are no cows in my logo. But I made a vow (Hah! We were at a wedding!) to let that shit go, and process it later.

But life didn’t like my plan to process it later. During a discussion with a cousin, I was interrupted by the dude again, with the question, “Why do you hire a copy editor?” I turned to him with a smile on my face and said, “Because sometimes I hire a copy editor.

Oh,” he said, his face softening ever so slightly. And then he began the descent into his admission of love for getting into arguments with people online.

That was the moment my frustration with his shitty behavior instantaneously melted away. His favorite pastime is picking fights with total strangers, I thought to myself. It all makes sense: His interrogation had nothing at all to do with me, it had to do with his own pain.

Thankfully dessert had just been served, so I left the table because I can do that, leave conversations I don’t want to be a part of, and swapped out the sadness in his words for a brownie. And while I ate the food I was already too full to eat I started up a mini internal self-therapy session that went like this:

I’ve experienced pain to the degree that I wanted other people to hurt, too. It’s been a long while since I’ve wanted to take it to the point of trolling strangers online, but I know what it feels like, to boil over with contempt as a result of internalized pain I was too afraid to process.

I started to make guesses about why he felt the need to be so aggressive, too, to help release the need to keep being pissed off:

When it comes to his seemingly calculated interrogation of me, maybe he thinks I need to be taken down a peg for being female and having a platform, like so many people like to do in the Huffington Post comments section?

Maybe he’s jealous, and doesn’t think I deserve a platform? Maybe he thinks he’s smarter, and more talented than me — that his name should be in the byline, not mine?

Maybe he’s lonely? Maybe he’s desperate to connect with others, but no one wants to because he’s aggressive? Because of that, maybe he’s willing to go to any means necessary to get attention?

Maybe he was raised in the absence of important lessons, just like I was? And maybe he doesn’t realize that true connection requires an open heart, not a latched-closed one, and that you can’t create connection when every word and action is led by fear? (’Cause dude is scared shitless of something.)

Whatever the reason might be, my experience, of feeling deeply offended and then quickly being unburdened by those feelings, provided a huge growth moment.

I realized — again — the power of not take things personally.

You can read books about it and know without a doubt in your logical mind that taking things personally is counterproductive. But it’s the stories we tell ourselves that have the power to help us move away from being habitually offended by everyone who is rude to us.

Being human, and living with the program I have running through my head means that I’m not done learning lessons in the Don’t Take Things Personally department. But the turnaround from being offended to knowing that there is always something deeper going on behind the scenes than our habitually hyper-defense tactics allow us to realize, is coming along quicker than it used to these days.

A mentor of mine recently told me something super non-spiritual that I loved, and that is that sometimes, people can be dicks. And there’s a reason they act like dicks, but it’s up to them to figure out why and do the work required to heal, not us.

When we realize it’s not our job to reprimand and correct, we don’t have to work so hard at coming up with sarcastic or equally dick-ish ways to clap-back; rather, it becomes about being kind to ourselves by noticing our feelings without creating more shame to process, and giving the truth some time to surface.

And trust me, the truth will surface. Sometimes it even shows up at the same time dessert does. 😬

Originally published at on July 6, 2018.