I find it fascinating that people in the same situation, hearing, reading, or experiencing the same thing, will often react differently. We all know at least one person who will find a way to make it about them no matter what the conversation is about. It makes for awkward moments, quickly escalating situations, and hurt feelings. 

While it is normal to be concerned with how others perceive us, some people care a lot more about it. The reasons can vary. Some people feel self-conscious because of insecurities you may know nothing about. Outwardly “normal,” even confident, they may still feel unworthy and judged; therefore, they hide flaws and establish a public image of the way they want to be seen. While we all manage public perception to a degree, some take it a few degrees further and obsess about it. A random situation, if considered threatening to that carefully cultivated public persona, may trigger their insecurities and put them on defense. 

Growing up with critical, abusive parents who made you feel not good enough is a common background story. Another is wasted time, missed opportunities, and making terrible life decisions, compounded by a decade or two, putting a person behind their peers in life. Catching up is more challenging than making it look like you’ve already caught up and even exceeded others. Building an image of popularity, seeking constant approval, validation, and gratitude from others are the hallmark signs of someone who thinks of themselves as inadequate. 

People with a “fixed” mindset tend to be more reactive than those with a “growth” mindset. Those with a “fixed” mindset believe that intelligence and their lot in life are fixed and predetermined, and there’s very little to do about it. In contrast, the “growth” mindset, people believe that they have agency for self-determination and shaping the outcomes of their endeavors. If you come from a place of deficiency and think it cannot be corrected, are ashamed or bitter because of it, you are likely to be very self-conscious and more invested in curating your image in a better light for the world to see. Thus, more reactive when something contradicts it or threatens to expose it.

People may or may not be aware of why they do what they do. They will react, though. They will blame you, or someone else, for the way they feel, even though their feelings come from their self-perception and skewed understandings, leading to many and frequent arguments.  

If you tend to take things personally, you have some work ahead to teach yourself not to. You might be projecting your doubts onto others who have no idea what you dislike about yourself or that you have insecurities. You may be reacting to a non-existent threat. You exclude explanations about other people’s behavior that have nothing to do with you, ideas that may have more merit, and simply preferences others have that are different from yours but are not a rejection of you. 

Suppose you are on the receiving end of a guilt trip or an unexpected altercation with someone clearly taking things personally. You can simply clarify your position and remember not to absorb the accusations or give in to the confusion and the guilt. While it is best to stay away from such people, it may not always be possible. Someone like that could be your boss, your spouse, your parent. 

For specific things you can do to overcome taking things personally and learn what you can do to de-escalate a contentious situation with someone taking things personally, subscribe to my free newsletter at vpetrova.com.


Valentina Petrova has helped people with life, health, relationships, financial, career, professional, and business goals and challenges since 2015. You can reach her at valentinapetrovaconsulting.com.