In this series of mistakes that fail your family, I am highlighting common strategies that undermine your children’s success and happiness. We have covered several behavioral strategies recently, but today’s discussion focuses on a critical mental mistake: Taking things personally.

The Wide, Wide World of Infinite Opinions

To find happiness and offer our children the seeds of happiness, we must discover how to learn and grow in life without taking others’ opinions personally. What does this mean? The world will opine, judge, snarl, and roll its eyes. It’s a given. However, when this ‘feedback’ or ‘input’ flows in our direction, we tend to get hurt, feel bad, and react; we take things personally. We make their story of life emotionally crucial in our story of life.

When someone says you did a lousy job, you take it personally. When your kids tell you you’re a bad mom, you take it personally. When your teenager calls you stupid, you take it personally. You take it personally when your husband or wife complains about how you handled the bedtime routine. You take it personally when your mother-in-law rolls her eyes at how the kids eat their dinner!

Most of us do this naturally because we were essentially “trained” to take the input of others personally by our parents, teachers, and society.

What happens when we take things personally?

1. First, the world owns you…emotionally. You surrender control.

When we take things personally, others are the masters of our emotional fate. The eye roll, the smirk, or the negative jab can send us on a downward spiral. We utter comments like, “You really hurt me,” or “That’s disrespectful,” or even “How could you do that to me?”

With our children, we react to their poor attitude or feel furious at the hint of disrespect. When we do, we learn how easily a teenager can own our emotional life. Lost sleep, hours of arguing, and wasted time in therapy; we endure all this because we have given control over others by taking their input personally. When we do this, our good parenting practices fly right out the window.

We forget that it’s their story, beliefs, hormones, etc.

With the five or six billion people walking the planet right now, we carry a different ‘story’ about the world. Everything revolves around my ‘story’ or my way of making sense of the world. No two stories are the same, no matter how close or loving you are. Your kids will have a different story about you. You will have a different story about each of your kids.

You may notice that some of us walk through the world with sweet, loving, and powerful stories. Others have stories that bring much anger or sadness. Some keep their story to themselves, while others share theirs incessantly with the world. Your story will surely drive your behaviors and how you walk through the world.

Remember that these stories are influenced by parents, genetics, teachers, books, movies, peers, hormones, painful/joyful moments, what we eat, what we have breathed, and even how we sleep. None of us could be aware of the estimated one to two billion chemical and electrical responses that our brain monitors every microsecond of every moment of our life. We just can’t understand all the factors influencing and shaping our choices, thus shaping the continually evolving story.

Of course, the same is true for your child, spouse, neighbor, or boss. They are walking through the world as the main character in their story. Not you.

It’s easy to forget this and pretend that the words or gestures pointed your way are about you personally when they are not. It’s not reality. It’s just their story about you. They don’t know you. They don’t know all the paths that you have been down. They don’t know all of your struggles. They don’t know all of your thoughts. They don’t know all that influences you.

Freedom & Ease: Treat all those stories lightly

Once you understand that we are all just creating stories about ourselves and others, you can begin to hold it all a bit more lightly. It’s not necessary to believe every thought that flows from the stories others are having. Why would you? Why would you give them this power?

For your children, it is critical that you not take their actions or reactions personally, as you will be in reaction mode. It is equally important to model taking things lightly as you walk through the world. It’s your best and most powerful tool for teaching. You can’t talk your way through this; you must walk your way through it. Your kids will learn from how easily you enjoy the wide range of stories that make up this planet, yet follow your truth to make sense and happiness in your life.