Why we take it personally when someone doesn’t like something WE like and what we can do to not take it personally in the future
“It’s not stupid, YOU are!”
This is a classic schoolyard retort to someone insulting a “thing” you like, and this retort shows that people can get offended when you offend something they care about. They can take it so personally, that accordingly their retort is a personal insult too.
But why do we sometimes take it personally and other times we don’t care?
When we take it personally it’s because in our minds We fill in the gaps and identify who we are personally with the “thing” we like. We fail to see the separate distinction between “who we are”, and “the thing” in question. We think:
If they’re saying the thing I like is stupid, they are saying *I* am stupid for liking it.
If they say the thing I like is boring, they are saying *I* must be boring or stupid for liking a boring thing.
But sometimes someone just finds something boring, and they don’t think any less about you for liking that thing.
Like, one person may find biomedical science boring to learn about themselves, but you can still be a genius scientific researcher who find that stuff very interesting and they can admire you for liking the very thing that they find boring. If THEY find it boring, it does not necessarily reflect negatively on you that you are interested in it. If you have it in your head that it’s a personal insult that they find it boring, it is more revealing about how YOU feel about this “thing” – are you proud of liking this thing?
If you’re proud of your interest in biomedical science, and are secure in knowing that it’s a good thing to learn about it, and it’s a field that can be helpful to the world- then no matter whether someone else finds it boring or not, it probably won’t matter to you, because YOU are secure in knowing it’s of value, no matter how anyone else feels about it.
But, if you’re not proud or secure in your interest, it’s a different story.
If the thing that’s insulted is your boyfriend, husband, friend, or your job, or a hobby you spend a lot of time on…
Say, if you have a hobby like watching a certain youtuber and you are an ardent fan who’s spent hundreds of hours watching their videos, following them on social media etc, but part of you thinks:
“There may be better ways to spend my time than watching these entertaining videos all day… I mean, it’s entertaining and fun, but I dont think I’m adding anything positive to the world by watching these.. I could be using my time more wisely in a way that has more value to myself and to the world…”,
THEN when someone tells you your interests (in this case your interest in your beloved youtuber and their videos) are boring, it resonates with your own self-judgement and your own uncertainty about this hobby, and so it feels more like an insult and hurts your feelings. But it only feels like an insult because of your own insecurity.
So what can we do about it when someone insults a THING we like, and we get offended personally by it?
1.) In the moment, if you feel hurt, recognise that there is a belief or thought within youself that maybe is insecure about the “thing” in question. Are you proud of this interest you have? This is an opportunity for self-reflection. The judgemental person can be a catalyst to helping you realise something important about yourself and about how you spend your time.
2.) If you know you’re insecure about the “thing” in question – you can work on improving how you feel.
You can either:
(a.) Pivot your thoughts to show yourself why the thing you like is a good thing to like. Build up your own feelings of security and certainty and sureness about it so that you get to a mental head-space of believing that it IS absolutely the right thing for you. List all the good you get out of it – show yourself why it IS valuable, why it IS a good use of your time. And practice these kinds of thoughts until you feel more secure about it. Sometimes it can take some practice to nurture this positive-feeling belief and can take repeated self-reminders over some time (especially if you’ve been getting a feeling of doubt and uncertainty about it building momentum for a long while). Nurturing a new belief & sense of security in something is often not an instant thing so be patient with yourself as you build your sense of security.
For example, in the case of someone who spends a lot of time watching a youtuber: if their videos bring you joy, that’s a good use of your time, because being happy and feeling good is super valuable! And sometimes you learn about new interesting stuff from their videos, or get inspiration maybe to do fun things – that’s valuable too.
(b.) Let this be a chance to re-examine: maybe this “thing” really isn’t the best for you? Is there something else you’d rather be doing with yoru time? What’s stopping you from doing that other thing that you want to do?