“I find it a challenge to set healthy limits with my daughter.

When I refuse to engage in a way that doesn’t feel healthy to me, she insists on taking the stance that I don’t love her even though I have always tried to make it clear that I love her even when I don’t agree with her choices, actions or behaviors. I try to step back and not personalize her reactions, but I wish there was a way to make this easier.”

It can be hard not to take it personally when someone you love dearly insists that you don’t love them, and it can feel confusing to dance between expressing your love to them while effectively communicating your limitsWhen our loved ones respond to us in ways that feel challenging, a big part of our lesson is not taking their reactions personally. This can be easier said than done!

Especially during difficult conversations, it’s important to recognize your personal limits and stick to them. Many times, when emotions run high, it can be all too easy to relegate your own needs to the back burner in order to avoid the other person’s response.

Remember: When you are meeting your needs in a way that serves you better, it will be easier for you to stop taking things personally and start communicating in a way that feels good to you.

The following steps will make it easier for you to stop taking things personally without compromising your own needs.

First, identify the internal stories that create pain in you. If you want to stop taking things personally, this step is key. For example, I invited the client who was having trouble with her daughter to listen to what she told herself when her daughter said she didn’t love her. What are you telling yourself during difficult conversations? At first, you may notice an upset voice. It may say, “If only she would listen to me! She should just grow up and realize everything I’ve done for her already!”

Underneath that voice, you may notice the voice of an inner Judge who may say something like, “You’re not doing a good enough job of loving her! You didn’t do a good job of loving her in the past!” Or, the thoughts you notice may be completely different.

Recognize that the painful stories you tell yourself are not true. If any belief, thought, or story you tell yourself makes you feel like there’s something wrong with you, question the story. There is absolutely nothing wrong with you; the work of radical self-care and effective communication is learning to accept yourself exactly as you are and exactly as you are not. Once you’ve got this lesson down, you can extend the same benefit to others.

Whenever someone else’s criticism of us triggers feelings of shame, guilt, anger, or any variation on this theme, it is because some part of us believes that what they are saying is true. If some part—usually the inner Judge—didn’t believe it was true, then their words would not impact us emotionally. Of course, most parts of us may know that we disagree with what the other person is saying, but at least some small part of us agrees, and the fact that we have several parts who believe different things can create a feeling of confusion and uncertainty about whether we’re doing the right thing.

Find a story that works better for you, one that brings you a sense of ease around the situation. Ask yourself: What’s a story that would serve you better? Perhaps your new story sounds something like this… “Even when our children are grown, parenting can be a very challenging learning journey. I am doing my best to accept my daughter and relate to her in the best way I know how. I deserve to take good care of myself and create the life I want.” When we give away more than we have, we end up depleted, and we have even less to give than when we started.

In order to effectively communicate with important people in your life, and in order to taking things personally, you need to love yourself. One part of loving yourself is learning when to say “yes” and when to say “no.” This last step—and of course, it takes practice—is to get to a place where you can love someone very much, accept them exactly as they are, and still say “no” to them. When you work at it, this can eventually feel very clear and concise, like, “I love you, and I accept you. I love me, and I accept me. I love you, and no.” We don’t have many examples of this in our culture, and it is therefore a radical act to say “no” from a place of absolute compassion and love.

If your loved one has a difficult reaction to you saying “no,” it’s possible that they may or may not ever be able to understand where you’re coming from, and it’s unlikely that they’re able to help you meet your needs right now. Because of this, it’s important to grieve the fact that your relationship is not currently how you would like it to be. It is equally important for you to then take steps on your own towards meeting your needs, whether they are for acceptance, connection, or something else.

How do you approach difficult conversations? Do you find it hard to not take others’ reactions to your limits personally? If you know you’re ready to receive support on the path to radical self-care, sign up for a free Discovery Session today!

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