It’s what I tell myself when someone is offended by something I do, and what my friends told me in high school when, after name-dropping in one slip, my peers took tabloid gossip and expressed their strong distaste for the people on the cover: it’s nothing personal.
I feel like I have to keep reminding myself of this most of the time — when some “autism mom” comments one of my autism-centric posts with how much of a disgrace I am for having the gall to talk about my life as an autistic, when I remember the things my mom has or hasn’t done, when strangers continue to justify their actions through means not applicable to how I hold my court[2. Translates to its literal meaning in this context, in that it refers to me doing what I do—be it blogging, babysitting, etc.—and such goes for any such mention hereafter.].
Sure, this stuff us bloggers and writers and everyone else on the planet does is personal—but when someone takes an external part of us and makes it personal, like how we each hold our court or our reliance on such outer sources otherwise known as objective evidence[3. As opposed to subjective evidence.] and facts, it’s not personal in the sense that we did something so out of line we should feel personal offense for such an action. Sure, we hurt—because the volatile people looking for vengeance at our expense took something impersonal and made it personal.
Examples of impersonal nouns
Our work is our produce—our darlings, our children, our reflections, our souls, our tears and blood and sweat and many exhausted nights.
Take a song, for example: it’s personal to the creator, indeed, but if a listener dislikes the song, such dislike is not a personal attack on the creator.
The same goes for books, themes, blogs, and so on and so forth. Your feelings regarding a person’s work does not necessarily mirror those of the work’s creator. Similarly, you can like a person’s work, but dislike the person.
Making it personal
It happens everywhere; the most popular example I can think of is the Selena Gomez/Justin Bieber relationship. Each half of the couple, as well as their fan base, received multitudinous backlash and general hate for having feelings not mirroring the other side. ‘Twas personal, in that fans stalked profiles and made death threats. They took matters holding no direct bearings over their own lives—please, the chance of actually dating a celebrity are slim, especially since they don’t go around throwing their trust all over the place, and there’s likely much more to their life than you’re aware of—and made it personal on a worldwide level.
An example a little closer to home: your partner hates your cooking. Your being a shit cook isn’t personal, because I imagine they’ve not yet left you because they don’t hate you. Your cooking is an aspect of you; everyone has different tastes. The way someone feels about your cooking is not a direct connotation to your character/being/existence unless they specifically tell you so. Your outward aspects are not flawless mirrors of who you are at your core.
It feels personal, and that’s okay.
The key is to not make it personal in route to vengeance, because by the time you do, it’s old news and no one actually cares—they’re just annoyed out of their minds and find you a nuisance, and that’s personal.
The key to this: self-awareness. There will be times when something will be personal and you may need to do something about it—I recommend choosing your battles, but it’s hard to do when attacks keep happening on all sides and our defenses are running low—but self-awareness is an important skill to have, because you can use it everywhere and at anytime, and it can help self-development.
Self-awareness allots you the ability to step back and ask, “Okay…why does this feel personal? Did they insult a part of my core, or did they just skin my knee?”
Build your protection.
I don’t talk about it much, but I played soccer in third grade. I was totally adorable and had fun sometimes, but I hated it most of all because I hadn’t wanted to; ’twas my debt in exchange for participating in drill team the previous year. I played defense. ‘Twas boring most of the time, because my team was usually good, but I’d often forget about keeping my guard up and lose focus—I mean, it can’t be helped: autistic, absent-minded, Tourette Syndrome.
It took a soccer ball flying at my face and forcing my top teeth to crash against my upper lip (#busted), for me to finally not have to play such a stupid game anymore.
(What? Did you expect a revelation from third-grade Liz? Uh, NO.)
Personal defense is a lot like defense in soccer, in that you need shields—fer-sure—but you also need offense, because without offense, defense is unprotected and having to protect the goalie against everyone.
My protection, examples soon to follow, regards issues I’ve dealt with in the last half-decade and methods I’ve taken to protect myself against them. Yours will vary, obviously, because no two lives are exactly alike.
- Originally instated due to mother and stepfather sending serious, yet unofficial, threats and making my life feel like hell
- Still exists and has been adapted over time to fit needs/get with the times 📢
- A self-care routine and list of activities to do in case of emergency (defense)
- Such as, for example, when I discover a person I admire greatly cannot actually stand me and despises my blog on a personal level, or when I find out someone I thought I could trust is/was talking shit about me with the hopes of me never finding out (’twas family 😐)
I do have others, of course, but hopefully an example of each (defense and offense) is adequate. The goalie, your core, has but one chance to block the attack—and that’s not personal; it’s just how the game works.
Our choices, actions, etc. ≠ a commentary on those of others’.
I didn’t blog much in June, though I did want and plan to, because things that’d happened in the year thus far have been stressful and challenging. Sometimes, I just have to take a step back and rethink why I do things I do—blogging, reading, writing, etc.—and return anew.
This post is not a doling of platitudes regarding real-life conflict, but perhaps an alternate way to view things—to step back and attempt to see them as they are, choose our own battles, check our protection (it’s like a condom: it can break), and return to the field to continue.
Intentions are not more important than the meanings; reading between the lines is taking snippets of context and inserting what the original context may not have meant—and if you do that, you’ll get hit with the ball before you even realize WTF is happening/WTFXUP[4.I wanted to use both phrases. 😅].
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“Okay…why does this feel personal? Did they insult a part of my core, or did they just skin my knee?” I need to remember these questions.
This is a great post, Liz. I often forget that most people don’t know me on a personal level, so it’s impossible for their words and attacks to truly be personal. They can hurt me by isolating parts of my identity (my gender, sexuality, mental illness)–but I’m not just those things. I’m more than that, and their attacks on parts of me aren’t attacks on my entire being.
I love how you use soccer as an analogy here, by the way! The game can’t be played without offense and defense. I don’t think any game can be played without having both of them.