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A few years ago, it didn’t take much to ruin my day. One bad ten-second interaction with a stranger at the grocery store, on the road, or via social media, and my whole entire day was “terrible”.
Ruined by some idiotic person who was just out to get me… or so I chose to believe.
It was fair to say I was easily bothered, upset, or aggravated. You pick a word and it probably applied.
My stress levels were unusually high for someone my age and my ability to mentally berate someone in my thoughts was gold medal worthy.
The bad days held more weight in my mind than the good ones and it felt like it was me against the world.
I even remember thinking, “gosh Allison, you really need to learn how to not let things bother you so much.”…
Definitely easier said than done but I was desperate for a change. So, I worked at it. I read books, listened to podcasts, and consumed any other personal growth products that I thought would help. And thank God, I’m happy to report that over time, I’ve made a major improvement in this area.
In fact, someone totaled my car and I didn’t even think a single ill thought towards them. My husband, Josh, and I were in the car and it was a pretty bad situation. Like a few feet from death kind of situation.
I didn’t panic, or cry, or yell, or any of the things I would have once done. My entire day was shot time wise but I didn’t let it ruin my attitude, or week, or steal my joy for life. Such a long way from my once “take everything personally” mindset.
A True Story
When I was in college, I worked as a hostess at a new and pretty popular restaurant. Like two-hour walk in wait time during a weekday popular. On one of these particularly busy days, I was the person taking names and handing out pagers.
There was one family who walked in and said they had spoken to a specific hostess. I knew she was answering phones so I didn’t think anything of it. I took their name and handed them a pager. 45 minutes later, they came back to the host stand quite upset.
Due to the lack of communication, I didn’t know I was supposed to send the family directly to the before mentioned hostess and manager. The mother was speaking out her frustrations to the manager and I could overhear them from where I was working. I looked up just in time to see her point at me and say, “that’s the girl that took our name!”… I was shocked.
One second everything was fine and the next I was getting blamed for something I didn’t even do. I instantly felt angry and frustrated. Hurt and embarrassed even. I disliked this woman I didn’t even know.
The whole thing really shook me up.
So much so, that it affected my work for the rest of the night. I accidentally dropped and broke a glass salt shaker when I had to clear the table that was right next to theirs. Something I had never done before and never did again.
As I stood next to them sweeping it up, I felt mortified. Sure that this broken salt shaker incident was solidifying in their minds that I was bad at my job. I wanted to run away and hide. I wanted to quit my job right then and there.
Most of all, I wanted to know how to let the small things go…
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As you can see, I’ve come a long way from my broken salt shaker days. While it’s still a work in progress because truth be told, certain types of things still bother me (but I’m working on it), I live my day to day out much happier than before. Happier than I ever could have imagined.
So now, I’m sharing the same tips and lessons I learned to help you navigate how to not let things bother you too.
Let’s break it down so you can see how I went from full out panic mode over a 5-second interaction to a total zen mode over a major life adjusting thing like a car accident.
Looking at the above work story as a whole, you can see that the part of the interaction that ruined my day was probably less than 5 seconds in total. It wasn’t my fault that I didn’t know I was supposed to send them directly to a manager, and looking back, there definitely wasn’t anything I could have done differently.
So what happened? I took those woman’s words as an attack on my character.
The message I heard was “it’s her fault”, “she’s not a good hostess”, “I had to wait longer than promised and it’s because of her”.
1) Identify What Your Feeling
The very first thing I learned to do, was to ask myself, “what am I feeling?” as soon as something happened that bothered me.
Was I upset? Defensive? Hurt? Annoyed?
Whatever it was, I knew the first step to not let something bother me, was figuring out what bothered me. In the story above, I felt defensive and angry. I felt like this woman was attacking me.
2) Ask Yourself Why You Feel This Way
More often than not, I’ve found the reason I’m upset or bothered by something is just a surface reason.
Once you’ve identified what is bothering you, ask yourself why it’s bothering you.
A deeper question is “what’s actually bothering you?”
Further put, “what is it about what happened that made you feel this way?”
Going through these thoughts can help get to the bottom of the issue.
My answer with the story above was already revealed a tiny bit. I felt defensive because her pointing at me and saying I was the one who took her name down, made me feel like she was blaming me.
It made me feel like she was saying I was doing my job wrong. That I wasn’t good enough for my job.
Not good enough.
A limiting belief. Arguably the underlying factor in a negative belief or self-doubt for many people.
If you want to explore this further, consider checking out a book that walks you through uncovering your limiting belief. My favorite one is The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level.
3) Consider the Truth
Here’s the thing, I was angry because the message I was receiving from this 5-second interaction was that a complete stranger was saying that I wasn’t good enough for my job.
Taking a step back though, she didn’t say those things. She literally just informatively told the manager that I was the one who took her name.
It used to be that if I was upset at something someone else did, it was in my nature to assume they mean the worst. The odd thing about this is that I know for me personally, I would never ever purposely do something to hurt someone.
So why do I always automatically assume that the other person was?
Now, could she have meant it as an attack? Possibly, but even if she did, what did a complete and total stranger really know about how well I perform my job based off of 5 seconds?
Not much. Nothing really.
So why did it bother me so much? Because it fed into one of the lies I believed about myself. You see, I had wanted to be promoted to a server so I could make more money, but I hadn’t been yet. So I was already telling myself that I must not be good enough at my job.
We’re finally at the truth… I was frustrated because I hadn’t gotten the promotion I wanted. So when her words were heard by a manager, I thought it was an attack on my character and work skills.
Suddenly, the issue isn’t really that she pointed me out as the one who took her name. The issue is the underlying frustration I was feeling in my job.
This woman simply triggered it.
It makes the little thing not that big of a deal and allows me to focus on the real issue. I needed to figure out what my employers were looking for from me to get a promotion.
4) Consider the Other Side
Run Through a List of Things it Could Have Been.
Let’s consider this woman’s side of things. Let’s say she was attacking me and blaming this confusion on me.
Why? What could have potentially happened to her that day that had put her in such a bad mood? Neither she nor anyone else in the family looked very happy when they arrived. It’s also really unusual that a manager would push anyone’s name to the top of a list.
Had they just come from a funeral? Dropped a beloved child off at college? Received terrible medical news? In the middle of a divorce? Involved in a car accident earlier that day? Had their family dog died?
The truth is, there could be any number of reasons this woman was upset that had absolutely nothing to do with me.
This is life and crazy terrible things happen all the time. It is 100% possible, that this woman was going through something terrible and I took her words as a direct attack on me.
When the truth is that they could have been the ones she was muttering to hide the pain she was really going through. Nothing personal about it.
There’s this really great video that Mel Robbins did all about this topic. I’ll post it below in case you want to delve deeper into the idea.
5) Don’t let a 10 second (or minute) ordeal, ruin your whole day.
The amount of times I have let a few seconds or a few minute ordeal ruin my entire day is now kind of astounding to me. An entire day. A day I will never get back. I let a woman pointing her finger at me ruin that day.
When I put it in perspective along with all the considerations above, I can’t help but laugh.
I let someone else’s bad day, ruin mine. That’s like bumping shoulders with someone who has a cold and being like, “hey, share with me”.
We would never do that. We would be like, “I’m really sorry you have a cold, and I’ll even run to the store for cold medicine for you, but please don’t pass it on to me.”
Whatever someone else is going through, I feel for them. I’m truly sorry this world serves crappy hands of cards. Anytime I can do something to help, I will.
However, I finally made a decision, that I will no longer allow someone else’s bad day, words, driving, or anything else, to ruin my day. I’m choosing to let the small things go because I can.
6) Find Your Confidence
As I used these tips I laid out above, I found that more often than not, the underlying reason I felt bothered was because I perceived something as a direct attack on me.
Over the years, I’ve found that becoming more confident in myself, has really helped me not take things personally. It’s allowed me to say, “you may be upset, but I’m confident in who I am. Nothing you say or do, is going to get to me because it has zero effect on my self-worth.”
Tapping into my confidence is one of the reasons I can now look back on that woman pointing at me and not feel angry. Even if she was upset with me and meant to attack me, I feel confident in the fact that I was doing my job to the best of my ability.
I also feel confident in the fact that I wouldn’t have done something to purposefully hurt them. Lastly, I feel confident in the fact that if I had to go back and do it over again, I wouldn’t do anything differently. I couldn’t have even if I wanted to.
Bottom line, tap into your self-confidence and you’ll begin to see how much fewer things bother you.
You’ll learn how to not let things bother you.
How to let the small things go.
How not to take things personally.
It’s a very freeing place to be.
The truth is, I’ve never known a truly happy and joyful person that purposefully brought others down. Only unhappy people attempt to ruin others happiness.
7) Consider Whether You Are at Fault
There, I said it. The thing no one wants to hear. Sometimes the best way to let the small things go, is to acknowledge when it’s actually your fault. We hate hearing that or even considering it because our pride kicks in.
Ironically, when we’re wrong, even if it’s by accident, we tend to make a bigger deal out of it because we feel embarrassed. If you realize something is your fault, instead of getting upset or putting up a fight, just acknowledge it and move on.
We’re all a work in progress. We’re all working to grow.
We hate doing it because it hurts but think about how many times some else has done this. They admitted something was an accident and it was their fault and most likely, everyone forgave them and let it go.
Just something to consider.
How to Not Let Things Bother You at Work
This 7 tips I gave above are super relevant in every area of life. However, I wanted to take a moment to talk about a few extra little pointers for learning how to not let things bother you at work too. Mostly because it’s a big part of our lives.
Letting something small go with a stranger on the freeway is a lot easier when you know you never have to see that person again. It can be a different story when it happens over and over or involves the same person day after day.
Josh, my husband, and I have both worked in toxic environments before. So here’s a few extra tips on letting the small things go at work too.
Remember Work is Not Your Life
When it’s a place we go to nearly every day, it can begin to feel like work is your life. Taking a metaphorical step back, consider other than the money factor, how influential your job is on your life as a whole.
Many of us are so used to the 9-5 hourly paid job, we have a very difficult time opening our minds to the concept that your job is not your life. Your family, friends, and most importantly, your self, that is your life.
If you’re spending your time at home focused or considering your next work shift, you may want to consider learning to leave work at work. Re-familiarize yourself with the things that bring you happiness, spark joy, and inspiration. Focus on those things when you’re home.
A new perspective that we have taken on lately is that we don’t live to work. We work to live. Shifting to this mindset has been a very peaceful and happy thing for us.
Set Boundaries and Be Verbal About It
In theme with what we’ve been talking about, I’ve found that often times, our frustration comes from feeling like people are walking all over us. People do things that irk us and we think we have no power to do anything…
Except you do.
One of the things I learned to do was to set clear boundaries. I took some time to deep dive into what I was comfortable with; what I wasn’t. I wrote out what was important to me and what my overall values were.
With this in mind, I began to kindly be more verbal about things. If someone did something that made me uncomfortable, I let them know. More often than not, they didn’t know it made me uncomfortable.
If something happened that I felt didn’t make sense, I asked for clarity. Anytime somebody did something I didn’t like, I gently asked them to do it differently next time.
So often, the things that frustrate us are due to a lack of communication. So my tip here is to establish boundaries for yourself and then gently but firmly stick to them.
You don’t want to come across as a jerk, but rather someone who knows what they want and what they stand for.
Take Back Your Power
I was reading something the other day, I can’t remember what it was now, but it basically said that anytime we stay upset and allow ourselves to be worked up over something someone else did, then we’ve put our emotions in jail and given them the key.
It’s a powerful realization. When we allow other people to make us angry over stupid things, we are letting them control our emotions.
So my best advice here is to take back your power. Just decide that they don’t get to have that kind of power of you.
On the flip side of that, we also tend to allow our concern about upsetting people, control our emotions and actions.
I used to be so bad about this. I didn’t want to upset anyone, so I would go out of my way, even if it meant being uncomfortable, to avoid upsetting them.
The truth is, as long as I’m just being myself and not out to purposefully get anyone, I can’t control how they feel. And trying to was driving me nutty.
If someone else gets upset with me for something unintentional, instead of being offended or rushing to fix it, I realized that it was their problem.
I’m proud to say I’ve been a lot better about this. Recently, someone was upset with me for not giving them a piece of information. Instead of letting them make me feel bad, I just said, “I’ll tell you. All you have to do is ask.” Literally that simple.
Take your power back.
Have a Grounding Mantra
Lastly, for those days when things are really difficult (really for any time), have a grounding mantra. Come up with a phrase that helps you mentally reset.
Mel Robbins teaches this and it’s a great technique. When you notice yourself starting to get upset, interrupt your thoughts by counting backward. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and then state your grounding thought.
Creating a grounding thought is all about focusing on something positive in the future. So for instance, I could have created a grounding thought when I worked at the restaurant in college.
Something like, “This job is temporary, but the money I make today pays my tuition will help me make a step towards my dream job.”
It’s the mantra that reminds me why I’m there, what’s important, and helps me refocus. In action, it would look like me starting to get frustrated, realizing it, and then going “ 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, This job is temporary, but the money I make today pays my tuition will help me make a step towards my dream job.”
I ground myself in the reason why I had that job and not the petty things going on.
It helps you focus on the things you have to be thankful for vs the things that aren’t going well.
I hope you leave with a few tips up your sleeve to try next time something happens that bothers you but you wish didn’t!
Don’t expect yourself to get it perfect the first time something happens. It takes practice and time to train yourself in a new way of thinking. Be patient, keep at it, and revisit this post if you need.
Lastly, I do want to say, that while these tips are great for every day random things, if something dangerous happens, it’s not something you should brush off. If your physical, mental, or emotional well being is in question, then it’s not something little to dismiss.
What I mean is, if you’re cut off in traffic or a friend accidentally breaks your favorite mug, that’s something to let go.
However, if you experience some form of abuse, like bullying, at work or school, that’s something you report, and then work through within yourself or a professional if necessary.
Well there you have it! My best tips for not letting the little things bother you. I hope it’s exactly what you needed to hear today and that it will serve you in the days ahead.
Ready to stop focusing on the negative and start zoning in on the good?
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ABOUT ALLISON SUE
I’m a personal growth blogger, a nerd when it comes to books, and a lover of all things journals. When I’m not with you online, you’ll find me with my family, traveling somewhere, or watching Chinese shows on Netflix with my husband. Empowering you with tools to navigate to a life you feel confident about is always on my mind. I’d love to be on your confidence hype squad!
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