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You’re convinced you nailed a challenging audition, but at the end, the casting professional looks at his cell phone.

Someone who you believe has less skill than you lands the significant role for which you also auditioned.

You read a not-so-shining review about your theater performance in the local paper.

You make a bold choice in an acting class, and it’s met with an unexpected laugh by a classmate.

When such things occur, it’s easy to take them personally. Taking things personally hurts both your feelings and morale. But fear not; Frederik Imbo has got you covered.

Imbo is an actor who studied theater at the Royal Conservatory of Ghent and has several television credits. He is also the founder of the Belgium-based company Imboorling, which provides interactive training, workshops, and presentations to help people learn to communicate effectively. In the TEDx Talk “How Not to Take Things Personally?” Imbo assures the audience there are strategies to employ to lessen the impact of such deflating moments, and here are some of his insights:

Not taking things personally frees you
The part of ourselves that gets hurt and seeks to blame others is the ego, Imbo argues. “Our ego thinks that others should take us into consideration. Our ego doesn’t want to be criticized—hell no! Our ego wants to be acknowledged: ‘I’m right!’” But catering to the ego can deplete your energy. “When my ego takes over, I’m fighting all day. I’m in a constant struggle with the rest of the world, and it drains my energy,” he shares. “Wouldn’t it be so much easier to not take things personally? Because then no one has power over you. You’re free. You experience much more harmony and connection between you and other people.” Therefore he asks, “Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?”

It’s not about me
What if the above-mentioned casting professional was waiting for an important text that just happened to be received at the end of your powerful performance? What if the classmate laughed after your performance because a centipede crawled past her shoe? What if that harsh critic in the newspaper had been in a fender bender right before your production, and it tainted his view of your performance?

To avoid taking things personally, shift the focus from “me” to “we.” “If I try to see the intention of the other one, I make space for understanding instead of irritation,” Imbo states. However, he acknowledges that seeing the positive intentions of others requires discipline and training. For this reason, once a week, Imbo works as a referee—and he’s sure to receive a lot of criticism during each game. “Now, before the match, I’m warming up. Not only physically, but also mentally,” he says. “I give myself some pep talk in the dressing room: ‘Frederik, watch out. Lots of things will trigger you during the game. You’re going to make decisions who some will not agree with, and they will shout unpleasant things at you.’ So I tell myself, ‘Frederik, don’t take it personally. It’s not about me. They just want to be right. They simply want their team to win.’ You see? When I focus on the intention of the other person, there’s no need to take it personally. When I apply this strategy very consciously, I admit it, I feel much more at ease on the field.”

Sometimes it is about me!
“When that strategy doesn’t work, it simply means it is about me!” he admits. In such instances, he needs to self-reflect and honestly question himself. “As a beginning referee, I still feel insecure. Especially me; I never played soccer. It is about me because it has something to do with my insecurity, my doubt about myself, or a part of myself that I haven’t come to terms with,” he says. Maybe that actor who you believed was lacking in ability had actually made long strides of growth over the past year or two, and now was able to capitalize on his or her strengths, largely by being open to feedback from instructors. Perhaps you underestimated him or her. “We can only take things personally if it somehow touches a raw nerve,” Imbo states. “And that’s the moment you give yourself some empathy.”

Give yourself empathy
Acknowledging the part of yourself that needs some growth can “give you a sense of peace and victory over yourself,” Imbo says. “At other times, it will be less easy and frustrating: “Ooh, this hurts. Darn! I’m longing so hard for recognition, and I feel sad if I don’t get it.” Instead of harshly judging yourself in such instances, be honest, but gentle and caring. “And most of all, be proud of the progress you are making,” he encourages.

Speak up
Another option is to gather yourself together and voice your feelings. “Just tell the other one what’s going on inside you,” he urges. “By opening up, by being vulnerable, by telling what you feel without blaming the other one, you increase the chance that the other one will understand you and take your needs into account.”

Your value always remains intact
No matter how difficult the road is, nothing will ever diminish your value as a person. Imbo concludes: “People may attack you, criticize you, or ignore you. They can crumple you up with their words, spit you out, or even walk all over you. But remember: Whatever they do or say, you will always keep your value.”

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