"What else could they mean?"
This is a question I have learned to ask myself, upon the realisation that honestly, most things are not about me, even if they feel like they are.
When the story I tell myself (thanks Brene Brown for that language) heads down a road of taking things too personally, I now stop to wonder what else someone could mean by what they said. Even if it's outlandish, I try to come up with at least two alternative theories that might explain someone's words or actions, and then I try them all on before deciding that it really was commentary about me/my work/etc. Sometimes, of course, it was meant to be taken personally. But sometimes (most of the time) it really isn't about me at all.
It's probably been about 5 years since I started asking myself this question and it might be one of the best things I've ever learned for my mental health (right up there with the importance of exercise!).
Feel free to ask it yourself too. So useful!
As Mary Oliver says: there are many ways to perish, or to flourish...one way to perish is to believe everything is about me. And one way, for me anyway, to flourish, is to ask myself what else they could mean -- because not only does that remind me not everything is about me, it also allows me to be more empathetic, to imagine what else is going on with someone and to look through their perspective for a bit, and to perhaps see a new way.
This is Mary Oliver's poem "Evidence (2)"
There are many way to perish, or to flourish.
How old pain, for example, can stall us at the
threshold of function.
Memory: a golden bowl, or a basement without light.
For which reason the nightmare comes with its
painful story and says: you need to know this.
Some memories I would give anything to forget.
Others I would not give up upon the point of
death, they are the bright hawks of my life.
Still, friends, consider stone, that is without
the fret of gravity, and water that is without
And the pine trees that never forget their
recipe for renewal.
And the female wood duck who is looking this way
and that way for her children. And the snapping
turtle who is looking this way and that way also.
This is the world.
And consider, always, every day, the determination
of the grass to grow despite the unending obstacles.