#232 – Why We Take Things Personally


Back from their break, Veronica and Chip discuss why we take things so personally, why, in early sobriety, we are hyper-sensitive and can find offence where none was meant. They discuss how we can begin to not take things personally and why this is an easier way to live and stay sober.

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about this episode

“What’s underneath the sensitivity is the terror that we don’t belong.” – Veronica Valli

Many of us who misuse substances have tendencies to feel unloved or like we don’t belong. Those feelings, in turn, make us more susceptible to react negatively to criticism or feeling hurt.

For Chip and I, this was something that took time for us to grow a thicker skin and become more resilient. Nowadays, with social media and the internet in general, the ability for people to voice opinions and potentially hurt others has increased dramatically.

Since oversensitivity often stems from a desire to belong and fit in, it’s helpful to recognize that hurtful comments or actions are often more about the person making them than the person they are directed at.

In this episode, we’re sharing our experiences, common situations that trigger feelings of oversensitivity, how you can start to feel comfortable in your own skin, what to do to build your resilience, and more.

In this episode, Chip and I discuss:

  • Taking things personally and being sensitive in early sobriety
  • Our experiences dealing with oversensitivity in recovery
  • The fragility of early recovery and the struggle of navigating social situations
  • Reflecting on Chip’s tendency to focus on things that upset him rather than the nice things people say
  • The increased opportunities for people to hurt others in the age of social media
  • Psychological effects of online criticism
  • Consequences of smartphone culture and the negative impact on mental health and interactions with the world
  • Why most of us take things personally in the early stages of sobriety and the growth of a thicker skin over time
  • Underlying fears of not belonging
  • Recognizing that others’ actions are usually about their own issues
  • Giving people grace and being mindful of their struggles

key highlights

The Rawness of Early Sobriety

People who misuse substances often have underlying reasons for doing so, such as feeling fragile, damaged, or unloved. Giving up alcohol or drugs can then make us emotionally revert to the age they were when we started using.

For me, I started drinking at a young age and used alcohol to numb my feelings. After getting sober, I felt raw and sensitive as I did as a 14 or 15-year-old girl. Even innocuous things could deeply affect us during that time.


Learning to Navigate Oversensitivity

Being oversensitive is a common experience in early sobriety.

I remember a specific incident from my internship with Chip – early in recovery – where I took a client’s complaint very personally. I felt devastated, but Chip reassured me, emphasizing that mistakes happen and it’s important to be kind to oneself.

Reflecting on Chip’s early recovery, he faced a lot of challenges navigating social situations. He didn’t have “tough skin” and was easily hurt by even trivial remarks or jokes. He wanted to belong and be liked by others but struggled with social interactions and often felt on the outskirts of groups.


The Impact of Oversensitivity on Recovery

Being oversensitive can be crippling and lead some individuals to retreat back into their addiction as a form of protection. However, we also believe that being oversensitive is a natural part of early recovery and that it does get better with time.

It’s reasonable to expect that you’ll take things too personally, but living in a constantly offended state is exhausting. If we’re not careful, we can become one of those individuals who make a habit out of being upset and indignant, constantly seeking out things to be hurt about.

Taking things personally is a natural human tendency, as people want to be liked and accepted. At the same time, it’s important to develop a thicker skin and so every comment doesn’t affect us personally.


Sustainable Sobriety

Consider the possibility that whatever is said or done is not personal, but rather about the other person and their own struggles.

The journey to recovery is not just about giving up substances but also about understanding and navigating our emotional responses. It’s about learning to be kind to ourselves and developing resilience in the face of adversity.

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