I really, really hated when people used to say that to me. Don't take it personally. As if that would fix it all. Your friend screws with you and hurts your feelings? Don't take it personally. People call you names? Don't take it personally. Your MIL treats you like shit and pushes boundaries? Don't take it personally, she's like that with everyone.
Don't take it Personally never made me feel better. It never took away the pain or the hurt. Of course I was personal. These people (NM, NSIS, MIL or others) were always hurting ME on purpose. I could clearly see that these people were making a conscious choice to be an asshole to me. Sure, they might be assholes to other people too, but not to everyone. They were making a choice, fully aware (most of the time) of the hurt they would cause, and they did it anyway. To me.
When you grow up with an NM (or a NSIS or whatever), it often is personal. They aren't lashing out in general. Taking out their anger on any suspecting soul that came their way. They were choosing, often carefully, to vent their anger and rage and sadness, on to me. I mean, that's the very definition of a scape goat. And to the scape goat, it is very personal.
So, I never understood how someone could just dismiss something someone did to them because it wasn't personal. That they were OK with saying that and moving on. I almost felt, in fact I often did feel, that the person telling me to "not take it personally" was somehow shifting the blame to ME. That I was somehow responsible for feeling hurt because I was too sensitive (or whatever). That it was my fault.
And so there I was, hurt already. Feeling pretty shitty. And then, to add insult to injury, it was being suggested (in my mind) that I was over reacting. That I was being too sensitive. That I was letting someone's shitty behavior get to me.
It took me a LONG time to rework my brain around this phrase. And maybe it does for every ACoN. Because these things seem so personal. And they are.
But what I finally figured out was that when I was taking it personally, what I really was believing was that I deserved this shitty behavior. That I drew the conclusion that I had somehow done something to warrant such horrible behavior. I believed that they treated me badly because I was an unworthy human being. Or more precisely, that I was an unworthy human being and that led to me being treated badly. And in many situations, this is accurate logic. If you get punched in the face, you generally, did something to warrant it. If you grow up with a normal mother, and she punishes you, you generally did something to deserve being punished.
What I had to rework in my brain was that my NM's behavior was not precipitated by me being a shitty little kid. That it really wasn't about ME at all. That I could've been the best, most amazing, wonderful kid in the world (and actually, I think I often was) and she still would treat me badly. Because she's a narc. And that's what narcs do. They find the nearest and closest person that will accept their shitty behavior and dole it out on them. It wasn't personal, because it wasn't my fault. I did nothing wrong. And it was NM's feelings about herself that made her treat me that way. Or it is my BIL's crappy self-esteem that makes him ignore me and take advantage of me and not care for me. It's not because I'm unlovable and not a worthy person to be friends with. When my NSIS rages and vents onto me, it's not because I'm a horrible sister who hasn't held up my share of the relationship. With these people, these narcs, there is NOTHING I can do to make them treat me better.
And that's where the real lesson comes in. Because "not taking it personally" doesn't mean "continue taking it because they don't mean it against you, they are just assholes". It means, wake up, realize how toxic they are and that you can not have a healthy relationship with them. That their personal issues are their issues to resolve, and until they do, they are not safe to be around. That I need to quite bending over backwards to try and get these schmucks to like me. Because it isn't about me and they wouldn't like me even if they really tried to. That their nasty behavior does not determine my own self worth (or deem me unworthy of love). That I get to determine my worthiness of love. And if they aren't treating me with the kindness and respect I deserve that it's not because I'm not worthy of it.
Don't take it personally has helped me to see past my emotions of being hurt so that I can see the truth of the interaction. That they are hurting me because they like to hurt people. And I'm the only one that can stop that.