How to Let Go and Not Take Things Personally in the Corporate WorldFeatured

As a mom of a toddler and with a corporate and entrepreneurial career of 15 years spanning several industries and functions, I constantly receive colorful, solicited, and unsolicited feedback from a diverse group of humans.

I truly believe feedback is a gift, and it’s how you decide to take (or not take) that feedback that will help you continue to grow and develop as your unique person.

In the corporate world, it’s easy to get caught up in the daily stresses and challenges. A key skill to help you navigate and thrive in this environment is the ability to let things go and not take things personally. You can develop this skill by focusing on:

  1. Reframing your perspective
  2. Building resiliency
  3. Seeking a support system

Reframing Your Perspective:

Tension can run high in the fast-paced, high-pressure corporate world, creating the perfect environment for conflicts to arise. When you find yourself in a difficult situation or on the receiving end of criticism, it's crucial to take a step back and assess the situation objectively.

Often, the actions or words of others are a reflection of their own stress, biases, or personal issues rather than a direct attack on you. By recognizing that criticism or feedback may not be about you, you can create emotional distance and avoid internalizing negative experiences.

Specifically, you can:

  • Consider the Source: When receiving feedback, ask yourself: "Has this person provided you valuable insights in the past?" If not, take their words with a grain of salt, or take only what is useful for you.
  • Reframe Criticism: Instead of dwelling on negative feedback, ask clarifying questions. "Can you elaborate on what you mean here?" Seek to understand the specific areas for improvement, and whether those are areas you want to focus on.
  • Focus on What You Can Control: Make a list of your strengths and areas for development. Channel your energy into developing a specific skill or improving a particular process you can influence.

🔥 Hot Tip🔥 You can often get more leverage by doubling down on your known superpowers while investing just enough in your opportunity areas so that they do not hold you back.

♥️ Personal Experience: I started my career in public accounting where a major career milestone was passing the CPA exam. While I did follow my peers down this pathway, I also knew I was interested in getting an MBA to expand my opportunities. Many mentors within my company said an MBA was not needed to progress in public accounting; the CPA was all I needed. It wasn’t until I sought guidance outside of the public accounting field and from those who had pursued the MBA that I received more balanced perspectives on the value of an MBA.

Building Resiliency:

One of the most effective ways to let go of negative experiences and avoid taking things personally is to shift your focus to your own growth and development. By setting clear professional goals with a growth mindset on continuously learning, you can maintain a sense of purpose and direction, even in the face of adversity.

When you prioritize your own development, you become less reliant on external validation and more confident in your abilities. This, in turn, makes it easier to let go of minor setbacks and maintain an optimistic outlook. Some tactics you can take include:

  • Practice Self-Compassion: After a setback, take a moment to acknowledge your feelings. Write them down in a journal or talk to a trusted friend. Then remind yourself of your past successes.
  • Seek Feedback from Trusted Colleagues and Friends: Sometimes it’s easier to hear feedback from a trusted person, who is removed from the situation. If you find yourself in a situation where you are taking feedback/reactions personally, try explaining the situation and outcome to your trusted person to get their perspective and any guidance they have on what will specifically help you navigate the situation in the short and long term.
  • Apply Learnings To Your Growth and Development: Regardless of whether you agree with the situation's outcome, look for a useful learning or nugget you can apply to yourself and your development goals. This way, you are always moving forward productively from the situation.

🔥 Hot Tip🔥 Do you serve as a mentor to others formally or informally? What advice would you give to your mentee if they were in your situation? You may find you have just the right advice!

♥ ️ Personal Experience: Some of the most impactful advice I received mid-career was from a valued mentor and C-Suite executive. After I completed 2 strong years at this company, his feedback for me was to move from generalist to specialist to unlock the next level in my career. I sat with this advice for a while, reflecting on how to apply it. Through some internal processing, I realized that being a generalist was actually a superpower of mine, and this insight helped me own my strength as a generalist, and seek opportunities where this was a highlight of my unique value proposition.

Seeking a support system:

Just as in the saying “it takes a village to raise a child”, it similarly takes a “board of personal advisors” to navigate the complexities and nuances of the corporate world. Surround yourself with optimistic, supportive, experience-diverse individuals who are vested in your success and can offer guidance and encouragement when needed. This support system can also remind you of your past success and growth, and keep you grounded in your “why” and values. For example, you can:

  • Build a Support Network: Join a professional organization or mentor program to connect with supportive individuals in your field.
  • Celebrate Your Wins: Take yourself out for lunch to celebrate a completed project or acknowledge your accomplishments with a small reward.
  • Remember Your Why: Write down your core values and career goals. Review them regularly to stay motivated and focused on the bigger picture.

🔥 Hot Tip🔥 Do you have an ongoing brag sheet? A great way to keep track of success and celebrate your wins is to keep a running brag sheet of great feedback, project wins, and other successes you’ve had, big or small. Not only does this serve as a great reminder of your achievements, but you can also pull from it when shaping your narrative, from a resume or LinkedIn to writing a self-assessment or providing highlights in a bio that you are featured in.

♥ ️ Personal Experience: I am a relatively new mom (with a toddler and newborn coming in under a month!) and so in the last two years, I have found myself taking periods of parental leave for bonding and also learning how to reintegrate into the corporate world as a parent. My learning here has been finding strong community and guidance from parents, whether at my workplace, reconnecting with former colleagues and life-long friends who are also parents, and local and virtual parent groups. Sometimes, a life-changing event, or a pause from the day-to-day job stress, gives you the time and space to connect or reconnect with your community.

Letting go and not taking things personally is a skill that requires continuous practice and patience. Be kind to yourself as you work on developing this resilience, and celebrate the progress you make along the way. You are not defined by the opinions or actions of others, and there are learning opportunities in every situation. Own your growth and development roadmap and use these experiences to fuel your growth.

Not sure where to start? Follow the hot tips in the article above! 🔥

Have a tip or story to share that helped you let something go and not take it personally? Leave it in the comments! 👇

I love this--thanks very much for sharing, @KellyLing!
Thanks Rachel! Any points in the article particulary stick out for you?
I would say the parts about reframing your perspective--that's really valuable! We tend to look at things through a certain lens, and looking at things differently can change things for the better.
Yes totally agree, thank you for sharing. It can be so eye opening to do some perspective taking from another person's point of view!
Thanks for this - having just recently pivoted to corporate IT after a decade teaching, I feel like an alien. Someone recently recommended Sydney Banks's, "the Enlightened Gardener" for reframing, and that has helped, but I feel so brand new. This post helps a lot!
Wow congrats on the pivot - sounds like a fun and challenging new adventure! Thanks for the suggestion of the Enlightened Gardener - I will check this out! Curious, what led you to your career pivot?
For sure and thank you! I did find the book a bit contrived, but the foundational concepts are worth examining. And as for the pivot, I was ready for a healthier work-life balance and to explore something new. Teaching is incredibly rewarding, but all-consuming.
Thank you for this article.
Thanks for giving it a read! Any part particularly helpful for you?
This is so helpful! Thank you for sharing!
Thanks Amy for giving it a read and connecting!
Learning to let go has been one of my best life hacks! love it!
+1 Iynna! Any other advice or tips you have on how you learned to let things go?