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How Not to Take Things Personally, and Other Lessons I’m Teaching My Daughters

Jennifer Palmer  |  April 30, 2024

All of us have felt slighted ... but how can we avoid taking things personally, and shrinking ourselves in the face of adversity?

As a mother of four daughters, I think long and hard about the life lessons I’ve learned that can benefit them in the future. One of the top ones? How not to take things personally. As an owner of a company committed to funding women entrepreneurs, I see firsthand how successful leaders thrive in incredibly competitive industries. I try to instill in my girls the skills they need to achieve their goals to help them weather the most brutal storms. Here’s a look at the top four things I hope to teach them. 

How Not to Take Things Personally 

All of us feel slighted at one time or another. When one daughter doesn’t get a part in the play she sets her heart on, or another is not picked as a starter on the team, it is easy to feel vulnerable, hurt, and angry. However, learning to manage disappointments is vital for personal growth and building emotional resilience (just wait until they apply to colleges). I also told them not to assume the reason for others’ decisions and – if appropriate – to ask for feedback. For instance, speaking with their stage director after rehearsal and asking for specific feedback may help to build resilience in the future. My daughter did this and learned that the role was given to someone who looked more like the character in question and had nothing to do with her abilities. For the sports team, the coach told my other daughter she needed to work on specific skills to be a starter. While hard to hear, the feedback gave her concrete ways to improve. 

How Not to Compare Yourself to Others 

One of the most significant self-harms women inflict on themselves at all stages of their careers is comparing themselves to others. Whether it is the gorgeous TikTok life-of-the-party colleague at work or a fellow female founder receiving another round of funding, we often view ourselves through the lens of others. I teach my daughters to love themselves for who they are, write down their strengths, and review them when they feel the urge to view themselves as anything other than excellent. Instead of competing against others, I help them compete against themselves. And finally, I try to help them practice gratitude, recognize their gifts, and value themselves for who they are and, most importantly, who they are becoming.  

How Not to Bring Other Women Down 

Perhaps it’s shades of Regina George, but the Burn Book from Mean Girls still exists even in business. There is a tendency to put others down to feel good about ourselves. I encourage my girls to value differences, shrug off meanness, or walk away from those who don’t serve them in a healthy way. There are cliques or people in the workforce who, for whatever reason, seem bent on being dismissive, not supportive, or just plain mean. I teach my daughters that if someone is rumored to have said something unkind about you, don’t believe it. Don’t take things personally, especially when you don’t know the facts. When my daughter was bullied on social media, we discussed the pain she was experiencing. Still, I used it as a moment to help her empathize with the perpetrator who, undoubtedly, is dealing with issues of self-confidence. Learning to feel compassion when we want to strike back allows us not to be consumed with an immediate tendency to bring others down but to see the bully as a wounded soul.  

How Not to Shrink 

Strong women leaders are born from strong girls. I want each of my four daughters – the sassy, the shy, the introverted, and the scholar – to be the best versions of themselves and take up the space they deserve in life. Too often, women are taught to apologize for everything, and we take things personally when we shouldn’t. We need leaders who proudly assert themselves at the head of the table with strength, knowledge, and confidence, and they deserve to be there. I showcase to my girl squad all the strong women – musicians, athletes, politicians, and business leaders – who convey their power in their unique way daily. I want to raise strong girls who deserve everything they want in life and have the confidence someday to become compassionate leaders.

My hope is that all of our daughters can become whoever they want. I wish for all of us to raise confident women who believe in their strength and channel their wisdom to uplift others. I hope that we manifest a world where women have the same seat at the table as their male counterparts and that we lead others with the dignity and respect that they deserve. And in the immortal words of Taylor Swift, when life doesn’t go as planned, our daughters know that it’s a bump in the road, and “shake it off,” and continue forward to weather the most brutal storms that will inevitably come their way. 


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