How to Deal With Difficult People
Five types of difficult personalities and how to cope with them.
Years ago, I shared with a spiritual teacher that I’m often harder on myself than I am on anyone else. A part of me, I think, took this tendency as a point of pride. She set me straight, and quickly.
She told me that this tendency to be strict and unforgiving with myself while acknowledging that others deserve a break is a form of egoism. She went on to say that, by holding myself to a different set of standards compared to others, I was placing myself on a pedestal.
She also told me that if I don’t practice love and acceptance for myself first, despite all my foibles and missteps, then the love and acceptance I offer others is not completely genuine. Ouch.
As you can imagine, this conversation landed hard. But it also put me on a journey of self-inquiry toward self-love—one that began by asking, “Do I love myself just as I am, unconditionally?”
To get a feel of where you are on the self-love journey, answer the questions below as honestly as possible. Be gentle in your assessment: if you score low, simply know that that means you’re at the beginning of a sweet, sweet journey to a whole new relationship with yourself.
How comfortable am I being alone?
I can’t be alone for very long without seeking a distraction
People who spend a lot of time alone seem weird to me
I make alone time part of my self-care routine
I am my own best friend and confidante
When I don’t get the raise/promotion/acknowledgment I think I deserve, how do I react?
I blame myself; I should’ve done better
I blame others; the system is rigged
Eh, you win some, you lose some
I take time to journal or talk with someone about how I feel, then I move on with my life
If I’m struggling on a project, I…
get easily frustrated and often quit
decide that the project itself is faulty
ask for help, but feel guilty about having to do so; I shouldn’t take other people’s time
reach out for help with no guilt or apologies; everyone is always learning
When it comes to receiving greetings, praise, thank you’s, and other forms of acknowledgement, I…
gobble it up like candy; I need regular external validation
expect it and get annoyed when it doesn’t come
like hearing it, but feel uncomfortable accepting it (“Oh, this old thing?”)
easily accept the compliment/praise (“Thanks! I like my new haircut too!”)
When I’m in a setting/situation that makes me uncomfortable, I…
grin and bear it; I don’t want to bring attention to myself
judge others, either in my mind or outwardly (gossiping, snide comments, etc.)
make up an excuse to leave/not participate
speak up with clarity and follow through with a decision—staying or leaving—that feels most aligned with my needs/energy/safety
Self-care to me is…
indulgent and expensive
a waste of time
something I know I should do, but neglect
an essential part of my life
If I’m in a friendship/relationship that’s no longer working, I…
stay much longer than I should
list all the ways the other person is in the wrong
start showing up later and later or ghost the person
recognize that not all relationships are forever, express this with clarity, and move on
When I make a mistake that others witness, I…
beat myself up and get embarrassed
blame something or someone else
try to explain/excuse it, but vow to fix it immediately
own the mistake entirely; seek help if I need to make it right
Do I make time for the things I love?
If I didn’t have to do everything for everyone else, maybe I could
My holidays and weekends are all about me
I make time for hobbies and things I love every day
What best describes the quality of my self-talk?
I berate myself; it’s the only way I’ll get anything done
I don’t look at myself often; there’s so much out there that needs to get fixed
I usually find a way to justify my choices, whether they’re good or bad
I work hard on dialoguing with myself in a way that feels both compassionate and disciplined
When I’m going through a traumatic time, I…
wonder what I did to deserve it
wish people would leave me alone
try to take it one day at a time
actively seek out help and support; no one should go through it alone
When I look in the mirror, I…
pick out every flaw
wonder why no one makes clothes that fit right anymore
notice the changes, but focus on what I love about myself
see the story of my life in the lines, curves, and folds of my body
push as hard as I possibly can; I should’ve started this years ago
focus on comparing myself to others
try to focus on myself, but occasionally get caught up in negative thinking/comparison
pay attention to how I feel and where the challenges are; adapt accordingly
You are a self-starter
You are quite hard on yourself. This could be due to your upbringing, traumas, and other life experiences that made you feel it’s all your fault or responsibility. But it’s not. It’s not your fault, and you can’t do everything perfectly. You owe it to yourself to find out more about who you are, a little at a time. Think of someone—it can even be a character in a movie or a book—who loves themselves unconditionally, and begin by modeling yourself after them until that behavior becomes your own. And remember: You are only human. This life is not easy. Gentle is the way to go!
You are a self-protector
You’re largely in a state of projection (passing off our own behavior and shortcomings as someone else’s), which can also be understood as a state of protection. There is not enough self-love within you to hold bigger truths, so you project them onto others. Practice taking responsibility for your actions without piling on guilt or shame. Owning all the parts of ourselves—failures, shortcomings, wins, and challenges—is both a result and act of self-love.
You are a self-apprentice
You’re getting there! You know your truth and you want to walk a path of self-love, but you’re still holding back. Just keep practicing using your voice without apology and owning your actions without attachment or aversion, and you’ll be a self-love rock star in no time!
You are a self-love rock star
What are you still doing here? Get out there and show everyone how to love themselves like you do.
Curious about your intuition style? Take our quiz here.
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