It’s natural for us to feel defensive sometimes when someone criticizes us. However, this doesn’t mean we’re incapable, stupid, or a failure. It simply means that the other person wants something done differently or is trying to help. This post is for anyone who struggles with constructive criticism due to growing up with narcissistic parents.
Growing up with narcissistic parents can make it challenging to receive criticism. Narcissistic parents often criticize their children excessively & make them feel like they’re never good enough. As a result, children of narcissistic parents usually struggle with low self-esteem, anxiety, depression & C-PTSD. They also may view any criticism as a personal attack & become defensive or shut down entirely. If you grew up with narcissistic parents, it’s essential to recognize & acknowledge how their behavior affected you. This awareness can help you start to change your mindset & respond to criticism more realistically.
It’s also important to differentiate between constructive criticism & destructive criticism. Constructive criticism is feedback that’s intended to help you improve. It’s not meant to tear you down or make you feel badly about yourself. Destructive criticism is the opposite, & is meant to hurt you & make you feel bad about yourself.
Changing your mindset takes time & effort, but it’s very possible. Start by recognizing that not all criticism is meant to be destructive. Some is constructive criticism, & it’s an opportunity to learn & grow. It’s not a personal attack.
Try to approach criticism with an open mind & a willingness to improve. Remember that no one is perfect. We all make mistakes sometimes & have room to grow.
It may also be helpful to practice self-compassion. Treat yourself with kindness & understanding, in particular when you make mistakes or receive criticism. Remind yourself that no one is perfect, & that’s ok! Also remember that you’re doing your best, & that’s all anyone can ask of you.
When someone asks you to do something a different way, take a deep breath & try to remain calm. Again, remember that not everyone is attacking you personally; they may just want something done differently.
Listen carefully to their feedback & ask questions if you’re not sure what they mean. You’ll be able to identify if their criticism is constructive or destructive rather quickly. If it’s constructive, thank them for their feedback & let them know that you’ll do your best to make the requested changes. If you need more time or support, don’t be afraid to ask for it. If it’s destructive, remind yourself that people who use this tactic don’t mean what they say. They are critical as a way to gain control over someone by damaging their self esteem.
It’s important to set boundaries with people who criticize you excessively or destructively. You have the right to protect your mental health & well-being.
If someone’s feedback is hurting you, let them know that their criticism is not helpful & ask them to stop. Sometimes people become excessively negative & critical when stressed or going through a particularly difficult time. People like this are likely unaware of their behavior & will make appropriate changes. If they continue to criticize you & excuse their behavior, it may be a sign of a toxic person, & necessary to limit or end contact with them.
Changing your mindset & responding better to criticism takes time & effort. It’s a process, not a quick fix. Be patient with yourself & celebrate your progress along the way. Always remember that you’re not a failure or incapable just because someone asks you to do something differently. Viewing constructive criticism as an opportunity to learn & grow is a very healthy thing to do.
Being Over Sensitive To Criticism
I’ve noticed recently that I am way more sensitive to criticism than I used to be. It’s not that I care what people think, but I care that people feel they must share their negative opinions with me when I didn’t ask for their opinions.
When I first realized this, I chalked it up to getting older & crankier. In time though, I realized it’s not only those things. I firmly believe it is because of having experienced narcissistic abuse.
Narcissists are most likely the most judgmental & critical of all people. They must share any & all opinions of their victims they have at all times. They favor negative ones in particular as a way to chip away at their victims’ self esteem since low self esteem makes a person easy to control & abuse.
If by some chance narcissists think something positive about their victims, they won’t offer any praise. They prefer to do much crueler things. The best option is they simply withhold praise, but that seldom happens. Instead, they prefer to claim responsibility for that good thing such as by claiming if they hadn’t pushed the victim, he or she never would have gotten that promotion at work. Narcissistic parents also claim that their victim/child got whatever talent they have from that parent. This means that when their child gets praise for something, the parent often says something along the lines of, “She got that talent from me.”
Another common scenario with narcissists is to twist the good thing in their victim around so it looks bad, thus ruining that good thing. For example, many years back, before I decided to focus only on writing, I did some editing work. I was blessed to work with one amazing client & mentioned the work to my mother. That was a huge mistake, but at that time, I didn’t know anything about Narcissistic Personality Disorder. I mentioned my client & the work I was enjoying doing for her because I naively thought my mother would be happy for me. She always fancied herself a skilled writer, & she was, but she never worked in the field. I thought she might be happy that I was working in the field & enjoying myself. Well, not only did she not share my joy, but a few days later she ruined mine. She did this by saying she was thinking of getting into editing work because (& this is her wording), “it’s such easy money. Obviously anyone can do it.”
Narcissists also beat their victims down with criticism. When my husband & I got together, his mother repeatedly told me how much she hated my car. For years, I heard constant hateful comments. Many times I wanted to tell her, “I know. You hate my car. You think it’s the worst car in the whole world. There’s no need to keep telling me. I figured out how you feel after the first 50,000 times you mentioned it!”
After going through these things for years at the hands of narcissists, I really think that no matter how much we may have healed, criticism is still a very tough thing for us to handle, even when we don’t care about someone else’s opinions. We are burned out on criticism, negativity & cruelty. We also had it drilled into us how awful we are or something about us is. After years of this, we get to the point where criticism, unless it’s clearly well meaning & meant to help, is incredibly irritating. So many times I have wanted to tell someone, “Your opinion wasn’t asked for & truly means nothing. Why must you share it? And, why do you think it’s ok to be such a disrespectful jerk?”
If this describes you, I so relate! It’s frustrating! I have learned the best way to handle criticism that is unasked for & unfair is to stop for a moment. Inhale deeply then exhale to calm your mind & body. Remind yourself that you are having a reaction to the narcissistic abuse, nothing more. Also remind yourself that not all people have good social skills. Some are very critical simply because they haven’t learned any better. That doesn’t mean they are narcissists or are out to hurt you. They are simply oblivious. And, remember that just because someone is criticizing you doesn’t mean what they said is true. Consider what they have to say, & if it’s wrong, disregard it. If they are right, although it was a painful way to learn, you still learned something. That is a good thing.
If you know the person who is critical, then you know if you can talk openly to them or not. If you can, gently let them know how you feel. They may have simply not realized how what they said sounded. Or they may be struggling with something & took their frustrations out on you.
And as always, remember to pray. Ask God for wisdom & help in your situation, & He will provide you whatever you need!
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Filed under Abuse and the Healing Journey, Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Mental Health, Narcissism
Tagged as abuse, comments, critical, criticism, criticize, disorder, emotional, judgemental, narcissism, narcissist, narcissistic, negative, negativity, personality, verbal