Have you ever been told that you can’t take a joke, that you overreact, or that you are just too sensitive? Well, sit back and find out that there is absolutely nothing wrong with you. You see, sensitivity to criticism is earned. Yes, you read that correctly. No one is born to be sensitive to criticism; one is groomed and nurtured in environments of emotional harm. If you have a history of family members being harsh, judgmental, or verbally cruel, you are more vulnerable to verbal slights, teasing, and criticism than the average person. It’s not your fault, and you are not weird.
Roots in Your Family of Origin
Since you may have grown up in this kind of family, you might think that criticism is normal. Truthfully, I believe any kind of criticism (other than artistic or professional constructive criticism,) is never acceptable, warranted, or okay. Healthy relationships are born of acceptance and tolerance. If a friend or partner can’t tolerate you or your behavior, then they shouldn’t be your friend or partner. If someone is often telling you that you’re too sensitive, that is akin to telling you over and over again that you are not good enough, that you are flawed or inadequate.
These statements wouldn’t make anyone feel good, but it’s especially destructive to someone who came from a family where they were put down verbally, or even silently with rolling eyes and demeaning physical postures. You, the so-called “overly sensitive” person, are actually having a normal reaction to a hostile comment.
Roots in Mental Health Issues
Did you know that many people who are highly critical of others often suffer from depression and anxiety? Criticizing others is a means of making themselves feel better. They may go on and on about how awful someone is, in order to feel less empty, bored, or depressed. Often, unfortunately, those they criticize buy into these negative comments and end up feeling just as awful as the critics.
If you are in relationships with people who are hurting you with criticism or judgments, you might want to consider why you are surrounding yourself with these people when there are so many kind, accepting, and loving people out there. If you want to perform a little test, a good question to ask yourself after being with a friend or loved one is, “Does this person lift me up or tear me down?” If you have more “Tear downs” than “Lifts” you might want to consider getting some individual counseling. Allowing others to criticize you destroys your sense of being good enough, likeable, capable and empowered.
Roots in Self-Criticism
If you are tolerating this kind of criticism from others, chances are that you are used to talking to yourself like this. Your relationship with yourself could be more loving and accepting. For example, when you make a mistake are you constantly reaming yourself unmercifully for messing up or are you able to forgive yourself relatively quickly and move on?
Self-criticism is actually worse than being criticized by another, as there is no immediate escape from it. So, if you are relentlessly telling yourself that you are bad, flawed, fat, unattractive, stupid, uncaring, lazy, etc., you may have trouble even wanting to get out of bed. You may feel depressed, angry, helpless, or ashamed, because you don’t know how to get out of this cycle. But with guts, patience, compassion, and time you absolutely can change the way you talk to yourself. It is a huge commitment to constantly monitor your mind chatter, but well worth the effort.
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