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Criticism - is it them or you?

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An interesting subject that I want to broach is criticism. The aim of this discussion is to see all the different responses which I believe will help those stuck within a negative self-criticism view, maybe see a little beyond to ideas outside the box. It's something raised in a book on Dead Link Removed.

The Question -- Why is criticism upsetting to some, more than others?

My answer -- What other people say has no impact on what you feel. Another person cannot be responsible for making you feel upset or otherwise. No matter how vicious, heartless or cruel comments may be, they have no power to disturb you or create you discomfort.

Are you now thinking I've lost the plot? Any person with a healthy self-esteem will know the above to be true and accurate, and the reason is simpler than you may think, and even than you may like to believe.

The only person in the entire world who has the power to put you down, is you, nobody else.

Ever since starting this community I have encouraged people to venture towards CBT. Why? Because the leading experts in the world on PTSD and trauma, as a majority, all cite CBT is the first line treatment therapy for PTSD. It has proven long-term results for a PTSD sufferer, spanning decades of research and over a thousand studies. This is all conclusive information.

Are all therapists created equal? Shit no. At a rough guess, you will find within the entire therapeutic industry there are probably 10% who are outstanding at treating trauma and PTSD. That isn't a fault in therapists or education. Some people are wired problem solvers, some are not. To put it simple... 10% will excel in negative thinking problem solving analytical skills. This rings true just reading CBT books. About 10% of them will be excellent, the rest will range from good to mediocre to poor. Book -- therapist -- pick your poison, same outcome. Good book, good outcome. Good therapist, good outcome. Bad book or therapist, poor outcome.

So, back to criticising and what happens within you. When a person criticises you, certain negative thoughts are automatically triggered. Your emotional reaction will be created by these thoughts, NOT by what the person actually says to you. These thoughts will encapsulate a range of negative thinking styles (cognitive distortions).

So how do you overcome this? By learning to identify your own negative thoughts and thinking styles when being criticised. You can write them down, analyse them, then implement healthier responses.

To put it another way, when a person criticises you, the comments they make will either be right or wrong. If the comments are wrong, then you should be questioning yourself as to why you're upset, because there should be nothing to be upset about if the comments are wrong. So if you're in tears, angry and upset over a comment made to you, claiming it to be wrong, why is such a reaction necessary? It's not them, its you.

Then on the other hand, if the criticism is accurate, there is still no reason for you to be upset or feel overwhelmed, unless you think you should be perfect (Perfectionism is a cognitive distortion). You should simply acknowledge your error and take whatever steps are needed to correct it, if required.

Sounds simple... yet why do people blame others when criticised?

Now you could fear criticism because you need to feel loved and approved of, but the problem with this scenario is that you're people pleasing, another cognitive distortion, leaving little time for you to live your life. Funnily enough, people often find people pleasers less desirable to be around due to a need of constant reassurance.

What's your take on this subject? Are you vulnerable to criticism, or not? If so, why, if not, why not?
Wow!!! Not only am I the first one to respond to this thread, I am in 100% agreement of this thread! I take Criticism. I take that daily because of my work. I have managers who critique my work. If I may say so, I am my own worst critic! Piling on someone else's opinion of me is my choice. Either I agree, or I disagree to a degree or I otherwise agree to disagree. I think I am a little of both vulnerable and also not. I do try to take the negatives and turn those into positives.

I don't feel I'm vulnerable to being criticized, however, I'm definitely vulnerable to being treated disrespectfully and cruelly.

I think there's a difference between someone criticizing you for something, like how you did something as opposed to doing it a different way, and someone treating you like you are a moron or not worth your space on the planet because of the way you did something.

There's a difference between criticism and abuse, and abuse, malicious cruelty (no just insensitivity), and disrespect definitely trigger my symptoms and defense mechanisms.
Low self esteem?
Well, I don't feel I have low self esteem......I think my negative experiences have made me hypersensitive to abusive and out-of-line behaviors and my reactions to them can be extreme sometimes.
Very interesting discussion topic.

I fall into the people-pleasing mode a lot of the time, so criticism is definitely something I struggle with. However, I have been able to battle against it in some ways. When I am criticized, I try to figure out if it's true or not, and then if it is true, I try to decide if it's something I need to work on or if it's something that can be put on the back burner...and if it's something I need to apologize for in the case if I've hurt someone. If it's not true, I try to remind myself of what is true about myself. I also divide who's said the criticism. So, if it's a person who really cares about me, I try to remind myself that if they are criticizing me it's most often out of love and desire for me to be better, not that they wish me ill. If it's a person who isn't in my life and doesn't care about me, I try to remind myself that they have no impact in my life, so why should I give them any power over me? Going through this process helps me a LOT. I can avoid shutdowns and meltdowns...and I can avoid ruminating about it. However, there are still hurt feelings to contend with sometimes...and I give myself permission to cry, to feel the hurt, to be aware of what's going on in my heart, while at the same time searching for the truth and not letting my mind make it worse. I don't know if that makes sense.

Now: I have also learned that I am totally able to take criticism if it's given in a calm, gentle way. If a person is yelling or raises his/her voice, I get triggered and then I flee. So I've now told people in my life who really matter that while criticism hurts me, I won't disengage from relationship or conversation, but if they yell at me, it's going to take me a while to recover from the fear that ensues.
I'm always affected by criticism for the following reasons: a) poor self-image /self-esteem b) Perfectionist c) approval seeking from a parent / relatives who have always underestimated me.

Your reasons for being affected by criticism are 101% correct. There are too many things I need to change in my life in order to see life as it is and to bring peace within myself. And it's not easy. I have been a people pleaser until last year but as a consequence of this I was the one who was unhappy and wanted to end my life. Therefore, I have made a decision to eliminate people from my life who have nothing good to say to me (i.e. abusers) and start learning healthier habits but that does not mean I'm acing this part of the problem. I am struggling but I'm willing do what it takes to not let other people's comments hurt me like that have done in the past. Just taking small steps at a time. I had to re-learn a lot of things about my life, to really understand who I am over a year but I'm not there yet. There is a huge room for important.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.
Recently I have been thinking of something similar...how I am getting more assertive and how things are less bothersome.

I feel recently I am learning to take, ignore (leave) or possibly use the criticism I receive. It's getting easier to take it less personally and just move on with life and my day; I can now shrug off the shit that gets thrown my way. I've noticed and honestly I think it's mostly because of this forum how assertive I've been getting. It's becoming easier to read in between to the lines at what is being said at me then right away start blaming myself or blaming the other people.

I'm responsible for me and I can't control them.
Cool topic... I think I will withhold my opinion for fear of being criticized..lol.

@Noah Now: "I have also learned that I am totally able to take criticism if it's given in a calm, gentle way. If a person is yelling or raises his/her voice, I get triggered and then I flee. So I've now told people in my life who really matter that while criticism hurts me, I won't disengage from relationship or conversation, but if they yell at me, it's going to take me a while to recover from the fear that ensues."
Someone raising their voice really doesn't have anything to do with the message, but only the delivery. Next time someone yells at you and you feel like fleeing, turn it around and think how insecure they must be to deliver a message so poorly. It doesn't mean the content is wrong, it just means they lack good communication skills. Too bad for them!

It has taken years for me to reframe things in a manner that I can use them for betterment and not my own demise. I still fall short and often times struggle with certain topics. It is tough!!!
I used to be terrible at taking criticism, was very much a people pleaser. Then I learned to question my way of thinking. In regards to being treated with disrespect and cruelty, I reflect that straight back to them as their issues.....then stay away from them if not resolved. It takes work and effort but does work.

I am very vulnerable to criticism. Why? My mother is UBER critical. She judges everyone and everything. Its maddening. So yeah, that's the sort of household I grew up in, where nothing I ever did was right, nothing I ever did was good enough.

Enter perfectionism. Yep, this one too... I feel the need to be perfect. I'm slowly learning to let this one go. Its hard though as I've had all of this criticism pounded into me for the last 35 years.

Now I'm at the stage where I recognize that the negative voices in my head are those of my mother. Nobody else in my life is quite so critical. (Well, my grandfather WAS but I cut him out of my life a few years ago, and he passed away earlier this year.) Actually, a lot of people on that side of the family have a degree of cynicism to themselves and can be critical, but I don't have any association with any of them anymore. I've shut my mother out of my life, and those voices are weakening. I can actually notice myself getting stronger as I'm more able to fight against those voices, rather pay them no mind (CBT or ACT, whatever works in the moment).

I think this is something that many of us struggle with. I see others who have negative self perceptions as well yet they're unhealthily attached to their parent abusers. Its hard as hell to break away, but I think this is a critical move in getting those voices of self criticism out of our heads. Its easy for an outsider to say "don't pay any attention to mom/dad/whomever" but when those seeds of criticism were planted in us when we were first learning language skills, its not something you can just shut off. It takes time to heal, and I don't think healing (in that respect) is possible when we're still subjected to the source of the problem. (At least not full healing.)

And its crazy....my mother judges/criticizes EVERYONE but where is she in life? Yeah, you wouldn't look at her and think "she's got in made!" (I'll leave it at that.)

My status a few weeks ago was something along having to choose between your future and your past, and this is what I was referring to. If I hold on to my mother and continue to try to make that relationship work, I am holding on to my past at the expense of my future. As long as she is in my life, I'll still judge everybody I meet as "not relationship material" because SHE wouldn't approve. As it is she has no idea that I've decided to work toward a new degree, one that she's been very critical of in the past. Those critical voices have held me back for too long, and I'm just now starting to break away. And yes, I must say, it feels pretty good.


You know how lots of comedians say "I started cracking jokes in school, especially about myself because that way other kids wouldn't make fun of me and if they did, it wouldn't hurt because I already made the joke". Well, that's where a LOT of my self criticism comes in. If I criticize myself, when you do it, it won't hurt nearly as bad. I can tear myself down in a heartbeat. I'm too ugly, I'm not skinny enough, I'm not GOOD enough... I've had more than one guy tell me this is one thing they hate about me. But, I am a work in progress and its getting better.
Criticism is tricky as it should be something that is constructive and not destructive. As long as it focuses on a thing, and not the person, then I have no problems with it. When it is more of a personal attack and meant to be destructive, then my reactions vary. If it is from and individual that I have no connection with, it just rolls off. However, when it comes from someone that I am close to, then I do take it personally and can either be hurt, defensive or go on the offensive. It varies and there are time my "give a damn" is definitely busted.
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