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Every one of us has a tender underbelly of our psyche. Everyone has something they’re sensitive about, where even a gentle poke can feel more like a thwack. Comments don’t slide off like water from a duck’s back; rather, we feel more like a sitting duck.
Would you lend money to a man who does not pay back ? The same thing goes for criticism. Does the critique come from someone you like and respect?
In short, you’d take criticism very differently if it was presented with care from someone you trust versus shouted from a moving car. Consider the source, which will help you decide whether to take their feedback to heart or with a big grain of salt.
People say mean things. People can be dumb. It’s only human to make a mistake and say something critical or insulting, but if it happens again and again, it’s not a mistake anymore, it’s a pattern.
To paraphrase, critique me once, that’s on you. Critique me twice, that’s on me. But if you’re repeatedly insulted without apology or acknowledgment, it’s time to speak up and/or limit contact. Three strikes and you’re not necessarily out, especially if you still have to work with or be related to them, but it’s definitely time to draw some boundaries.
Individuals hypersensitive to criticism often have high moral standards. They have a strict moral code and their values run deep. And that’s a good thing. But this is one of the few places where strong values can have a downside.
Getting unfair or undue criticism is similar. Feeling annoyed and offended may be warranted, but it’s not helpful. Remember that even if you walk the line and follow the rules, you can’t control whether others break them. In short, focus your attention on the content of the criticism, not whether or not it should have happened.
There is a straight line between hypersensitivity and perfectionism. Individuals who take things personally often work really hard to be blameless, flawless, or excellent precisely so no one will criticize them. When they get negative feedback, it feels like it blows away all they’ve worked so hard for.
If this sounds familiar, you can reframe this in a few ways. One is to incorporate getting better at hearing criticism into your perfectionism. Get better at receiving feedback. Aim higher when it comes to dealing with commentary. Be an overachiever when it comes to facing the haters.
We’ve all experienced getting bullied or criticized and then, hours later, coming up with a good zinger we wish we had said in the moment. We replay the scene in our head, spinning out what we wanted to have happened instead of what actually went down.
But replaying scenes in your head is a two-sided coin. If you replay the scene and imagine getting what you needed in the moment—feeling empowered, soothed, it can be an extremely worthwhile daydream. In fact, when done with a qualified therapist, this is called imagery rescripting , and is a cutting -edge tool in treating trauma survivors.
Now, “taking things personally” usually brings to mind images of silent fuming or screaming into our pillow, but there’s something to be said for taking things to heart.
The opposite of taking things personally is to depersonalize them. And when you depersonalize an action or a role, it quickly loses its value. Taking your job personally means being invested, while depersonalizing it means showing up only for a paycheck. Taking a passion personally means being engaged, while detaching guarantees lackluster results at best.
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