My name is Dominee and I am very sensitive to criticism. When I hear criticism I immediately think that I am in trouble or that I’ve done something bad. I am a (recovering) people pleaser and a lot of my fear/avoidance of criticism stems from that. Social anxiety adds another layer to it. Social anxiety is essentially the fear that you’re going to mess up human interactions or the fear that someone is thinking badly of you and criticism feels like a confirmation of all of those anxious worries.
And then on top of THAT is a history that involves verbal and emotional abuse.
When I hear criticism I immediately want to run. It doesn’t matter if it relates to my website or my relationships. The immediate is reaction is “Okay, I’m not doing this right? Then I don’t want to do it at all.”
So maybe there’s a little bit of perfectionism in there too.
I’m sensitive to criticism but I’m learning how to handle it.
And maybe you are too. I want to talk about some of the things that work for me. Note that everyone is different and these are just my own experiences. And they mostly refer to constructive criticism – which is feedback that is respectful and given to help you improve in some area.
And that right there is a good starting point when you struggle with taking constructive criticism. It is to help you. And Inner-Dominee is like “But I don’t need help.” But I do. I can’t do everything perfectly (although I try). There’s nothing wrong with someone offering helpful suggestions. I try to look at criticism as kindness that is coming from a loving and heartfelt place that is meant to help me.
Reframing what criticism means helps me from immediately jumping to feeling defensive.
Criticism in my relationship.
My relationship before my marriage was a trainwreck. Nothing I did was ever good enough. No matter how hard I tried I was belittled constantly. Going from that to a relationship that was healthy and loving was a huge transition. I really struggled with taking feedback or constructive criticism from my partner. It immediately made me feel defeated and that I wasn’t good enough. It made me feel like I wasn’t loved and that my love was inadequate.
In (healthy) relationships constructive criticism comes from a place of helping you learn how to love your partner in the best way for them. I’m a huge fan of the concept of the Five Love Languages because it provides such easy examples. My partner’s love language is touch. I’m not touchy-feely. In the beginning of our relationship the differences in how we show love came up a lot. When I started taking that feedback and implementing it into our relationship instead of feeling down about myself because I wasn’t doing things “right”. The relationship got so much better.
Let your partner teach you how to love them.
Learn how to reign in your thoughts.
This is a big one for me. You all know how much I love the concept of self-talk. That voice inside of our heads and the way we talk to ourselves is POWERFUL. A lot of my own personal work comes from recognizing that and learning when I’m sabotaging.
I struggled to take criticism in the context of relationships when I realized that it wasn’t my partner telling me I was not enough or that I was wrong.
Here are some things to work on.
Thinking things are worse than they are. Focus solely on the point of the feedback. If your partner asks you to do one thing – don’t immediately jump to “EVERYTHING I DO IS WRONG.” Take a moment to take it in and look at the merits of that suggestion only. That was probably the biggest game-changer for me.
Get rid of “should” thinking. You should have thought of that. You should’ve known better or done better. You’re not a superhero and it’s okay not to be perfect. Give yourself a little wiggle room to be human.
Lean into it. Do your best to really lean into the advice and ask follow-up questions or ask for examples. This can help you feel a little more confident moving forward. I tend to immediately want to shut criticism down with an “okay” but having a conversation about it can really help you see the full picture.
Give yourself room to be upset. You’re allowed to be upset or feel uncomfortable when it comes to being criticized. It’s completely normal. BUT it’s also important that you don’t take those feelings out on the other person if they’re giving you criticism in a respectful way. Your feelings are valid.
Get comfortable with criticism. My partner and I have started asking each other “Is there anything I can do better?” And it’s opened up some wonderful (and also sometimes uncomfortable) conversations but it has also been so good for our relationship and also helped my ability to handle feedback.
Negative Criticism and Meanness
Some people are mean under the guise of giving constructive criticism. Others hide under “brutal honesty”. If criticism is unwarranted or disrespectful you are under no obligation to listen to it. This is probably my biggest struggle. Having such a huge platform I have tons of people giving me unsolicited advice or telling me I should do this or shouldn’t do that.
It used to trip me up every single time (and admittedly sometimes it still does) but I’m learning how to tune it out. Criticism should never be about tearing someone down and there is also a time and a place for it.
If you’re sensitive to criticism how do you handle it? What helps you?
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For people like me who have a terrible time decoding social cues, the advice in this post is invaluable.