Hypersensitivity to Criticism

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Recently my therapist and I have been talking about and working on my hypersensitivity to criticism. I have always had some hypersensitivity to any kind of criticism or rebuke. As a kid, I was the one you could make cry by looking at me wrong or even gently scolding me. I still tear up over things like that, even though I wish I didn’t.

This inability to deal constructively with any kind of feeling of failure has haunted me throughout my adult life, especially in the work world. I think this fear of not living up to expectations is partly why I struggle with immense anxiety around any kind of authority figure (bosses, teachers, doctors, police, etc.) Many times this anxiety is so strong that I am almost struck dumb (probably a type of selective mutism), such as when I have had to go for job reviews or any other kind of personal evaluation.

I have noticed though that my hypersensitivity to criticism focuses mainly on 5 areas. If I am criticized on something outside of these 5 topics, I am likely to be able to shake it off better or not let it bother me in the first place. Here are the subjects I am referring to:

  1. My art or writing. I am extremely sensitive to any criticism about my art and writing. However, I think this one is fairly normal for creative types. We all put a bit of our heart and soul into the things we create, in a sense they are our “babies” and we gave birth to them. This does create problems for me when it comes to having the confidence to share my art and writing publicly, especially in person.
  2. My looks and weight. I have always felt that I was rather plain or average-looking, so I have a bit of an achilles heel here. I was bullied quite a bit in middle school when I gained some weight after my dad died, and although I lost the weight a couple years later, those mean words about being “fat” have stuck with me. I have always relied on my intelligence, not my looks, to get me anywhere. I am proud of that fact, but sometimes I wish I felt more confident about the way I look.
  3. Any accusation of laziness or incompetence. I think the laziness thing bothers me because my mom would accuse me of that all the time. “Lazy”, “good for nothing”, “useless”…words like that stick with you. As for the incompetence, it doesn’t even have to be someone else that says something. If I feel even slightly incompetent (at anything) within myself it is enough to send me into a meltdown, probably a result of my perfectionism.
  4. Any perceived insult to my intelligence. As I said before, I have always relied on my intelligence to get through life, so if that is questioned or doubted, I feel worthless.
  5. Any insinuation implying that I am childish/immature or a crybaby. I have a lot of “childlike” qualities, as do many with Aspergers syndrome, and those can be endearing, but when people turn it into a bad thing and accuse me of childishness or immaturity, I feel misunderstood and hurt. I am extremely sensitive in some ways, but I hate the term “crybaby”.

So, what do you guys think? Do you share any of these insecurities? Are you also hypersensitive to criticism in these areas or others?

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24 thoughts on “Hypersensitivity to Criticism

  1. I try to remember the positive comments I get, but we tend to dwell on the negative. It’s hard to let go of the negative, so I just work on letting it go and get on with my work. I always feel a bit down after I create something and I get no response at all. At least with criticism you’ve provoked some emotion — often it has more to do with the critic than you.

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  2. I have found as I’ve gotten older It has become easier to have confidence in myself regardless of what others say or think, and I’ve become more resilient in challenging situations. Practice and experience do make a difference, I’ve found, and having overcome difficulties in the past adds confidence that you can do it again. This is just my view, but a lot of what you said is familiar to me. Remember, I’m almost 60 years old, lots of trial and error has been invested! In the end a sense of humor can be very helpful, too.

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  3. I know just how you feel. I feel that way too. Do you like to read? I am reading the book Lies Women Believe/ it is a great book- you might really like it. Could you please check out my blogs Melancholy 1 and Melancholy 2? I would love to hear your opinion.
    Willowbentleysmama.wordpress.com

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  4. I hate to say this but I have all of these qualities; I cannot handle criticism at all; I could totally relate to everything you said. And the workplace is so tough because people love to criticize and nitpick over everything. And for the longest time I hated how I looked or carried myself; I never let anyone take photos of me because I was afraid people would think I’m ugly. I was bullied too. I have been very fortunate that people have not criticized my writing; but i am sensitive about what I write and would be devastated if anyone mocked it or criticized it some way ( although my grammar is horrible) Anyways I loved this post

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    1. I’m glad that you liked the post, but sad that you could relate so well to the insecurities I struggle with. I don’t think anyone understands what bullying really does to a person psychologically unless they themselves have endured a severe case of it.

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  5. Everyone does have an Achilles heel. For me, it’s when people call me incompetent, lazy and making noise(when I sing; though that happens on rare occasions).
    Lovely post..
    …hugs and kisses…

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  6. When did your dad die? How old were you? What was the relationship like between you and your dad? And also between your parents? (Comparing to my life)
    I 100% agree with you. Just slightly different in causality. I wish I was creative, I want to be creative, I’m the tortured artist, when the artist has nothing to create. Lol. I’ve been told im good looking but because I dont see it I myself I dont really care if I’m not found to be attractive, but get hurt when if they’re not attracted to me. Hahaha. I have always wanted to be acknowledge for my mind and my intelligence. I dont mind being underestimated because it’s so satisfying to “blow them away with my brain power”. But it’s so damn insulting to assume I wont even TRY to understand. My mum never said those things to me directly, but her words of encouragement were to ignore my achievements and why couldn’t I do it like that other person? And not even in achievements. Just “existing”. She has told me though that they found me in a bin, because no one ever wanted me! And that she didnt care if she had kids, it was my dad who wanted a daughter.

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    1. My dad died when I was 12 in 1994. I had a good relationship with him. We had a lot of fun together. Any man who had a relationship with my mom was always rocky and dramatic because she is personality disordered.

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      1. My dad was sagittarius (dec 13), and my mum capricorn (Jan 1).
        Your dad would have provided a sense of security to both of you. A balance point. Taurus grounds scorpio to reality, helps to drag scorpio out of their own way. Strong enough to endure whatever scorpio has to throw at it, and patient enough to wait it out.
        I cant say much about your mum, at least not yet (now is the worst possible time to even try. Lol.). She’s too complicated… because I struggle with my mum. And I’m currently on the cusp of sagittarius and capricorn myself… teetering on the edge. Whatever that might mean.

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