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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
I figured I would do a short follow up post about my psychiatrist visit a couple days ago. It went ok I guess. Instead of switching me off the Prozac, he decided to try upping it one more time to see if that would do the trick, but promised me that if that didn’t make me feel better we would try something new next time. He did mention Wellbutrin as a possibility, which I have never taken. If anyone has experience with that drug, please let me know your thoughts on it!
The first few minutes of our visit, we talked about Netflix and the shows I have been binge watching recently (Black Mirror, Atypical, Stranger Things, American Horror Story). Then he asked how therapy was going, and I felt like at that time I needed to admit how bad my depression had gotten and that my therapist was actually worried about how low I was feeling.
My psychiatrist asked me why I didn’t bring that up immediately when our session started and he kind of jumped to the conclusion that I was trying to be “a good patient and not complain”, but I had to explain to him that his assumption was wrong. I wasn’t trying to make things easier for him, it is just simply hard for me to talk to anyone in person about how bad I really feel when at my lowest. It makes me feel vulnerable and exposed, and I hate that.
I know that last sentence may seem weird, considering the fact that I am so open and bluntly honest in my blog writing about how low and horrible I feel sometimes, but it is just easier for some reason to write that all out to a blank page and post it to the ether of the internet. Being in front of a living, breathing human, it is so much harder to peel the layers away and let my real self be seen.
Today I was supposed to have therapy at 11am, but my therapist got confused and thought we had scheduled for 1pm, so I ended up waiting for a few minutes at the therapy office and then just going home. Usually something like that happening would really upset me, but today I actually took it pretty well. Maybe because I wasn’t feeling good physically anyhow, so the desire to go home and go back to bed was strong. I did get back to sleep, but my therapist calling me at 1pm to ask where I was woke me up again 😦 I’m glad she called though, because I was wondering what the heck happened when she didn’t show up this morning.
I’m still feeling bad, I have a stubborn headache that won’t go away and my IBS has been acting up since last night. I’m wondering why all my neighbors have to wait to mow their lawns and get out their weed-wackers until I have a severely pounding head? It is almost like they plan it…
I’m bummed about the way I’m feeling because I really wanted to go over to the Build a Bear store today, but not sure I’ll make it. I only ate a little bit of tuna and a few crackers for lunch, but I’m not sure if that was a good idea or not… I’m hoping tomorrow I’ll have better things to report.
I saw my therapist this past weekend and it went ok, but I honestly think sometimes my therapist gets kind of annoyed or frustrated with me. I feel like she sometimes wants to see more progress than I’ve made, especially in the self-esteem/self-loathing area. To be fair, I haven’t always been the best about following up on actual practices to feel better about myself. I have done affirmations and things like that in the past, but I always end up kind of feeling ridiculous and giving up pretty soon when I don’t see immediate results…even though I know that immediate results aren’t likely.
At the end of the session, the therapist gave me the homework assignment of looking up some affirmations that I genuinely liked and related to and giving at least a few of those a try every day, so here goes. I did a google search and found some affirmations I actually kind of related to on a Huffpost article. Here are the ones I’ve actually decided to work with:
- I am courageous and I stand up for myself.
- I possess the qualities needed to be extremely successful.
- I forgive those who have harmed me in my past and peacefully detach from them.
- My body is healthy; my mind is brilliant; my soul is tranquil.
- Many people look up to me and recognize my worth; I am admired.
- I am a powerhouse; I am indestructible.
- I am conquering my illness; I am defeating it steadily each day.
Most of these spoke to me because they were just simple and straightforward, or because they address issues I deal with constantly (like health issues or past trauma). #5 may seem a bit conceited at first glance, but I think it is important for those of us who feel really bad about ourselves to realize that others don’t share that negative view. If any of these affirmations speak to you like they did to me, feel free to use them for yourself!