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How to deal with constant criticism

Posted: April 21, 2014 5:13 p.m.
Updated: April 21, 2014 5:13 p.m.
 


Question:
My mother is a very critical, judgmental person. She always has something negative to say about everything I do and everyone we know. I’m often embarrassed for her because of how quick she is to see the bad in people, and I’m really tired of being on the receiving end of her criticisms. It’s been hard to have a mother (who should love and accept me most) be so negative. Is there anything I can do about this? I’ve tried to talk to her about it but she gets really offended and attacks me for my faults. She thinks she is perfect.

Answer:
First, you must understand why she is behaving this way.

We could all use a better understanding of human nature and why people do what they do. This knowledge will help us to see situations accurately and handle them more appropriately.

Here are some basic universal principles of truth regarding human behavior that it would serve us all to learn.
1. Everyone on this planet is scared to death.

2. They are primarily scared of two core things: failure and loss. (They are scared of looking bad and being taken from.) This means they are constantly on the lookout for insults or mistreatment and are quick to be offended by anything that could be construed as either.

3. These fears play out in our subconscious programming and are responsible for 95 percent of our behavior. This means most of the time we don’t know what we are doing or why.

4. Being driven by fear produces a lot of selfish, negative, bad behavior. Fear keeps you focused on yourself. It makes you incapable of showing up for others. Most people are functioning in this state most of the time.

5. Fear also makes us see other people as different from us, which means we see them as either better than us or worse than us. We would subconsciously prefer to see them as worse than us so our subconscious mind looks for the bad in them (casting them as the bad guy) which we think makes us the good one. I call this the Shame and Blame Game.

You must understand how the Shame and Blame Game works so you can accurately see when you are playing it and stop yourself and so you can stop getting offended when other people play it.
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his is the bottom line, the more shame you experience (fear that you aren’t good enough) the more you will subconsciously focus on the bad in others (blame) to distract you from your fear.

Your mother is negative because she is scared to death. I would guess from your description that she is has a lot of fear around not being good enough. She may even have some subconscious self-hate going on. This is why she looks for the bad in everyone around her. Her ego actually thinks this will make her feel better, which it doesn’t.

I feel bad for her living in all that fear and negativity. It must be an awful place to live. She may also have fears of loss and be easily offended by anyone who makes her feel cheated or taken from. Does she get overly offended if someone cuts in line? Or cuts her off in traffic? Or has things she doesn’t have? Does she hate feeling put out or walked on? She may suffer badly from both core fears.

You also want to check yourself for being easily offended by insults or mistreatment. We all do it to some degree, but is it a real sensitive issue for you?

I hope understanding the Shame and Blame Game helps you to get conscious about this behavior and have more compassion for her. I hope you can see that her criticisms say more about her than they say about you. This is another important principle of human behavior.

6. Most bad behavior is about the person’s fears about themselves. It is not about you. They may be projecting it at you and casting you as the bad guy, but it is really about their shame.

People without shame, don’t need to see the bad in others. As a matter of fact, they usually don’t see it at all.

People with good self-esteem are more likely to see the good in others than the bad. I want you to understand this so you won’t take your mothers criticism personally.

The reason your mother attacks you if you even hint that she is anything less than perfect is that she is so scared she isn’t good enough, she can’t handle hearing anything that might confirm that. People with low self-esteem can’t handle feedback, it’s too painful.

So how do you deal with difficult people like this?

Get wise and clear about why they behave this way.

Get a thick skin and choose not to take anything she says personally. It’s about her fear, it’s not about your inadequacies.

If you can’t get strong enough to be around her and not let her words hurt you, then avoid her as much as possible. You don’t have to subject yourself to abuse. (It would be best if you could be strong enough to be around her and not get offended, but if you can’t do that yet, then staying away is OK.)

Have a very loving, validating conversation with her. Tell her you love her and you understand why she is critical, but you are not OK with being treated that way, and if it doesn’t change you are going to limit your time around her. You must see her as the same as you when you say this. (You aren’t perfect either and you aren't better than her). You must say this from a place of love, respect and accuracy. If you don’t know how to have a mutually validating conversation with someone, go to my website and download the worksheet on how to do it from the resources page.

Use the encouragement technique. Start telling your mother what a wonderful, positive person she is and that she never says an unkind word about anyone and is so positive and encouraging to you. (This is not lying because she has the potential inside her to be this kind of person.) If you tell her this often enough, she may decide she wants to live up to your high opinion of her. She may start seeing herself as this kind of person and change her behavior. It's worth a try.

First and foremost, watch your own behavior for the Shame and Blame Game. We all unconsciously do it at times. Remember when you judge or criticize another person, it says more about your own insecurities than is says about them.

"Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain, but it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving."—Dale Carnegie

You can do this!
 Kimberly Giles is the founder and president of claritypointcoaching.com. She is also the author of the new book "Choosing Clarity: The Path to Fearlessness."

Copyright 2014 Deseret Digital Media Inc.

 

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