Dealing with criticism and protecting your self esteem
So I’ll start with a confession a few people might take issue with, but I’ll explain my reasons. I haven’t yet told family and friends about my depression. I was first diagnosed in December, so about six months ago. At the time, I took great comfort from being with friends and family. And it was partly because they didn’t know. When I was around them it was business as normal. It made me feel normal. Talking to them about all their problems and dramas. Laughing and chatting as though nothing was going on with me. It was my little escape from reality.
The downside of this of course was that at a time when I needed to feel their support and love most of all, they had no idea. I love that the relationships I have with my friends and family are very honest. They don’t hold their punches when giving me their opinions and I do the same. But on a couple of occasions during my recovery they pulled me up on a few things, which left me feeling angry. They didn’t know about the depression, but they knew about the pressure I was under with work and money. And they knew to some extent how much I was struggling. The last thing I needed was to be called up on all the things I was doing wrong when I was trying so hard to hold it all together.
I would say that 90% of the time when you receive criticism from friends and family it comes from a place of love. And some of the time they are right. I have tried several different career paths since I finished my degree. They disagreed (and were correct) with all of them. Sometimes people do know you better than you know yourself. But sometimes people’s view of you is distorted by their own perspective. I have a friend who thinks I’m a coward because I try my best not to get into confrontation unless I feel it’s worth it.
From her point of view I’m pretending to be ok with things that annoy me because I’m afraid of standing up for myself. This is because she will always say when she isn’t happy with something. She prides herself on the fact that she is brutally honest. The bit that upsets me is that she feels if she ever needed me to have her back I wouldn’t. Despite the many situations over the years when I have (selective memory causing trouble as usual). From my perspective, I pride myself on the things she seems to dislike about me. I love that I don’t have a quick temper. I love my emotional intelligence. I love my ability to handle potentially fiery confrontations. And I love my ability to defuse tension and get to the heart of the problem without unnecessary drama. Even when my self esteem is at an all time low and I struggle to find things I like about myself, I am always proud of that. It is one of my defining features and it’s how I have always been.
The point is, sometimes you will be misunderstood. Sometimes you will feel alone, and like your closest friends and family don’t really know you. Sometimes you will feel attacked or unappreciated, and feelings of anger and resentment will start to bubble up. These are all massive triggers for me. I once spent all night ruminating over that situation. I was very late for work the next day. That is not healthy behaviour. To be honest, it still crops up occasionally between us and I know I have to find a way to raise the subject and deal with the issue head on for my own peace of mind.
Here are a few things I try to keep in mind when I find my ego under attack:
- Remember that people’s opinions are shaped by their perspectives. They aren’t always a reflection of you
- Remember that it is important to stay true to your values. Don;t change for other people.
- None of us understand each other 100% of the time. That doesn’t mean that there is a problem with the relationship - life would be boring if we always agreed
- Make time to remind yourself of all the things you love about yourself and all the ways you want to grow. Move in the direction that’s right for you.
- None of us are perfect. Criticism is a means to an end - it is suppose to push you in the right direction, not hurt your feelings for the sake of it. I don’t want to change who I am and what I value. But, if I’m honest with myself, it would probably do me good to voice my opinion a bit more often. Also, I am making efforts not to be such a people pleaser.
- Remember that even though the person giving you advice has their own shortcomings, they might just have the insight your missing.
- Finally, learning to deal with criticism is a great life skill. Try to see these situations as opportunities for personal growth and chances to develop stronger, honest relationships with those you care about.