There is no escaping this simple fact of life, the majority of Empaths are easily hurt by the criticisms and judgements of others. In some cases, so much so, that it may prevent them from taking any creative risks in life.
Yes, the pain of criticism holds many of us back, for the simple reason it is human nature to avoid anything which causes pain.
But as the old saying goes: ‘The only way to avoid criticism is to say nothing, do nothing and be nothing’. And I doubt there are many Empaths who want to go through life doing nothing.
As a blogger, an author and an ‘active poster on Facebook’, I have come across my fair share of criticism. Some of it being quite harsh. And, I will not lie, it does not feel good.
I have often questioned why is it that I feel so disconcerted when someone insults me or criticises my work and the best answer I can come up with is because I care.
It is not that I am so much concerned about being ‘disliked’, but more that I don’t want to cause insult or feel I have hurt or offended another by my offerings or opinions. I also get a little rattled when someone has misread my intentions or made wrong assumptions about me or my work.
That said, I also know criticism can be a great learning tool. Especially in regard to anything work-related or creative. We are often too close to our own work to see where things could be improved. An honest, constructively critical eye can help us see what we were previously blinded to. But, sadly, there are too many people who are insulting in their criticism. Instead of using a critique as a way to help another, some deliver it in such a way that is belittling or cutting.
We live in a world where the fear of criticism holds too many good people back from achieving their potential and living life to the full. Sadly, it is often the most talented and creative people who are worst affected.
So, is there any way we can overcome the pain caused by criticism? I would have to say yes and no. It really depends on the person, the circumstances and the reaction. For example, if you are highly reactive about the slightest reproach, then the chances are you are out of balance (imbalanced hormones, impaired immune system, have suffered with too much emotional stress or grief, etc.) and feeling more pain than you should. In these cases, by getting to the root-cause or finding a way to deal with emotional stress (see below) will help soften future reactions. But for many, being hurt by criticism goes with the territory of being an Empath.
We also have to consider that negative reactions to criticism could also be a trauma trigger response stemming from childhood.
For an Empath, repeated pain caused by criticism can eventually lead them to closing down to others. It can make for superficial or shallow conversations and an inability to make proper connections. It almost comes as a double-edged sword. In a bid to stay protected from others’ judgements we can build a wall so high that we end upon the outside of everything, which can become quite isolating.
Facing up to the reasoning behind this reaction to criticism is difficult. But the simple fact is until we face our fear of criticism (Urgh, I know!) we won’t really understand it.
A simple question to ask is: Why do you think you feel such reactions to criticism? (f you want to uncover the true answer, now is the time to be totally honest with yourself.)
The answers will probably look a little something like this:
- When you’re criticised you feel like you’ve let someone down.
- You were picked on as a child and it made you feel weak or useless and anything that reinforces that belief acts as a trauma trigger.
- Your parents constantly criticised your efforts and, although you realise it was their way to make you better at everything, it served in making you feel insecure or unvalued.
- You hate feeling as though you’ve done something wrong.
- You dislike other people making judgements about you when they have no idea who you are or the way you think.
- Criticism ignites a feeling of worthlessness and not being good enough.
- You have always worked to be the best at everything you do and when someone criticises your efforts it is soul-destroying and is taken personally.
- You want to be liked by others and work hard to keep them pleased.
Vanity can also be a reason behind the pain because, lets face it, who takes pleasure in being criticised?
Whatever your answer is, look at how it impacts your reactions. Do you feel pain or anger? Are you upset that you offended someone or are you angry that this person has you all wrong?
If it’s pain you are hurt. If it’s anger you are insulted… You can also be both.
Next, question the person making the criticism (even if you don’t know them, let your intuition guide you).
- Do they want to take you down because of jealousy?
- Are they trying to make themselves self-important and you insignificant?
- Are they trying to be cruel to be kind?
- Is their critic really an excuse to attack you?
- Is it a cruel troller at work?
- Do they have unrealistic expectations of you?
- Are they in pain themselves?
People who negatively criticise you (behind your back or to your face), will, in all likelihood, criticise everyone and anyone, because they are probably unhappy with themselves. Or it could be that by putting others down, they are attempting to lift themselves up and make themselves feel ‘special’.
Some people will also attack you because they can’t face looking into themselves to find the reason of their own unhappiness or insecurities (it is easier to blame others than to face the truth).
Whatever the case, when we wallow in the pain of others’ criticism (even through anger) we are actually punishing ourself over someone else’s opinion. And, let’s face it, people rarely get an Empath right. They cannot understand what they don’t experience.
So, now it’s time to look at ways to deal with the pain caused by criticism. Sadly, there is no magic pill here. As an Empath, the chances are you will always get hurt by criticism, and that’s alright. As I said, it comes with the territory. There is nothing to be ashamed of. It is not a weakness. It is a sign of being a sensitive and compassionate human. But, all the same, here are some tips that should help.
Ways to Deal with Criticism
Acceptance is a huge way to overcome the fear attached to judgements. Lean into the pain criticism causes, don’t try to hide from it or deny it. Say it out loud: ‘I get hurt by criticism because I am a deeply caring and compassionate person.’
If you find your mind keeps wandering back to the cruel words of another, keep repeating the above line in your head.
Some may say this is reinforcing a negative belief, but it is embracing a truth. When we face an uncomfortable truth, instead of hiding away from it, we often take away the pain it causes.
Use a Muscle Stressing Distraction.
Sounds torturous, but it isn’t. Being in emotional pain sucks! And this is simply doing something that puts discomfort on to muscles within the body, which then takes the mind away from emotional pain (the mind can’t focus on two pains at once).
Physical discomfort takes our awareness out of our head (or from the solar plexus, our seat of emotions) and on to the body part being worked. It won’t go away completely but it will be considerably numbed.
Keep Your Body Balanced
If you are a regular reader of my posts or books, you will probably want to slap me for suggesting to keep your body balanced, because I always come back to it. But if you are out of balance, physically, it has a knock-on effect on your moods and emotions, your reactions become heightened and you will react to criticism, or any other stress in your life, far worse than you should. Out of balance Empaths do not handle any type of stress well!
Simple signs such as: having dry skin, carrying excess weight, suffering indigestion or other digestive complaints, having lower back problems or sore joints, itchy skin or a rash could all pinpoint that your body is out of balance and thus your emotions and moods have been compromised. Every system of the body is connected, and if you are having physical symptoms, even minor seemingly insignificant ones, it is a sign of physical imbalance.
If you are interested in finding out the worst things to imbalance an Empath, then my books 7 Secrets of the Sensitive, or How to Heal Leaky Aura Syndrome will help you uncover them and work towards healing. Otherwise, these posts will give you a head start:
So, there you go. I do hope this post helps you understand your reaction to criticism a little better and lets you know, as an Empath, you are certainly not alone in your reactions.
Until next time…