Why Are Empaths So Easily Hurt By Criticism?


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.

The fear of criticism holds too many good Empath’s back.

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 offended another by my offerings or opinions.

But 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 back from achieving their true potential.

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 and feeling more pain than you should. (Click here to find out more)

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.

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 isolating.

Facing up to the reasoning behind the reactions 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 likely 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 emotional 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

Accept It.

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. Then say to yourself: ‘I am a deeply caring and compassionate person.’

Now allow yourself to feel deep love and compassion for yourself and stay in this empowering feeling for as long as you need. (You might not feel ‘the love’ at first but the more you say it and believe it, the more powerful this feeling will grow).

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).

Holding a powerful exercise pose (such as a plank or warrior) repeatedly, for as long as you can, really helps. As does a power walk or run.

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 of an out of balance body could be: having dry skin, carrying excess weight, suffering indigestion or other digestive complaints, having lower back problems or sore joints, itchy skin or a rash.

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:

How to Heal an Empath’s Emotions

Wonder Why You Continue to Suffer as an Empath?

Should the Empath Become Vegetarian

The Easy Empath Elixir

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…


©Diane Kathrine



8 thoughts on “Why Are Empaths So Easily Hurt By Criticism?

  1. Diane Kathrine;

    Thus article was so helpful to me. I experienced symptoms in this article as if it were rhyming. I always knew I had well developed empathy, working with profoundly mentally ill people with considerable success, unworldly in some cases, with clinical detachment. I have been employing loving romantic partners to do two things I now realize, to flood out the energy of others by having them close in order to enter the world of the masses in greater comfort. The relationships rarely endured for more than eighteen months and a critical statement, as I would characterize as “being cruel to be kind” engendered anger. I reallty love and admire this woman and just today recognized what my pathology was. Just downloaded one of your books “traits of an empath uncovered” and have some confidence that I will develop wisdom in mastering the challenges and gifts of how I work.


  2. I’m not a native English speaker, so sorry about the possible linguistic errors and typos…

    I’m a fifty-year old woman with an academic degree. I have known for several years that I’m strongly an HSP, but when I came across your blog, I became aware that I’m also an empath. What you described is the most limiting factor in my working (and private) life. When someone is critical towards me, I feel awful, it is the worst possible feeling I experience. I do not want to raise any negative feelings in people, so I freeze completely when someone is giving me negative feedback and I feel really hurt. I’m actually very good in my profession, but I give everything and more not to disappoint anyone in the office. I got a dog to reduce my working hours, and it worked, but not well enough. I constantly have a bad conscience if I’m not devoted enough, not a perfect mother, not a perfect wife, not a perfect friend… And what is the worst, a perfect daughter. My parents are over seventy, and they still do not know that I have smoked for 30 years (pregnancies and breast-feeding excluded). I just can disappoint them and listen to their criticism. I rather hide from the people that might criticize me and avoid social life than go boldly out to the world. I do not know if it is good or bad, but my husband is also an HSP and empath, and so is my son and younger daughter. There is a dispute in our family like once a year.

    I have to read your blog over and over again to leave this behind. Thank you for showing the way.

  3. I happened upon your blog during a search for answers. I am also reaching out to others, but do appreciate any insight you may provide as your time and specialty allow. Based upon inventories I’ve entertained, results point to me being a highly sensitive person. My husband scores more highly as an advanced empath. Besides the fact we are on opposite sides of the way-we-think-and-approach-life-spectrum, we do solidly agree that our life together is intended and blessed because we do complement each other quite well. If you will, here is the background for the first of my two questions. My husband fell in love with me 27 years before we actually started dating. He was 22, and I 15 at the time. He said he knew right away I was different, that when he was with me he felt calm, so much so that although I viewed our interaction as strictly “very close friendship”, he became obsessed with spending time with me. I eventually had to stop spending time with him because I felt smothered, but also because of my age and because I was still in high school doing high school things with my high school sweetheart. We would still run in to each other from time to time and it was like not a day had passed. I still enjoyed his friendship, but wanted nothing more. For him, each time of running in to me reactivated his overwhelming desire to stay in my presence. Life happened to both of us as we traveled different paths that eventually merged. Circumstances in both of our lives prompted him to give me another chance although I had broken his heart, and I finally felt a nudge to give a relationship with him a try. We dated for 3.5 years and are now 7 months into our marriage. (He’s now 52 and I’m 45.) Even though we feel a very strong bond in our relationship, he cannot “read” me the way he “reads” others. He says it’s as though I’m not even there, except he’s looking at me. He doesn’t pick up on my energies/emotions at all the way he does with other people. (I may interject here that he tends to pull away from strong male emotions and is drawn toward females. He insists it’s nothing perverse, but that he just is drawn to them, and it energizes him to “feel” them as he senses them. It’s like he gets a charge from them.) He must study my actions and listen to the sound of my voice to perceive what I’m feeling. He says it’s somewhat of a relief that he can’t pick up on what vibes are emanating from me, but it’s a challenge to him to not automatically know what mood I’m in and be able to act/speak accordingly. I’m also not sure I would want to be so transparent, as it may give him an advantage over me, but it does frustrate me when I see him light up and become engaged with someone else in a manner he does not do with me. It also leaves him so drained that it affects OUR quality time. We have discussed this multiple times, and neither of us can figure out why there seems to be a wall up around me. I can pick up some of what he is feeling, but again, my “sense powers” aren’t as developed as his are. (I should also add that he has anxiety issues as do I, but I tend to also spend more time in depression. Furthermore, I do consider myself a practicing spiritual person as a woman of faith.) So my first question is, DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHY THIS PHENOMENON IS HAPPENING? In other words, WHY CAN’T MY HUSBAND FEEL MY ENERGY?

    My second question is more one-sided in nature and deals with something I alone experience. I’ve researched a little on this as well, but again am seeking more opinions/information since I still have no solid answer. I’m not certain if it is physiological in nature, or more energy-related or more of a psyche event, but here goes–I often get this feeling of a black eruption deep in my abdominopelvic region, almost like a vial that is being dumped in my core, with a dark liquid that is pouring out to my extremities. It is not a pleasant sensation, but rather an eerily uncomfortable intruder to the peace and calm I struggle to achieve on a daily basis. Mostly it happens when I’m already upset, but occasionally occurs out of nowhere on a good day, then it’s as though my whole mood and perspective changes with this feeling of dread, and I find it very difficult to get back to whatever location on the serenity/contentment spectrum I was on that day. When it happens, it’s like watching a train wreck unfold and knowing I can’t do anything about it, and there have been a few times it completely ruined special plans (such as a holiday). Twice I had the feeling, then found out later some news that devastated me. I don’t know if it’s a warning signal, or a result of my already feeling like something is wrong, or an explosion of energy that has been trapped and needing freed (but then I would think something GOOD would come of it), or simply a release of chemicals that are stress-related because I am under a great deal of stress! I’ve dabbled in yoga (I also have a mild form of muscular dystrophy so yoga is recommended to maintain flexibility) and read about shakras although by no means an expert, and I’ve attempted to meditate, but I haven’t accomplished that feat because I’m too tuned in to my surroundings, even at night when I’m trying to sleep, and yes, part of those sensations come from my husband’s sleep behaviors that I pick up on. So… this unsolved mystery remains. I’m seeking an answer to the question of IS WHAT I’M EXPERIENCING THERE TO PROTECT ME FROM SOMETHING, IS IT A REMEDY TO SOMETHING, OR DOES IT SERVE SOME OTHER PURPOSE OR IS EVOKED FROM MY ALREADY HYPERSENSITIVITY? WHAT COULD THIS SENSATION BE?

    Please accept my apology if these questions fall outside the scope of your ability to interpret, and I do appreciate in advance any clarity you are able to provide.

    • Hi Rae,

      In response to your first question, it is very common for Empaths to not be able to read the energy of those they are close to. It’s as though intense love scrambles the ‘energy signals’. I have written about this before in one of my books on the subject of relationships (I think it might be The Empath Awakening). It is a common theme.

      Your second question is more tricky to answer. As you mentioned, it could be an intuitive energy response or a physical hormonal/chemical reaction triggered by the body in response to stress, a reaction to an inappropriate food or caffeine, etc. Or a combination of the two. (When it comes to Empaths or HSPs nothing tends to be straightforward.)

      The gut area (regions of the solar plexus and sacral chakra) is where humans often feel their intuitive sensations. If something feels off this is where it is felt. It is also where Empaths feel the energy of others (often felt as a sense of dread if the other is suffering).

      Energy responses and physical responses can trigger the same hormones, mostly cortisol and adrenaline. Too much of these hormones being dumped into the system can trigger anxiety, panic attacks or dread. These sensations often start in the abdominal area and then work their way out to the rest of the body.

      If you already have some knowledge of the chakras you will know these are our ‘energetic glands’ and are connected to our energy body. The chakras are linked directly to the endocrine glands and thus hormones. Hence the reason physical and energetic reactions create the same bodily responses.

      When you are Sensitive to energy you can pick up things without being mentally aware (like an Empath can feel pain in someone without them having to show it).

      If you have already linked the dark sensations you experience to being premonitions, your energy body might be picking something up intuitively that you are not aware of. This could be from your environment or those close by.

      If, as you say, you have been under a lot of stress this can also trigger an adrenaline/cortisol flush. And if you have started experiencing these phenomena in the past 5 to 8 years they could also be linked to female hormonal shifts (as I said tricky to answer).

      The best way to determine what is triggering these reactions is to journal when you have them and what you ate and drank 24 to 48 hours before, who you spent time with and the places you visited up to 48 hours before, what your stress levels had been that week and your caffeine consumption. If you can rule out physical responses it will likely be an energetic/intuitive response.

      So, how to lessen the impact of these sensations… Switching on the parasympathetic nervous system. Mediation and yoga are great for this. If you struggle with meditation then yoga which links the breath with movements is great to try, as it acts as a moving meditation. Either Dru yoga, the 5 Tibetans or Ashtanga yoga might be a good starting point. They can be quite challenging to begin with but they all work to balance the mind, body and spirit. The 5 Tibetans in particular work to balance the chakras and hormones. It is a short but intense routine, so a good one to do if you are short on time. You can find videos on YouTube, but I would recommend finding a good teacher to get you started.

      Hope this helps and thanks for sharing.


  4. Pingback: Why Empaths are Easily Hurt by Criticism and How to Prevent it Impacting Your Life – Karma Yoga Daily

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