Criticism is a hard thing to hear, even if the person giving the criticism is doing so with the best intentions. It’s very difficult to hear that we messed up, made a mistake, or that maybe our best effort just wasn’t quite enough. It may hurt your feelings to hear that someone doesn’t like your outfit or they criticize the way your hair looks after you spent hours prepping in the mirror. Criticism hurts, but many people have the ability to accept it and move on with their day. They have the ability to not let a small critique of their work or a comment about their hair completely destroy them on the inside.
Well, I’m not one of those people. I am the person who will let a critical comment completely eat me alive and destroy my day. I am the person, who when told I did something wrong, will become completely hyper-focused on fixing my mistake to the point of exhaustion. I am the person who hears criticism and thinks that the person giving me the critique doesn’t like me anymore. I am the person who will start looking at the help wanted ads the minute I make a mistake at work, because I am convinced that I have let my bosses down so much that I will be fired.
I would have thought that I would be able to take criticism better than most people because of who I grew up with. I would have thought that hearing criticism out of my mother’s mouth every single day of my life would have hardened me and made me calloused to other people’s opinions and critiques. But unfortunately, enduring years of constant criticism from Mom did nothing but make me weak as an adult.
In my mother’s eyes, I was incapable of doing a single thing correctly. I couldn’t walk right, I talked too loudly, my eyes were too big, and my legs were too long. I couldn’t clean a room to save my life, my schoolwork was disgraceful, my cooking was a joke, and if she allowed me to do the laundry – there was a good chance that I would screw something up and blow the entire house up. In my mother’s eyes, I was the stupidest and ugliest person alive and she made it clear to me day after day.
I was so desperate for Mom’s love and acceptance that I tried to fix everything about myself that seemed to make her angry. I tried walking differently, I attempted to whisper instead of talk, I tried to appear shorter and I squinted my eyes when I was around her to make my eyes appear smaller. I worked my fingers to the bone to try and clean the house just the way she wanted. I stayed up late reading cookbooks; trying to learn on my own how to cook something that wouldn’t make Mom want to throw up. I tried everything I could to fix what was wrong with me and make her happy. But nothing made Mom happy, absolutely nothing.
I realize now that I wasted a lot of years trying to make Mom happy and trying to win her love and acceptance. I realize that Mom’s issues and her abusive ways towards me were her problem, not mine. I realize that nothing was wrong with me, nothing needed to be fixed, and that I spent years feeling guilty for things that were either not my fault or completely out of my control.
But just because I realize these things doesn’t mean that I’m “fixed.” I still carry many scars from my childhood, and my inability to deal with criticism in a healthy way is one of those lingering scars that just won’t go away. It’s very difficult for me to hear a critique come out of someone’s mouth and not think of Mom. It’s nearly impossible for me to not go into hyperactive “fix-it” mode if I make a mistake. And I can’t get the thought out of my head that if someone criticizes me, it must mean that they don’t like me or love me anymore.
But I’m trying. That’s all I can do is try and begin to realize that not everyone is Mom. Not everyone is out to hurt me and if someone does critique me, that they are just trying to help me become better. That is a hard thing to learn; but I’m trying – day after day. I refuse to give up and accept that I will be this way forever; and if you are struggling as I am, I urge you to keep trying like I am. Try and see that the majority of the people you meet in your life are good and are there to help you and guide you. Try to ignore the voice of your abuser in your head; they can’t control you anymore.