anxiety · Generalized Anxiety · SAD · self-confidence · Social anxiety

Criticism and the Anxious Mind

These are my own experiences.  I am not a medical professional.  

We all experience criticism at some point.  Sometimes it is meant to be mean, sometimes light-hearted, sometimes as a means to improvement from a well-meaning friend or colleague.  Many people are able to take that criticism and use it as a healthy way to make improvements.  Some people get angry that anyone would think there was something wrong with them.  Anxious people take it personally.

It isn’t that I don’t know that I have flaws–believe me, I know more about my flaws than you do.  I agonize over those flaws, so much so that I continually deal with guilt, fear, and paranoia.  It is not the criticism itself that is problematic; it goes back to the fear of judgement.  I automatically assume everything is my fault.

Because I internalize everything so personally, I automatically assume that the person criticizing me is angry with me, doesn’t like me, or blaming me for whatever has gone wrong.  This is not usually the case, as most of these critical remarks are simply meant in a positive, good way.  How could we have done this better?  Why did you make that decision?  Is there something I should know about?  But there are some people who know your weakness and make it is game–a game an anxious person can’t win: Why did you do that?  If you hadn’t reacted that way, this never would have happened.  If something happens, it’s all your fault.

Most people are good and well-meaning.  But I can only take so much internalizing the criticism before I start to fall apart.  It physically hurts.  My heart feels like it’s breaking.  I feel like I am not enough.  I am not good enough.  I can’t be what everyone expects/needs me to be. I feel like every choice and everything I do is completely wrong. Instead of being healthy about it and explaining what my thought process was or why I did what I did, I immediately jump to “everyone hates me” and feeling judged.  The guilt, the shame, the feeling of letting everyone down can destroy me mentally and cause me physical and emotional pain.

I am well aware of my faults.  It isn’t that I don’t think they exist.  But I hate feeling judged.  It weighs me down.  I feel heavy.  I start to get depressed, and things spiral out of control for me.  The anxiety and fear of letting everyone down gets worse and worse.  It is crushing.

This may seem completely irrational to those who do not experience anxiety at this level.  Ridiculous, even.  And I see it.  I know it.  And I am trying to fix it.  But the road to recovery is long and bumpy, and sometimes doubles-back.  Please be kind to anyone when you must criticize or talk to someone about things they aren’t doing well.  The best way for me to receive any sort of reproach is the positive/negative/positive: You are doing an amazing job with your writing.  It seems to be improving on a daily basis.  I love reading with what you come up with next.  The only thing is that I wish you were writing more consistently.  I was hoping you would have something every other day.  But other than that, I love where this is going.  That is a very unrealistic and exaggerated example, but you get it.

Be nice.  Be kind.  Say things that need to be said, but do it in a kind way.  Because most of the time the person all ready knows what they are doing wrong.  Guide them–give them suggestions on improvement.  Let them know that they are important and they are valued.

3 thoughts on “Criticism and the Anxious Mind

  1. I love this.. Again I feel a kindred spirit with you. My husband is one of those people you describe, who is terrible at offering “constructive criticism”. It’s my fault for asking..knowing he’s not good at tact..but I do it anyway. I was called as the Gospel Doctrine teacher the last fall. I was horrified, and terrified but taught never to say no to a calling. I tried my best but I was terrible and finally had to give up. I told my family I gave up. They said the thought I was likely not as bad as I thought. My helpful husband chimed in saying, “oh no, she was really bad!!” Later I asked why he said that, his response was, “well you knew you were terrible.” I did, but hearing his criticism made it a 100 times worse. I can’t get over how much of A failure I was, wondering why I’m the only person who can’t teach a stupid lesson. I also can’t help but think, if my helpful husband had been a little kinder in his criticism I might not have felt so inadequate. Keep your posts coming. I love them. Ok a side note I always worry when I comment that you’ll judge my grammar etc., since that’s your forte. Haha!

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  2. I am awed at your ability to open my mind to your inner most private thoughts and demons. You are teaching me in leaps and bounds. I’ve always admired you from a distance. Now, I feel, like in a tremendous way, you are allowing me to be a friend. I suppose in spirit only as I never am really out of my house except for dr appointments. Or church when I can make it. But, I digress. I hope you turn this blog into a book. You are such a wonderful writer and taken us on your journey in such a relevant and personal way. It makes me be more aware that people struggle on the inside so much more than what the eye can see. I’m grateful that it has always been in my heart to be kind, uplifting and genuinely complimentary to people. Even complete strangers. But, now the things I’m learning from you help me put my own actions into a different perspective. Thank you for your amazing blog and your true gift and skill of great writing. I admire you so. And, I am rooting for you.

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