How do you handle criticism/judgment when very sensitive and empathetic

Hey. I’ve been wanting to ask something along these lines for awhile and finally got over my shyness to do it. I’m a very sensitive and empathetic person, and someone with a very thin skin. I’ve never taken criticism well and get depressed when I feel judged.
For some background I have depression and anxiety and have been medicated for about 15 years. I’m mostly stable though still struggle. I’m also living at home with my parents and while I don’t have any issues with the arrangement it always bothers me(irrationally so) to see people online judging people for living with family.
For anyone else who is similarly sensitive or has had trouble taking criticism what have you done to improve your mindset? Thanks.

My advice would be understanding you need to get into a mindset where you’re ready to receive criticism. There are plenty of ways to do this, but I’m a huge fan of internally talking to myself. When I know criticism is coming or when it’s happening, I carve out some time to take a deep breath and tell myself “this isn’t an attack on your person, they are offering critique of your actions/words to help you”. This really helps me shift into a mindset more receptive of criticism.

This can be difficult to do at times, often criticism can just be sprung on you seemingly out of nowhere. If you need to, take a step away before engaging. Or if it’s face to face, ask for a moment to just take a deep breath. Most people are willing to oblige.

Lastly, and this can be Difficult, is learning to parse attacks from genuinely hard to stomach criticism. Critiques won’t always come from a calm, cool, & collected source. Sometimes they’ll be mad, or the critique will come with some genuinely unkind words. Sometimes it won’t be a critique of your actions, it will be criticism of your person. Take a step back, take a deep breath, shift into a receptive mindset, and shift through what you can use and what you can’t. Find the criticism you can use, and ignore the attacks.

Again, this is all much easier said that done. Everyone has their own stuff that can make it hard or unhealthy to receive criticism if it isn’t delivered in the correct manner. Just try your best and recognize when you need to step away or tap out.

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This is all my own experience, so your mileage may vary. I’ve been working at this for a pretty long time so I can’t point to a single place where I learned how to parse criticism, but I also have anxiety and some depression and I soak up moods pretty easily, so we probably have some things in common :slight_smile:

The first question I ask myself if somebody is criticizing me, is is this criticism about how I’ve hurt someone in some way. If I have, I immediately try to step back and listen. I can think about what’s been said and whether I should defend my actions later. If I’ve hurt someone I probably messed up and listening is the first priority.

If the criticism isn’t about me having harmed someone, then it’s probably more about my general attitude and how I carry myself. I’ve had people offhandedly say things that I didn’t even pay attention to at the time that would slowly change the way I thought and act because just understanding how I came off to another person helped me reconsider who I was trying to be.

I try, when dealing with criticism, to get past guilt as quickly as possible. It’s easy to fall into it, esp. when anxious or depressed, but it doesn’t help me address the problem. I try to jump to what I can do to address the criticism. I still stay up at night thinking about stuff I said 10 years ago, so try is the operative word.

Finally, I think criticism is a kind of advice, ultimately. No good faith criticism will come from a person who expects you to follow the letter of that criticism. We give people advice because we want to help them but we know ultimately that the people around us will do what they do.

Ultimately working through issues with perfectionism has helped me deal better with criticism. I have a crushing fear of disappointing other people and learning to take the L has actually helped that because long relationships will involve disappointment, and if people like each other that’s ok!

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