How to Cope with a Sensitivity to Criticism

Many people experience hurt feelings due to criticism, even when intended to be constructive and helpful. Those who have a sensitivity to criticism will experience the impact the worst. Unlike individuals who can take constructive feedback and integrate it into their lives - or at least accept it without reacting - criticism-sensitive individuals find it much harder to accept. In fact, many do not accept it and instead become defensive.

Several factors can contribute to the development of sensitivity to criticism. For many, it dates back to childhood, where highly protective parents would go to great lengths to keep criticism and disappointment at bay. On the other end of the spectrum, some children who grew up hypersensitive had parents who consistently fed them harsh criticism or never provided positive reinforcement. 

Aside from extreme defensiveness, sensitivity to criticism can ultimately contribute to mental health concerns such as anxiety, anger, shame, and depression. Yet when individuals struggle to cope with or accept criticism, the negative impact can also show up in what they miss out on.

For instance, a supervisor or peer may have valuable feedback, but sensitivity to criticism can prevent making it a learning opportunity. As a result, these individuals tend to fail to improve their performance at work or other areas of their lives.

If you struggle to accept and cope with criticism, here are a few things to try:

  • Express gratitude that someone took the time to provide feedback.
  • Stray from countercriticism, especially if you're angry or frustrated.
  • Remain calm and find the value in a piece of feedback when you catch yourself reacting to it.

If you find yourself dwelling on an instance of criticism, unable to see the value in feedback, a therapist can help you address your struggles, like not taking things so personally. Therapy is helpful to learn how to accept and cope with criticism in healthy ways without becoming ashamed or overwhelmed. Your effort into therapy will ultimately benefit everything from your mental wellbeing to your personal and professional life.

Diane K. Schmidt Counseling Services | 8575 W. 110th Street, Suite 304 Overland Park, KS 66210 | Phone: 913.730.6778 | Email: diane@dkschmidtcounseling.com