Why criticism hurts

By M.Farouk Radwan, MSc.

Why criticism hurts

Why criticism hurts?
And why its sometimes so hard to take?

In my previous article Extreme sensitivity to criticism i said that criticism hurts the most when it touches an already existing emotional wound.

For example, if you thought that your nose looked bad and someone commented on its shape in a bad way then there is a very big possibility that you will get hurt by his words. (see Self image problems)

Now the important question you must ask yourself is, why the same critical comment can hurt you when it comes from a certain person and why would the same critical comment never affect you if it came from a different person??

In this article i will answer this question and tell you why criticism hurts from a psychological point of view.

Why didn't criticism hurt him?

Two friends were sitting together when the first told the second that someone thinks that he is not interesting. The guy felt really bad and was hurt by the words but then he started asking his friend about the person who said the comment and his friend refused to tell him.

The guy felt bad for two days until he met his friend once again who then told him about the person who said the critical comment. At this point the guy didn't feel hurt anymore and he told him "Omg, so Sam said it? who cares, he is a loser anyways!!"

I am sure such a situation happened to you before even if the setup was a little different.

How many times criticism initially hurt you then felt better when you knew the person who said it?
How many times you discounted the effect of criticism because a Certain person said it?

Why criticism hurts sometimes and never hurts in other times

In order to understand why criticism hurts sometimes and never hurts in other times we have to look at the past of that guy in the example above. That guy was so shy when he was a teen. He didn't manage to establish good social relationships with his classmates and most of them thought that he is not interesting.

Most of his friends at that time belonged to the same social class. Years later the guy managed to get over this problem by getting rid of shyness however his old wound was still there.

Whenever he was rejected by someone from the same social class he failed to deal with when he was young he felt really bad. That's why the critical comment hurt him in the beginning. Its because he wasn't sure who said it.

As soon as he knew that the comment was said by a "loser" he didn't feel bad. Loser in this case, according to his own definition, refereed to people who are not important to him.

Because of what happened to him in his past he only became interested in rich people or people who resembled the same social class he failed to deal with earlier in his life(see also Why do we like certain people). Anyone who didn't belong to that social class was considered a loser according to his personal frame of reference.

This is why criticism hurts you

Now its clear why criticism can hurt you sometimes and why in other times it can never affect you. When the critical comment comes from a person who belongs to a certain group that you failed to deal with in your past then you will feel bad.

On the other hand if the critical comment came from a person who is associated with a group that didn't result in any of your emotional wounds then it wont hurt you.

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Want to know more?

How to deal with criticism

Dealing with critical people

How to deal with criticism part II

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