I’m hypersensitive to criticism — how do I fix this?

I’m on vacation today. This was originally published in 2018.

A reader writes:

I am currently working as a receptionist for the next few months until I complete my schooling. I have been dealing with what I can only describe as hypersensitivity when it comes to feedback or criticism about my work. When I hear that something was done incorrectly by me, I panic and cannot seem to separate the professional criticism and help from the feeling of being personally attacked or mocked. I have been trying to be more objective, but it’s hard when I’m caught off-guard by feedback, especially if it’s delivered on an on-going basis over the phone. This once resulted in me crying in front of the office manager.

For what it’s worth, I won’t be working in a people-facing position in my career after I complete school, but learning to take feedback is an invaluable skill. What can I do to stop being a wreck and take these critiques in stride?

I wrote back to this letter-writer and asked:

Can I ask you some follow-up questions to help me better answer this?

1. How did you handle feedback on your work in school? Same as this or different? Or were you always so good at school that you got mainly positive feedback? (It’s really common for people in that boat to then have a tough time with work feedback later.)

2. I hope this isn’t too personal, but did you by any chance come from a family were you were heavily criticized if you showed weakness or didn’t get something “right”? Often what you’re describing can have its roots in that.

It is impressive how well these two questions peg my personality type (I’m also an chronic apologizer and worrier, in case you hadn’t guessed!). I was probably the best student in all of my classes, which made subpar feedback seem much worse as I had little comparison material. I would also get needlessly anxious anytime I thought I may be in trouble — whether at home or at school — and experienced intense physiological symptoms like blood leaving my face, light-headedness, and a racing heartbeat anytime I faced a “talking-to” because the of the emotional fallout and disappointment (over often trivial matters) at home and standards were very competitive in my family.

So … that’s basically our answer.

You grew up in a home where you faced inappropriate levels of judgment and disappointment over minor things, and that wired you to experience it as a very big deal when you hear feedback that isn’t positive.

Your reaction as a kid actually made sense — the criticism you were getting at the time was too heavy-handed and probably scary. It’s horrible for a kid to feel that their missteps will bring intense disappointment from the people whose approval they crave and who they’re dependent on for survival and for a general sense of safety in the world. So being very upset by that was warranted! And I’m sure you reached a point where the criticism didn’t even have to be bad for you to have an intense emotional reaction — because you so strongly associated it with awful feelings from so many times before.

The problem is that you’re still carrying around those reactions now, when they no longer apply to the situation you’re in. This is the root of a ton of family-of-origin dysfunction; we learn reactions when we’re small that made sense for our situations then, but we keep using them as adults when they no longer do.

So, how do you deal with it? Therapy, probably! A good therapist can help you unravel this and re-wire the way you respond (and hopefully give you a lot of emotional freedom from those days that will feel fantastic).

But since that’s a longer-term fix, in the short-term try to get really clear in your head about where your reactions to criticism are coming from — not from the current-day situation, but from something much older, and from a situation you’re no longer in — and that a manager giving input on your work is a different thing than what your reactions are actually rooted in, and is not in fact a challenge to your fundamental safety in the world. Sometimes clearly seeing that your reaction isn’t really about what’s in front of you and realizing “ah, this is my own crap” can take some of the power out of the emotions behind it.

Also, if you do have an obviously emotional reaction to criticism from a manager, like crying, you can say something in the moment or soon after like, “I sometimes have a stronger-than-I’d like reaction to criticism, but please know that doesn’t mean I don’t want to hear it! I really value getting feedback, and I appreciate you giving it to me.” You could add, “And I’m working on getting the visible reaction under control.” (Also, maybe read this about how your manager is probably thinking of it when she needs to give you critical feedback.)

One great sign is that you want feedback, at least intellectually. You’re open to it, and you know it’s a normal thing. You’ve just got to recalibrate your reactions to it when it arrives at work, versus in the much more personal, high-stakes context of your family. (And ideally you’ll recalibrate it with your family too, but damn that’s harder.)

{ 108 comments… read them below }

  1. F.M.*

    Aw, LW, I am so full of sympathy here. And empathy! I didn’t have the family hypercritical stuff–but I was also one of those “almost always the best student” kids who didn’t know how to handle criticism when it did show up.

    How did I get through that? …well, therapy. And time. And being in classes (especially when I went back to community college and then college later in life) or other learning situations where other people were clearly better than me–and where I could learn to live with being not the best and sometimes wrong. It was actually really good for my mental health, in a lot of ways, to find peers in various areas of study/interest that were on my level, so that I had reasonable points of comparison.

    Also, good medication for some brain chemical stuff. Medication has done wonders for my life. But that’s a very YMMV situation.

    I still sometimes get really defensive or upset about perfectly reasonable feedback. But I’m much better about it than I used to be. I wish you luck on this, and honestly, just knowing that you want to get better at taking feedback & criticism is half (as the GI Joes would say) the battle.

    1. F.M.*

      (And yeah, I know this is an old letter. But my comments stand for anyone else dealing with this today, because, well. I don’t think it’s all that uncommon.)

      1. NotRealAnonForThis*

        Agreeing its absolutely NOT uncommon. I was the “smart kid” in a small school where my classmates turned any potential learning experience into “see she’s not THAT smart” and follow up torment. No assistance from the adults who saw it, either. Parents who were driven by the best intentions, but the discussion came out as “you must be the best”.

        Coupled with not being medicated for ADHD as a child (given it was early in treatment protocols for this, I do not fault my parents for this. I will not take this approach with my own child, and learning how to help my own child manage his ADHD symptoms has helped me in handling my own ADHD symptoms), college was essentially me being set up to fail by all the systems that had worked together to get me there.

        Therapy, life experience, and wanting to do better at receiving all feedback/constructive criticism have all been a huge help to me.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          I will not take this approach with my own child.

          I’ve said a number of times that my greatest accomplishment in life has been lowering the standards for my children by not living up to the standards I inherited.

          1. Squirrel Nutkin*

            What an awesome parent you are! I’ll bet your kids are happy and relaxed and will do/are doing just as “well” in life without all the stress.

            1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

              We’ll see. The eldest is coming up on four years old, so there’s plenty of life left to see how this plays out.

        2. AlsoFakeFakeName*

          Oh, hi, sounds like you are me from an alternate universe.

          I’m still bad at viewing criticism as anything other than the criticizer about to tell me I’m bad and wrong and stupid for even thinking I deserve to be here but… I’m trying.

          Good luck OP and NotRealAnon :)

          1. LC*

            the criticizer about to tell me I’m bad and wrong and stupid for even thinking I deserve to be here

            Wow, we’re each other too! I had no idea that I was this many people who read AAM.

            This is a haaarrrrd same for me. Some of it comes from me thinking that about myself so obviously it’s true and obviously they’re thinking it about me too because I’m not even good enough to fool people into thinking that I’m good enough. That’s ….. a very hard mindset to overcome. But, like you, I’m trying.

            One thing that helps with this is trying to hear what they think they’re saying rather than my brain’s (likely inaccurate) interpretation.

        3. LC*

          being in classes (especially when I went back to community college and then college later in life) or other learning situations where other people were clearly better than me–and where I could learn to live with being not the best and sometimes wrong. It was actually really good for my mental health, in a lot of ways, to find peers in various areas of study/interest that were on my level, so that I had reasonable points of comparison.
          Also, good medication for some brain chemical stuff. Medication has done wonders for my life. But that’s a very YMMV situation.
          I still sometimes get really defensive or upset about perfectly reasonable feedback. But I’m much better about it than I used to be.

          Coupled with not being medicated for ADHD as a child (given it was early in treatment protocols for this, I do not fault my parents for this. …), college was essentially me being set up to fail by all the systems that had worked together to get me there.
          Therapy, life experience, and wanting to do better at receiving all feedback/constructive criticism have all been a huge help to me.

          Oh wow, are somehow both of you me? I feel this all so hard.

          Now, I do blame my parents just a little bit for me not being diagnosed until I figured it out myself and had to be my own advocate when I was 24, but I mostly blame the culture that allowed the combination of ADHD only being discussed and in turn recognized by the symptoms that affect others rather than the one with ADHD + the fact that scientific and medical studies are significantly more likely to use men and boys than anyone else + the way girls are often socialized to tamp down the way many of the common ADHD symptoms present (and oh boy could I go on about all of these things).

          As far as actionable advice for anyone else who might be going through something similar – managing my in-the-moment response is harder so especially once I first started working on this, it was more impactful for me to work on it when it wasn’t happening. Intentionally and consistently reminding myself:
          -I tend to multiply things several times over, so for many reasonable people, this might be 2 instead of a 7 in terms of freak-out-worthiness.
          -On the flipside, I rarely make something of nothing so there probably is something there but that’s okay because that means I have something I can fix and I can trust that I’m not just making things up.
          -Trust my strengths rather than my interpretation of what someone is saying.
          It is okay to ask for help before things get to metaphorical end of the world status.
          -It’s not the end of the world. Really. I promise.
          -They’ll forget about this a hell of a lot sooner than you will.

          As far as in the moment stuff (not all of these work all the time, but all of them work at least sometimes):
          -Drink water, preferrably with a straw (my hydroflask with straw top very dear to me – it’s harder to cry when you’re actively drinking and also I would bet money you don’t drink enough water)
          -Acknowledge it to the person who’s giving you the feedback (“sorry, I know this is a big reaction, I’m working on that but I definitely want to hear what you’re saying so please don’t let this interrupt you” – obviously, situation dependent, and also I like Alison’s wording)
          -Take notes (gives you something to focus on while still allowing you to pay attention to what’s being said)
          -Have tissues handy so you can get one if needed and skip the worry about where they are and omg this is so distracting and ughhhh my face is all runny now and wow everyone is looking at me etc etc.

          Rejection sensitive dysphoria is a bitch. It’s a bitch to experience and it’s a bitch to attempt to deal with and improve. And, as far as I can tell so far, will be a life long thing. But it can get better! Therapy, life experience, and wanting to be better at it is such a good list, that’s what’s helped (some days more than others) me.

            1. NotRealAnonForThis*

              I do good with giant walls of text though :)

              I have so many mental-twins here, and I love it because I’m not the only one.

              To elaborate, under the lens of what was known about, and how what we now know as ADHD was treated in my early elementary years in a small town during the early 1980s with the much louder War on Drugs happening? I don’t blame my parents for believing the doctors who said because I’m not a boy and that because I was young and seemed very intelligent, that I’d outgrow this. It would be naive to believe this currently because there has been much more research in the intervening years.

              That my son would not outgrow this, and that I have NOT outgrown this, its how our brains are wired, was a reckoning for my parents. It must be painful to have learned that what you think is the correct choice medically for your child based on what is known at the time, is in fact later proven not to be. I won’t increase that for them.

              And they have absolutely grown. If they were still thinking as they did about it in 1982, they’d not have a part in any portion of my children’s educational upbringing. :)

              1. LC*

                Oh, that makes sense.

                For me, it just literally didn’t even occur to anyone that I had ADHD, so I wasn’t thinking about the (still annoyingly prevalent) idea that everyone “grows out of it.” Being a girl/”intellegent”/”successful” aren’t disqualifiers, and neither is being an adult (of any gender).

                I’m very happy to hear that your parents have grown and that they don’t do the “this was once claimed to be true therefore it definitely was then and still is now regardless of anything we’ve learned” thing. And that your kiddo has you behind him!

                1. Mannequin*

                  I’m a textbook case of inattentive ADHD and still didn’t have the slightest clue that’s what it was until months before I was diagnosed at 48 (I’m now 54)

                  And if I hadn’t been googling sleep disorders & learned about time blindness, I might STILL not know. That phrase nagged at me so bad I had to start looking into it, and every definition led me to ADHD. I started looking into ADHD and it was like reading the story of my life, written by someone who did not know I existed.

                  The knowledge was life changing.

          1. EmKay*

            “They’ll forget about this a hell of a lot sooner than you will.”

            I should get this tattooed on myself, somewhere I can read it. Inner wrist?

            1. LC*


              It was also a good reminder for me to type it.

              (Not sure if you're serious, but on the off chance you are, that's a lot of letters for the inner wrist. I have a 10 letter word in fairly delicate text on my inner wrist and it's absolutely beautiful but it's changed so much in the 8 years since I got it and I'm sure that'll continue. I wouldn't change it for the world now, but if I went back in time, I'd get it somewhere it could be a little bigger. A little less delicate/more blocky would probably work too, but I absolutely love the font and wouldn't change it.)

          2. STAT!*

            Didn’t know RSD was even a thing! Let alone associated with ADD/ ADHD. That explains … lots. All I can say is I’m glad to be finally finding out about this stuff in middle age (including the ADD diagnosis).

            Anyway, one useful thing I’ve recently added to the kit of life skills is relabelling emotions. This is based on the book “How Emotions Are Made” by Lisa Feldman Barrett. My elevator summary: there are no universal or basic emotions. Humans are deeply, deeply embedded in social explanations that the brain uses to interpret the external and internal sensory inputs it receives, and plan accordingly. The sensory inputs are on a contiuum from high to low arousal, and high to low affect. If your social system does not have a concept of fear, for example, then you will simply not feel fear. (A short article discussing the work of one researcher who takes some of this general approach is “This Brain Region May Be The Key To Understanding Different Mental Disorders” at verywellhealth on 9 July 2021 (see here https://www.verywellhealth.com/insula-brain-region-depression-study-5191326).)

            An example from real life: I try to rename anxiety over particular situations as anticipatory excitement instead. This truly has helped me to manage perseveration, procrastination and perfectionism. I hope the OP – and everyone struggling! – might find this helpful.

        4. Gumby*

          I was the “smart kid” in a small school where my classmates turned any potential learning experience into “see she’s not THAT smart” and follow up torment.

          I was fortunate to not have that experience with classmates (or was too oblivious to notice it), but I do have an extended family member who reacts to any error I make with “and that from a [very well-known university] grad.” Which is SO ANNOYING. I am not psychologically crushed, but I never said and don’t believe that having graduated from [vwku] makes me better or smarter or anything than any other person. I am just as prone to mistakes, mispronunciations, etc. And if you don’t want me pointing out your errors in casual speech then kindly lay off crowing about mine. I’m happy to hear “actually, it’s pronounced —–” but can do without “what did your hoity toity school teach you anyway?”

          1. NotRealAnonForThis*

            “……but I do have an extended family member who reacts to any error I make with “and that from a [very well-known university] grad.” ”

            Why do people DO this? Perhaps if as a society we weren’t such flaming a-holes about mistakes/relished in the shaming of others for honestly mild mistakes….the world would be better off.

      2. quill*

        Yeah. My family was good about criticism, but other kids and sometimes teachers were all over me like little sharks if I ever messed up. Did a number on my ability to ask for help, ever.

        1. AlsoFakeFakeName*

          Ask for help?? Isn’t that just admitting that I’m a failure who shouldn’t be among The Normals (big /s, in case it wasn’t clear).

          1. quill*

            “You should be able to figure this out on your own!”

            Oh, me, the child that spent ages 5-14 left to go feral in the school library because school didn’t bother engaging with me? The one who was literally left on her own to manage the behavior problems of the “smart boys” at worst blamed for ever having boundaries and used at best as a mini-tutor? Can’t imagine why I didn’t learn to solve problems the “correct” way for any developmental stage, be a kid or summon the correct authorities to complete a task…


            1. Why did I go to library school?*

              Oh lord, another feral library child. I’m sorry your school failed you like that for so long — I guess I can console myself with the fact that I only spent elementary school that way. And even then, look where it got me! [points to username]

              1. OhNo*

                Another feral library child here (and someone who also went to library school later, lol!), and I thank the universe every day for the school librarians who engaged with me so I didn’t quite turn like the elementary school equivalent of the boy raised by wolves, though it was a near miss.

                I struggled with getting negative feedback a lot, and therapy has been a big help for me in the long term. Also, if anyone dealing with this is lucky to have a good manager, being open and honest with them about the issue may help. My boss has been great about helping me ease into taking workplace feedback without too many negative emotional effects. It has definitely taken some time and effort on her part, so might not be an option for all managers, but it’s done wonders to help me get used to the process of receiving feedback.

              2. quill*

                Middle school involved a lot of using the library to hide from other students, but yeah. I was definitely educated by books so that I’d be busy and out of the way. They sort of dumped all the gifted kids together and left them alone, to pretty disastrous results.

        2. Pikachu*

          Omg. You nailed it. Growing up as a “smart kid,” people took so much pleasure in me making mistakes.

          My mom still does. I’m 36. Therapy helps. LOL

        3. Elemele*

          I had other kids and heir parents ganging up on me to, but it was all teacher’s doing. I went to school one year ahead acompanying my older sister, and the teacher never stopped gushing that “elemele is the first in class even though she’s the youngest”. Absolutely not surprising that everybody wanted me to fail.

    2. Cj*

      My family was absolutely not like the OP’s, but I was also among the smartest kids in class in high school and college, and pretty much got nothing but praise in school. I never connected that to how emotional I get when I receive even mildly critical feedback at work. I’m just not used to it!

  2. Princess Deviant*

    Ah good on you LW. This is so hard to deal with – acting as an adult based on dysfunctional family teachings and values!
    I really wonder what the update to this one looks like? I do believe that people who can see where their issues lie and are willing to change do in fact change.

  3. GalFromAway*

    This really struck a nerve for me, OP, and I can really empathize. I still struggle with receiving criticism and constructive feedback. I have had supportive managers, but I’ve also had incredibly toxic ones who criticized and berated me, and I ended up very sick (mentally and physically). It’s weighed heavily on me over the years, and I remember many reviews with managers where I’d end up in tears even though the feedback was helpful to me. I’m getting better at it now, and my husband, who is a manager himself (but not mine), is able to translate things if something doesn’t make sense, or support me in making improvements or finding ways to address things I might question or not agree with.

    Not sure where my insecurity and self-doubt came from… maybe it started when I was in a competitive (advanced/gifted) stream in elementary school and I never felt good enough compared to the others, and that continued through high school and university. I’m finally dealing with my stuff, and it’s taken a lot of therapy, some medication, and a lot of work to get to where I’m at now. And I’m still not perfect about it, but I’m a little more forgiving of myself.

    This is a resource that’s been really helpful to me: https://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au/Resources/Looking-After-Yourself/Self-Compassion

    I wish you lots of luck in this journey of self-discovery and self-compassion. You’re definitely not alone in this.

    1. Cj*

      I was wondering if you could answer a question, since this is anonymous?

      You say that you never felt good enough compared to others. Where do you think this came from? Parents and teacher comments/criticisms that you internalized? Or do you think you were born with that as part of your personality? Or a combination of the two?

      1. L*

        Not the person you’re replying to, but this also describes me perfectly. I’m also from a big, overachieving family. I don’t remember harsh criticism from teachers or family members ever, but I do remember feeling “not good enough” compared to my literal child genius best friend and 4 older siblings. I think to some extent I must have just been born with that, but I also was not as good comparatively — I mean my best friend was truly, uniquely gifted and I wasn’t as smart as her. (And my siblings were 3-9 years older than me, so obviously more developed intellectually and socially.) At the same time, my identity from my peers and teachers was very much “the smart one”, and I think that’s where some of the dysfunction came in. I knew I was supposed to be smart, but I could clearly see that there were others who were smarter than me, which I think gave me (some of?) my inferiority complex.

        Anyway I’m self-psychoanalyzing…I absolutely need to go to therapy. This LW’s unreasonably anxious response to feedback at work sounds very familiar.

      2. LC*

        Not who you asked, but for me, a lot of it I feel is just a part of me and that it’d be something I’d have to deal with regardless of anything else.

        My parents were overall great. They expected a lot of me, often more than they did of my siblings, but that’s because I could do it, and they were never cruel or hypercritical or anything at all like that, whether I met their (or, more frequently, my own) expectations. I don’t really put any of this on them. (Cue me thinking even harder that I’m obviously not good enough, I can’t even manage self-esteem or whatever when I have a supportive family, I have no excuse for this, guess that means I really do just suck at being human.)

        I do think that the general world we live in didn’t help though. The messages we receive, the socialization so many of us had, what’s so often portrayed as the standard, as the default, as “normal.” I think that my perfectionist* issues truly are inherent to me, but a lot of the world we live in exasperates it.

        (There was actually a really neat, to me, comment thread on this site a couple of weeks ago where we talked about being a perfectionist and what that actually means to us and how figuring that out can actually help rather than being sidetracked or dismissive because you don’t necessarily see yourself in the standard portrayal of that word. I don’t know if anyone else found it interesting or useful, but it really was for me.)

      3. EmKay*

        Hello, hi, other commenter here.

        I was the bookish, brainy, quiet bigger sister to a Popular Jock. I had to set a “good example” for him, but I couldn’t be too outwardly proud of my grades or else I was “bragging”. If I had plans to go out, my curfew was midnight (I was 18 years old). If I stayed in on Friday nights it was “why aren’t you out with your friends, like your brother??”.

        When he got caught smoking cigarettes while our parents were away, ***I*** got yelled at when they returned. He was FOURTEEN.

        ….. there’s a lot of resentment there, lolsob.

      4. GalFromAway*

        I think it’d be a combination of things – some bullying by classmates, never feeling good enough because I could never get the straight A+ report card like the popular, cool kid. No feedback from parents really – some encouragement but I struggled with things anyway. Must be part personality, and other things.

    2. Friendly Ghost*

      I never comment, but I’m doing so now to say that this was my experience as well. I spent some of my formative years knowing that I was clearly the worst student in a very gifted and talented school. I can understand a bit more why in retrospect (I was almost a year younger than many of my classmates, had stress at home, likely undiagnosed severe anxiety, etc), but it really left a mark. I’ll never forget a teacher casually suggesting in front of the class that I was probably mentally disabled and would never be able to do a certain subject.

      This was also the sort of hyper competitive school where I was once one of the only people not to get a birthday invite because said student’s parents thought my grades made me a bad influence. In that sort of environment, it was really easy to internalize the fact that external markers of success were also what reflected your worth as a human being.

      While I did a complete academic 180 after I graduated and went to another school where no one knew my history, I definitely became hypersensitive to criticism. This was largely because I was desperate to avoid reminders of a time when criticism was all I heard. I also equated being liked with not making mistakes.

      What helped me overcome this is by having enough going on in my life that my identity isn’t tied to just one thing. I will be upset if I get a poor review on a work project, but at least I can look forward to my evening foreign language class. You are more than your job/academic record.

      I do think this problem might be more common for Generation Z and Millennials since the route to success was significantly narrower for us than for prior generations.

  4. Jean*

    It has helped me tremendously to reframe my view of negative feedback as “I don’t expect anyone else to be perfect all the time, and no one expects me to be either.” Just taking that beat to tell myself that in my head before reacting has made a world of difference when it comes to staying calm and responding in a rational way.

    1. Flower*

      This is something I tell myself A LOT.

      Especially–and this is going to sound really silly–when it comes to being a few minutes late for something. I barely care when someone else is a few minutes late for something, but I get myself into this headspace of “well I will be at least 2 minutes late at this point and that’s unforgivable, I’m so embarrassed, I may as well not go at all.” I get SO stressed about punctuality. Other things, too, to be sure, but punctuality is one of my absolute worst.

    2. Cj*

      I love that framing, too. I’ve been a team leader/mentor, and when I correct somebody, it’s in a constructive manner, as in here’s how you should have done it, lets get it fixed, and keep it in mind for the future. I know people are going to make mistakes, and don’t hold it against them. But for some reason it is hard to view it the same way when I make a mistake.

    3. OhNo*

      Yes! So much of my personal fight has been centered on extending myself the grace that I so easily extend to others. It was a game changer when I finally started asking myself: “What would your reaction be if someone else did this? Would you give them a break for being human, or hold them to an impossible standard?”

      1. Filosofickle*

        My challenge was I did not easily extend grace to others any more than to myself. My standards were impossible all around. But once I saw this and did made a concerted effort to judge everyone else less, it made it easier to be nice to myself.

    4. NotAnotherManager!*

      Yes, I do something very similar, and also unpacking, okay, what is this person REALLY saying? If they are saying, “Hey, there’s a typo on page five, can you fix it before we publish it?”, that does not mean, “OMG, NAM!, you are such an idiot, how did you not catch that glaring mistake that everyone will see!!! Report to HR for your firing as soon as we hit the deliverable.” as my head likes to interpret it. I also realized it’s be really irritated if people put that kind of meaning/intent on small things I said and that it wasn’t fair to do the same to them.

      My mom was really hard on me, to the point she will admit that she expected me to be an adult from a very young age and wishes she’d lightened up a lot. Coupled with anxiety, this was a recipe for perfectionism, a total inability to take constructive criticism until my mid-20s (thanks to a couple of amazing and patient mentors), and berating myself whenever I made the slightest error. Medication also helps.

  5. The New Wanderer*

    I don’t know if the OP ever responded in the comments originally, but I wondered about the phrase “delivered on an on-going basis over the phone” regarding the feedback. To me, that sounds like maybe there was a *lot* of feedback, and the cumulative effect of a string of negative comments would have a harsh effect on someone even if they weren’t predisposed to be sensitive to criticism.

    This doesn’t affect the overall advice of course, the OP is having to manage a tough physiological reaction (and boy do I know those feelings) and that takes time, practice, and help. But it sounds like the environment they were working in was just that much harder for someone like the OP.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Reminds me of customer service, honestly. Constant negative feedback can be taxing even for people who are used to it.

    2. Baal Like Bocce*

      I had the same thought as well! Learning about RSD was a major push for me to pursue an ADHD screening/diagnosis last year (I’ve had full vasovagal responses to even just perceived criticism before, good fun). Two good places to start for anyone who wants to know more would be the youtube video by How to ADHD and the Black Girl Lost Keys blog.

      I will hide that there’s not a lot of research on RSD so having the description of RSD resonate with you doesn’t mean you have ADHD! We just seem to be the community talking about and exploring what it means the most.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Seems like today is one of those days where there is no bad place to put ADHD resources. I’ll add Dani Donovan, ADHD Comics. Her art simply nails it, and so does her twitter feed.

          1. Loredena Frisealach*

            following her and a few other adult women recently diagnosed (combined with seeing a niece and nephew diagnosed) is what pushed me to realize (at 55!) that I have both ADHD and RSD. And my sister definitely has RSD and my mother ADHD. I know I need to get a therapist and meds and all the outside assistance available from a diagnosis – but just knowing that it’s just how my brain is wired is so helpful/freeing mentally and emotionally!

          2. LC*

            Anytime I suggest ADHD resources, Dani Donovan, the How to ADHD youtube channel, and Black Girl Lost Keys are three of the first four on the list.

            I’d also add Pina (ADHD_Alien on twitter). Both her and Dani Donovan’s art have made me cry, more than once, because holy cow I feel so seen. And they both have a remarkable way to putting things into words/images that I’ve never been able to do myself.

    3. Cj*

      That line struck me, too. It seems odd that a receptionist would be subject to that much critical feedback, so I wonder if she’s actually doing things “wrong”, or if it is more that they are trying to train her in how they would like things handled.

      Our receptionist is awesome, and the amount of knowledge she has about our clients is extremely impressive, but that is built on a couple of decades of working here.

  6. Alex*

    This is one of the letters I hold out hope for an update on every time updates are made. I’m so impressed that they were able to identify the issue and hopeful about the fact that they wanted to change. I hope they’re doing well now, and that therapy helped them build an easier adulthood.

  7. Eldritch Office Worker*

    I’m not saying the LW has anything specific, their reactions seem well explained, but with ADHD there’s a thing called rejection sensitive dysphoria that makes perceived or actual rejection (negative feedback falling under that umbrella) almost unbearable. Therapy is the long term solution in both cases, but even someone who doesn’t have ADHD might find looking into coping mechanisms for that disorder useful, as they are named and easy to search/identify/find people who empathize and can help.

    1. gmg22*

      As someone exploring a long-delayed ADHD screening and having done a lot of research on it of late, this was my immediate thought. I struggle to varying degrees with handling criticism, and right now am on a bit of a downswing in this regard.

      Thinking on the LW’s description of their family of origin, I’m struck by comparing to my own. One parent almost certainly, like me, has undiagnosed ADHD. The other grew up in a family where the hypercritical label definitely applied (and that criticism was often delivered via explosive bursts of temper). I would by no means call my nuclear family unhappy — but we sure weren’t perfect, and I’m realizing that these traits in particular were not a good combo for raising a kid who could easily shake off criticism, take what was useful and move on.

    2. Stay-at-Homesteader*

      I think someone mentioned that on the original thread, which was what led to me recognizing my own ADHD (I’d had a therapist insist that I had it, but he and I were not a good fit and so it never went anywhere). So bless the commentariat here for discussing these things, and Alison for her compassionate answers.

    3. Gipsy Danger*

      Hypersensitivity to criticism is also a primary symptom of Atypical Depression (ask me how I know). I find it helpful to know that my sensitivity is part of my disease and not, you know, just me being oversensitive. Therapy definitely helps, as do a lot of the techniques and resources listed here. This commentariat is pretty amazing.

      1. Just @ me next time*

        I remember when I first saw the symptoms of atypical depression, it was like a lightbulb going off in my head. My official diagnosis at age 18 was rapid cycling bipolar NOS. But now, in my thirties, the bouts of hypomania have almost entirely vanished and I don’t get the same extreme dips into depression, but nearly every day is slogging uphill against fatigue, distraction, hypersensitivity to slightest bit of rejection, porous boundaries (especially with my majorly depressed partner), and behavioural addictions to overeating and skin-picking. I say nearly every day, because every once in a while something good and different happens (like I hang out with friends on Saturday afternoon, or a literary journal accepts one of my poems for publication), and I feel great for a day or two. And then it’s back to the grind.

  8. Teapot Repair Technician*

    LW’s use of the phrase “blood leaving my face” struck home.

    I’ve had that feeling when realizing I’ve made a potentially life-changing or fatal mistake. It’s happened maybe 5 times ever, and that’s more than enough.

    I can’t image having to experience that regularly in everyday life.

    1. Jean (just Jean)*

      Rather than “blood leaving my face” I get a case of “stomach leaving town.” Grateful not to be in health care, public works, or transportation, to list some of the most obvious places for train wrecks (ha).

  9. Dona Florinda*

    I love how Alison’s response was so kind. People usually think that those who can’t take feedback are overly sensitive, but sometimes there are other, deeper reasons.

  10. Anenemous*

    I struggled with the huge amounts of feedback I received when I was a graduate student. It could start to be really emotionally wearing after a while. One thing that helped was to just kind of take the feedback as best I could in the moment and while telling myself that I could emotionally react later. Giving myself space to cry or whatever, even if I knew that wasn’t a “reasonable” reaction in the privacy of my car or home made it easier to react professionally in the moment and then have space to process and work on getting good things out of the feedback later on. Taking feedback well is an enormously good skill to learn. And I second the advice that therapy is invaluable. The more practice you have, the easier it gets. And remember, everyone makes mistakes. Making a mistake doesn’t make you bad, it just makes you human.

    1. Filosofickle*

      When I was in grad school, one of our instructors taught us a method that works really well for me, and that’s to visualize the other person’s words landing in the empty space between you and them. When the words land in front of you, they are not on you or drowning you. They are separate from you. Later, you can “look” at the words. Walk around them. Take them in. See them objectively. Then react. This serves a couple of purposes. One, to depersonalize and avoid overwhelm in the moment. And, two, give you the opportunity to objectively evaluate the feedback and decide what, if any of it, needs to be internalized. Because not everything others say needs to become yours.

      1. BigHairNoHeart*

        Love this! I’m absolutely going to do this the next time I’m processing feedback. Thanks for sharing!

    2. Flower*

      Oddly enough, grad school was the best thing for me in terms of separating my self-worth from the quality of my work (despite the fact that grad school culture drove my depression to… Really bad depths that led to mastering out and taking more than 1 year off work).

      Something about the feeling of constantly being wrong and being expected to be constantly wrong, and yet having those same professors praise my work/intelligence/etc, really drove home for me that part of this is being wrong and making mistakes. And that that’s okay. Really helped, actually, in terms of just accepting feedback on my work as *feedback on my work* and easily fixable, rather than on me as a person that I couldn’t fix.

      (The main detrimental thing grad school heightened in me was a feeling of needing to constantly be productive, but that’s a different discussion.)

      1. Flower*

        The extent of help I can offer to other though is just to do your best to see you and your work as separate entities. Your work can have flaws that come from human error or from just not having learned better yet… And that says nothing about you as a person, because your work is separate from who you are
        Be proud of good work and try to do good work, of course, but criticism of your work is not criticism of you. You’re supposed to be wrong and make mistakes. That’s how you learn.

      2. kitryan*

        I hear this- in addition to the exact same feeling of constantly receiving criticism that didn’t mean the work overall was bad or that I was bad as a person or as a student or as a professional in training, I had a *big* fail moment in my first year of grad school that really brought me up short. I learned a lot from that, how to be more proactive about communicating what and how I was doing with work, rather than operating all on my own, how to ask for help or clarification when I was stuck and how to not turn whether I did well on a project into a referendum on myself and my value as a person. I was asked if I really wanted to be in the program and part of making that decision was to really internalize that whatever choice I made, I was still a person and had value.
        I ended up staying in the program and actually doing really well. In my third and final year, I was assigned a project at the last minute because of unforeseen circumstances requiring a stronger leader for the job and being told that I was the natural choice for it due to my good work/talent and particularly my reliability and organization, that they were sure I could handle it, after that disastrous part of year 1 was amazing. It really drove home that a failure, even a big one, wasn’t the end of the world.

  11. A Kate*

    I know this is old, but just sharing my favorite “accepting criticism” advice, which came from the creative writing workshops I took in college. When you were up for getting your work critiqued, the rule was that you had to be completely silent during the critiquing time. You could take notes, and then at the end, you were allowed to ask questions (this is critical–it had to be questions, not defenses or pontifications or explanations of what your readers missed or didn’t understand). Working within this framework was really hard at first, especially with something as personal as fiction or poetry writing! It’s easy to feel super defensive, but the notion that you had to just sit and listen without talking for a while essentially forced you to wait out that initial feeling, and eventually transition from your emotional lizard brain to your logical, intellectual one (i.e., the part of your brain you WANT responding to someone, generally speaking).

    You can’t always predict when you’re going to have a criticism “session” in real life, of course, but the fundamental technique–delay responding until your initial emotions subside–can always be applied. Delay immediate responses by:
    A. taking a deep breath. I promise it takes less time than it feels like it does
    B. Start with a rote response. I often use “thank you for flagging this” or similar. If you have a rote, appropriate response on hand, you don’t have to worry about the added panic of not knowing what to say or blurting out something wrong
    C. Ask for clarification. Even if it’s just to buy time, “Can you show me how to do this best?”; “Is there a place I can look for good examples of this?” or similar will generally be received well by the person doing the critique.

    The other thing I’d suggest is just to remind yourself over and over: This is about the work. I am not my work, and I am capable of growth. The truth is, nobody actually expects anyone to magically get things right without being taught (if they do, it’s unreasonable!), and reminding yourself that you are capable of learning and committed to it can go a long way.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I have a habit of responding to criticism with a slow nod that I think – hope – indicates I hear them and I’m processing. That “deep breath” moment to keep yourself from just reacting is so huge.

    2. Ama*

      Honestly one of the most useful things about getting a creative writing degree for me was the training it gave me in hearing and responding to feedback. I’d add to your excellent post that one of the important things I learned was that I didn’t have to implement all of the feedback I received — I needed to respond to it politely in the moment, but if I thought about it and realized I didn’t agree that a particular issue was a problem, I didn’t have to take that advice.

      Working in nonprofits it has been amazingly useful to be able to quickly and dispassionately separate insightful, actionable feedback from feedback that was based in one person’s unusual personal preferences, a complete misunderstanding of the situation, and/or unrealistic expectations.

      1. A Kate*

        Definitely! Especially when criticism comes from a peer (or even a client), just because someone has an opinion doesn’t mean you have to take it on board. Even when information comes from your superiors, I’ve often found the reasonable ones are open to collaborating with you on HOW something gets done (depending on context, of course. If they say “we answer phones by saying ‘Welcome to Llamacorp, have a llamarific day!’ you’re PROBABLY not going to get them to shift on that to ‘Hello, Llamacorp, this is Wakeen,’ much as I’d wish you could).

    3. Tinker*

      I do basically this same thing as well!

      For me, it comes from my martial arts background where you get a lot of practice at receiving lots of small pieces of feedback in a time-pressured environment. I decided at some point that my default response to such corrections, regardless of my opinion of them, was a cheerful “thank you”.

      An interesting bit about the “regardless of my opinion” bit is that I then also got into the habit of not constructing my inner reaction to the criticism until after I had responded as above, which meant that by the time I did do that thinking I had already set the tone of my reaction to something in the vicinity of “yay, someone has given me the gift of information!” and the natural tendency then is to continue in that way.

      I also do think, in terms of principles:

      — It’s about the work, and generally “the work” is about more than just the current level of quality — the point is whether the work does what it needs to, and if it doesn’t and I fix it with someone else’s help that’s a perfectly valid way of getting the desired end.
      — Whatever I’ve done thus far is, for better or worse, already a fact. Describing it or characterizing it doesn’t change anything about what I’ve already done, so therefore it doesn’t change its meaning — anything I know I did wrong is still wrong, and anything I didn’t know was still the best choice given my knowledge at the time.

      1. A Kate*

        I love both your final principles. I think in terms of “what the work needs” all the time now in my job in editorial, and go out of my way to explain to any new hires that all my instruction/advice/critiques are always and forever in service of the work, and NEVER about personal stuff. Focusing on what a given project needs is also a great way for me to separate my own ego/preferences from what needs to be done, and is a good guiding star.

    4. Jay*

      This is one of the reasons I am grateful for my daughter’s years of high-level dance training. She learned to seek out and accept feedback – she knew that if the teacher wasn’t giving her feedback, the teacher didn’t think she was any good (“they don’t want to waste their time”). This made it much easier to teach her to drive, for one thing, and has also helped her in college and in her internships. I trust it will carry into her work life when she gets there next summer!

    5. Bezel Bub*

      People definitely do this more with subjective type work such as marketing, writing, and design and it can be hard not to take it personal.

      I just wanted to say though that in the workplace (not nearly as much with academic type work) there are a whole lot of people, including managers, who like to criticize solely for the sake of criticizing someone and not to provide any real actionable reason or feedback. It’s hard to read between the lines, but work people may criticize for sake of advancing their own agendas, to shift issues away from themselves, or purely to exercise their power over others. After a while, you can listen and understand the differences between those who are giving honest feedback (even if you don’t agree with it) and those who seem to derive enjoyment from being given a chance to criticize.

      It’s always a joke my partner and I have: You’re the best employee in the world until the company’s in trouble. Suddenly, you’re the worst employee in the world.

      As an example of above, I worked for a horrible boss who would terribly criticize the work of every vendor he ever worked with. He would create many rounds of changes, claiming they didn’t get it, or they weren’t very good, etc. But basically, he did this so he would rack up lots of hours and then he would refuse to pay the vendor or demand a discount based on how “bad” the work was.

      1. A Kate*

        I’ve been lucky not to work in any places with people like that, but…I don’t think there are great coping mechanisms for dealing with it, beyond “find somewhere else to work as quickly as you can.” Most people would not be ok with that kind of “critique,” but everything I note in my reply is for reasonable, expected correction and feedback, not toxic environments.

        Some people can handle the politicking and backbiting and thrive in that environment; the rest of us would be miserable; people like the LW would never make it (and that’s no diss–I don’t think there’s any inherent glory in being able to play games like that).

  12. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

    On occasion I kind of appreciate how being a mediocre student and kid who definitely deserved the criticism she got at home might have been helpful for me once I became an adult. In a weird way, being bad at many things seems to have made me good at one thing: taking correction/criticism

  13. Random Internet Stranger*

    Me, too, OP. Me, too.

    I had a somewhat traumatic upbringing, so this sentence screamed to me, “you grew up in a home where you faced inappropriate levels of judgment and disappointment over minor things, and that wired you to experience it as a very big deal when you hear feedback that isn’t positive.”

    To make matters worse, I chose a job that often leads people to be mean to me (I advocate for affordable housing).

    Am I getting better? Kind of! Therapy is helping. Going no contact with my critical parent helped. Surrounding myself with empathetic, compassionate, supportive people helps a lot. But rewiring your brain is hard! It’ll take time and constant work.

    At work, having a support system of folks in similar roles to me is EVERYTHING. But this is specific to the fact that my job puts me in the line of fire (you might not think so, but affordable housing makes some people really ugly).

  14. Rachel*

    I feel like I personally struggle so much with criticism not because I disagree with it, but because I feel so terrible about making a mistake. I really hate the idea that I could be causing other people problems with my poor performance, so I get stuck there. I am disappointed in myself and have a hard time not letting that disappointment come through emotionally.

    I have also had occasions where I have tried to provide explanations for whatever led to the problem, but I have gotten feedback that this comes across as defensive. My goal in providing an explanation is to provide some context that might point to solutions for the problem, like, “Oh, you got the wrong numbers because you used Spreadsheet X? You really should be using Spreadsheet Y for that information.” Is there any good way to frame explanations for mistakes or poor performance that don’t come across as defensiveness, or is it better to just keep the rationale to myself and try to make whatever improvements are warranted?

    1. kiki*

      I struggle with this too and would love to hear other folks’ input. I feel like I either try to give some sort of explanation and it comes across as defensive or I take the criticism without any explanation and it leads to future issues– usually there was a reason I was doing things the way I was so a root issue doesn’t get addressed.

      1. Pikachu*

        It kind of depends on the mistake, but I try to say something like, “Oh, I understand what you mean. I was coming at it thinking X and Y would lead to Z, but now that A and B are in the picture, I can see how that missed the mark. Thanks for clearing that up. So moving forward I’ll be sure to add in A and B. Anything else you can think of that might help?”

        You are not going to come off as defensive if you accept feedback gracefully, vocalize how you will use that feedback to do it better, and ask for even more feedback in that moment to ensure you are covering all the bases.

        1. Mannequin*

          I’ve still worked with/been around people who would hear that and say “I don’t want to hear any excuses”

          But a reason is not an excuse and as manager, I absolutely did want to know the thought process behind the mistake, so I could know if this was a one off I didn’t have to worry about happening again, or if there’s still a potential for similar issues in the future.

    2. Jean (just Jean)*

      Tried to respond to you but — nesting fail — my comment appears on its own below. But yes, me too.

    3. kitryan*

      I’ve been on both sides of the ‘explaining/defensive’ issue. What works for me, on either side, is to address what might *really* help in future.
      How this breaks down is that as the recipient of feedback, if I was using the wrong data and I’m told that I should use Spreadsheet Y, I just say something like, ‘I didn’t realize, I’ll do that going forward.’ I don’t go into more about how someone told me to use Sheet X or how I don’t usually make that sort of error or anything else. Then, and this is key, I do it the right way going forward. Showing that I took the info and did it correctly after the note was given is more important than explaining why I hadn’t understood it initially. And as a manager, I don’t want to hear all about how someone said something or how they did it at the last place or that the names of the sheets were confusing, or whatever the reason is, as long as it’s done right from now on. That means more to me than figuring out that it ‘wasn’t their fault’ or anything like that.
      Now, if someone else is *consistently* giving you incorrect info or if the instructions are confusing, that would warrant further dialogue, but it should stay focused on how to make sure you understand what to do going forward. If the task is still confusing, asking if they’ll watch you do it next time to see where you’re going wrong might be good, or saying the instructions back to them to see if you got it right, is also something that should be fine and not defensive- ‘oh, let me see if I have it right – first I check the chart, then I…’ .
      There are just so many times that misunderstandings or whatever can occur, that as a supervisor, having to postmortem everything every time you give someone a note can be exhausting. And as an employee receiving feedback, I’ve learned that (in a good workplace) it’s better for my reputation to say ‘oh, I’m sorry, that was a mistake/I didn’t realize, I’ll do X instead from now on’ and then to *do that* rather than to defend everything.
      I hope this is helpful, I am personally a bit rejection-sensitive and an over achiever so it’s really hard for me to hear criticism or be ‘at fault’ but being a trainer/team lead and getting a lot of explanations that are just a waste of time when all I’m really interested in is whether it’ll be fixed and/or done right next time has really helped me stop being overly concerned with providing explanations for minor notes when *I* receive corrections or feedback, and just moving forward and trusting that doing better next time and showing overall competence will do more for my reputation than litigating one specific criticism.

  15. hbc*

    It’s a bit of a tangent, but I would hope that the OP and people like her know that this is not a terrible reaction to criticism. Not great, definitely would not want to feel that way, but there are many, many successful people who react far worse. As long as you’re taking in the feedback and giving some sort of indication that you plan to do better, you’re above at the minimum for Feedback Receptivity, and way ahead of the Deniers, Stone Walls, and Kneejerk Arguers.

  16. Katie Porter's Whiteboard*

    LW sounds like me from a few years ago! Not only was I terrified of negative feedback, but I also spent my days in fear that every small error indicated bigger errors that I was missing. Here’s what I did and I’m doing so much better now:

    1. Remind myself over and over again that small errors (even large errors) don’t make me a bad professional. And even if I weren’t suited for my job (which I am), it wouldn’t mean that I’m a bad person. An error is not a failure and a failure doesn’t make me any less of a person.

    2. Therapy worked wonders. I learned to trust myself and stop jumping to worst-case scenarios.

    3. I talked with my manager and, without telling her about my own issues, simply asked that she bring concerns to me as they arose. This way, I could stop being afraid that she was ‘sitting’ on issues and letting them build up. A previous manager did that and I now see that it left scars.

    4. I learned to call my physical responses for what they were, anxiety attacks. I worked to train myself to say “This is what my body is doing but I’m fine. This will be over soon and then I’ll get on with whatever is going on.”

    5. I talked about my fears with some trusted friends. They were supportive and helped me release my work stress by letting out that valve.

    6. I recorded any and all praise! It was so easy to ignore the positive comments as soon as a negative one came up but remembering the nice things that were said helped me refocus away from my “I am the worst” thought spiral.

    7. Sleep, eat, and hydrate. Looking after myself physically was so important and even now I know that I’m more likely to struggle if I haven’t eaten or had enough water.

    1. Skyglider*

      I love this list. I’m going to print it off so I can remind myself of these things. Thanks for sharing it <3

  17. Cat Lady*

    As someone who used to be extremely sensitive to feedback (and honestly still has some anxiety around it, but it’s getting better!) I feel OP’s pain. The rejection I experienced as a kid came from my peers, not my family (thank goodness), but it still left emotional scars. It’s a really tough thing to deal with, especially since it can lead people to see you as prideful or intentionally difficult.

    I hope OP’s doing better now and wish them all the best!

  18. Something Pithy*

    Allison is spot on here. Speaking as a psychotherapist myself, I really appreciate the thoughtfulness and sensitivity of this response. Hope the OP is doing a bit better now!

  19. AnonToday*

    *deep sigh*
    I understand the OP very well in this – I come from a family that basically turned us children in trained monkeys. Think Jackson Five, where the kids were beaten to go on stage and perform.

    For example, we kids were beaten for not knowing multiplication tables – and afterwards had to recite them while crying, no sobbing permitted. And on and on and on… perfect grades and no knowledge on how to deal with criticism without panicking.
    Because we had learned *any criticism* meant the next violence was minutes or seconds away.

    It took me years of therapy and no contact with “family” to get to a somewhat better place.
    But I did, and I know the OP can get there, too.
    All the best, OP, and anybody else who feels a bell ring here. We believe in you.

  20. Jean (just Jean)*

    Validation coming up:

    >I really hate the idea that I could be causing other people problems with my poor performance, so I get stuck there.
    Oh yes. I know this feeling. I think the antidote is telling ourselves that people may appreciate our concern for their well-being but the best way to ensure their on-the-job happiness and overall good functioning is to do our own jobs correctly & efficiently.

    >My goal in providing an explanation is to provide some context that might point to solutions for the problem…
    Most people want to identify problems and solve them, rather than take time to understand how the problem arose. Not always–sometimes people or organizations need to take a wider-picture look–but usually there’s not a deep interest in how one particular worker got derailed.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      Oh yes. I know this feeling. I think the antidote is telling ourselves that people may appreciate our concern for their well-being but the best way to ensure their on-the-job happiness and overall good functioning is to do our own jobs correctly & efficiently.

      I agree, and I would add that if you do everything in your power to prepare for your absence (coverage notes, documentation, standard procedures, etc), it’s a weight off your shoulders that whomever is covering for you has an advantage over a stranger and you’re more likely to be returning to work having been done closer to the way you’d have done it.

  21. Web of Pies*

    I hope the LW is doing better now!

    I was/am also an overachiever who struggled with criticism and also not being amazing at new things I try right away. With work, I found it VERY helpful to reframe critical feedback away from “you did X wrong” and to “you executed X based on the information you had at the time, which was incomplete, so I’m now telling you the info you need to do X correctly next time.”

    That’s really the root of most mistakes/failures anyway; you made a decision based on incorrect or incomplete information. It’s not a personal failing to have a deficit of information, and a LOT of the time, people at work just forget they know things you don’t and don’t think to tell you until they see the error or omission in your work.

    The overachiever in me LOVES this reframe, because the feedback allows me to become more of an expert and better at what I do.

    1. Caboose*

      I do this too! I still have the visceral physical feeling of dread and I’m frequently mentally out of sorts for the whole day, but having the framing that the criticism is meant to help me improve in the future really helps me to behave more professionally in the moment.

    2. kitryan*

      Also, as a trainer, I don’t expect that anyone I’m instructing will remember *everything* I’ve told them. There are a lot of fiddly rules and exceptions and I figure that anyone I’m instructing will start off getting only a percentage of what I tell them locked down, then how things go at first will illuminate what I missed telling them, what I didn’t explain well, and what they didn’t understand (for whatever reason), and then I can fill in and clarify as needed.

    3. GalFromAway*

      Love the reframing reminder. That takes work when your inner critic keeps defaulting to the “You did that wrong, idiot!” approach, but it is so helpful.

  22. Wolfie*

    I know this is an old post, but for anyone new reading today and checking out the comments, who relates to the LW, check out Detox Your Thoughts: Quit Negative Self-Talk for Good and Discover the Life You’ve Always Wanted. I learned about it on this very blog a few months ago and ordered it. I’m about a third of the way through, and I think it’s really good.

  23. Purple Cat*

    Just a quick +1 to all. And how comforting and yet thoroughly depressing it is there are so many of us that see ourselves in the LW :(

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