It’s Christmas Day and dinner is about to be served; It’s one of the only days in the year where both, your family and your husband’s get together.
Sounds great! The truth is, however, that you are making a big effort to be nice to your mother-in-law who is a sharp thorn in your side. She still hates you for having “stolen” her little “angel”, and her penetrating eyes glare at you constantly.
You can actually handle her piercing eyes pretty well, but the fact that she doesn’t miss even the slightest opportunity to criticize you is nerve wracking.
The attacks come from all directions and range from sarcastic remarks about how much weight you’ve gained, to nasty comments about how poorly you’re raising her grandchildren.
And let’s not forget how she constantly compares you to all her friend’s daughters-in-law who, according to your dear hubby’s mom, are the “perfect” wives and mothers.
Sadly, your mother-in-law’s criticism will always be a part of your life. There is simply just no pleasing that woman!
The problem is, unfortunately, that you always feel demoralized whenever she -or someone else- criticizes you, and your defense mechanism kicks into gear!
Ironically, you immediately start knit-picking the person who criticizes you as if you were a “hangry” wild lion that recently escaped being locked up in a tiny cage for weeks.
Or you may react in an entirely different manner, and fall into slight depression as you feel your world crumbling beneath your feet.
So, one word of disapproval aimed in your direction is enough to ruin your entire day!
What measures can you take to survive criticism?
1) Identify and Avoid Socializing with Negative People.
Why surround yourself with people that constantly criticize, compare, and complain about everything and everyone?
Simply avoid or reduce contact with such people.
But what do you do when you have no choice as to whom you associate with?
What if the person that is always disrespecting you is your boss, your spouse, your mother-in-law, your teenage daughter, or your own mother?
What can you do when your own loved ones make you feel bad with their criticism?
Sure, you can avoid socializing with negative people sometimes, but you can’t simply dismiss everyone in your life that causes you emotional pain, right?
So, when you have to spend time with these people don’t allow their words to hurt you by not believing everything they say!
2) Stop Expecting People to Change
In a perfect world, you would be able to either convince others to change their “evil” ways and/or change any unwanted negativity. They should realize how wrong they are, apologize, and suddenly become respectful, positive and kind. Instead of criticizing you, they should appreciate you!
Unfortunately, such expectations of them changing is hoping for Utopia. The reality is that most people won’t change.
And expecting someone to change so that you feel better will only cause you suffering.
It is like betting your life savings at a blackjack table. Would you risk it? We all know that casinos always come out ahead in the end, so betting against such odds is not a smart move.
3) Be the Change
The only emotionally intelligent move is to bet on yourself.
You are the only person that you can change. You are the only one that can control your own thoughts and emotions, and when you change your way of seeing the situation, the whole situation changes!
Seek deep inside your heart for a little understanding and compassion for those that attack you. I know that what I’m suggesting is very difficult to do, but I promise that this “simple” piece of advice is the secret to surviving criticism.
Think about it carefully. Let’s say that your mother-in-law is criticizing everything you do. You respond by criticizing her for criticizing you, making you exactly like her!
4) Seek First to Understand
Instead of reacting negatively to your mother-in-law’s criticism, try putting yourself in her shoes. What is she hoping to gain by criticizing you?
- Attention? Is she lonely?
- Security? Is she afraid that your husband loves you more than he loves her?
- Acceptance? Is she criticizing you because she wants your or someone else’s approval?
- Respect? Is she feeling that her opinion is not important to you?
The answer may be unknown to you!
But by trying to understand your mother-in-law and by showing her some compassion, you’ll at least get a new perspective on her behavior and won’t take her words so personally. In other words, her criticism won’t affect you as much.
5) Respond with Love
Again, the secret to surviving criticism is not in trying to change others, but in changing yourself. Only you have the power to change how you interpret each situation. Nobody, no matter how strong their criticism of you, can control the way you think and feel.
So, next time someone criticizes you, ask yourself what a Master like Jesus/Gandhi/Buddha, etc. would do in such situation.
These masters all had a common question: “What would LOVE do?”
So, when you are criticized, respond with LOVE, not criticism. No matter how difficult it may be, you too can be a Master if you control your thoughts and emotions.
You can also SPEAK UP with the person that is criticizing you about the way you feel so that you can set healthy boundaries regarding their behavior towards you (never allow any kind of abuse towards you!).
Or if, at the very least, you’d like your partner to understand how you feel so that he can be more supportive of you while you spend time with his mom, but you just don’t know how to approach the subject with him, here are 10 tips that will help you to start a difficult conversation.
Understanding criticism, choosing how to respond to it, setting boundaries, and expressing yourself will take some work on your part, but you can do this!