Having Borderline Personality Disorder, for me, often means coping with emotions that show up more intensely than they may for others (especially sadness and anger and feelings that come up with loneliness and perceived rejection or abandonment). This has been a major component of my walk. Specifically, learning to cope with criticism has been a huge challenge for me for many years, as it is for many emotionally sensitive people.
- Sometimes criticism is constructive. Being emotionally sensitive may mean that our initial reaction is to become alarmed or upset by criticism, seeing it as an attack on who or as rejection. We can usually tell the intention behind the critical remark given the context in which it is delivered. Sometimes we also need to ask for further clarification.
- Check your sensitivity level. Might you be reading more into the critique because you are feeling particularly vulnerable for other reasons? (I personally received some very upsetting, hugely triggering information about a friend of the family yesterday, and I also felt a little bit triggered by a friend’s story, though ultimately I found it healing and helpful. I was in a space to receive things from an even more sensitive perspective than usual when I opened that message.)
- Check intentions when you can. When criticism is clearly given to make you feel bad or judge you, you can often notice other messages in the person’s communication that can help you see that the criticism is less about you and more about the other person. They may be hurting, lacking, feeling jealous, or seeking approval or validation. If you pick up on this, try being a little bit kind, but also set up a boundary that you do not accept being treated badly when someone else is feeling badly about themselves.
- Use your DBT skills to cope with the distress. Rather than making matter worse, turn to your Distress Tolerance and Self-Soothing skills to care for yourself until the intensity of your reaction diminishes. The intense emotions and reactions that can come up with receiving criticism WILL pass. No matter how intense they feel right now, I’ve found it’s better to wait a bit before taking any action, as we often regret behaviors that we act out in the heat of the moment and as a reaction to feeling hurt or attacked.