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  • To be criticised is never pleasant. It is rarely a good day when we have to read an

  • unflattering social media post about ourselves, when we are given harsh feedback on a project

  • or hear that we are being gossiped about by strangers.

  • However, the question of how much criticism needs to hurt depends on something which has

  • nothing to do with the specific attack we happen to face: how much we happen to like

  • ourselves.

  • The degree to which we buckle in the wake of negative comments reflects how we, deep

  • down, feel about ourselves. When we carry within us a sufficient ballast of love, criticism

  • need never be very much more than niggling. We can overcome it by dinner time - or at

  • least the end of the week. We can take on board with relative good humour that we are

  • not necessarily loved by everyone, that not everything we do is perfect and that there

  • may be one or two outright enemies, who would prefer us dead - even while most people tolerate

  • us easily enough. There need be nothing surprising or terrifying in being doubted by a few others.

  • But for the more vulnerable ones among us, there is no option but to experience criticism

  • as an assault on our very right to exist. We don't hear that we are being mildly upbraided

  • for an aspect of our work; we at once feel that we are being told to disappear. It isn't

  • just one or two people who are mocking us, the whole world is apparently thinking only

  • of how ridiculous we are. We will never get past this moment of negative assessment; the

  • hatred will never end. It's a catastrophe.

  • If criticism from outside proves devastating, it is because it so readily joins forces with

  • an infinitely more strident and more aggressive form of criticism that has long existed inside

  • of us. We are already struggling so hard to tolerate ourselves against inner voices that

  • confidently assert how undeserving, ugly and devious we are, that there is no room left

  • for us to take on further reminders of our awfulness. The key of present criticism has

  • inserted itself into a lock of historic hatred - and let loose an unmasterable surge of self-loathing.

  • When we are suffering, we should remember that we aren't exceptionally weak; we almost

  • certainly had a far worse childhood than the average person.

  • Once upon a time, we were probably humiliated and shamed without being soothed, held or

  • reassured, and this is why we now take current criticism so much to heart. We don't know

  • how to defend ourselves against our enemies because we have never been deeply appreciated.

  • We already hate ourselves so much more than our worst enemies ever will. A part of us

  • is responding to adult challenges with the vulnerability of a child who faced disdain

  • on a scale they couldn't master. The present challenge feels like a catastrophe because

  • catastrophe is precisely what was once endured.

  • We may not easily be able to stop feeling unhappy about criticism, but at least we can

  • change what we feel unhappy about. Our vulnerability need not be - as we initially, instinctively

  • think - a sign that we are actively awful. It is evidence that we were, long ago, denied

  • the sort of love that we would have needed in order to remain more steadily and generously

  • on our own side at moments of difficulty.

To be criticised is never pleasant. It is rarely a good day when we have to read an

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