Why People Are Overly Critical and How To Deal With Them
They’re never impressed, constantly disappointed in others and sets unattainable expectations.
Nothing is good enough
I am guilty of being overly critical. It’s an unfortunate behaviour of recovering perfectionists.
I’ve been that toxic asshole who was constantly ragging on others, pointing out their weaknesses and offering “solutions” to non-existent problems.
I was always comparing…apples to oranges to bananas to kiwis.
I looked for flaws before beauty. I looked for what went wrong before what went right. I’d complain and complain and complain about how horrible people were. There wasn’t any good left in the world and there was never enough for everyone. Scarcity dominated my paradigm. I believed good things only happened to people who paid a price.
When someone was successful, I’d assume they worked too hard and criticized them for having no life.
When someone was beautiful, I’d assume they were vacant and criticized them for being vain.
When someone was well off, I’d assume it was handed to them and criticized them for being entitled.
When someone was loved and has close relationships, I’d stalk and obsess about them to find flaws in their character to criticize.
During the most bitter time of my life, I wasn’t aware I was doing this. However, through a rocky journey of healing, learning to love myself and accepting who I am with compassion, I discovered an honest truth about humans:
Those who are hard on others are hardest on themselves.
The key to dealing with overly critical people
It’s hard to deal with people who are overly critical. We are our own worst critics already. We know our flaws better than anyone else. It can be incredibly toxic to be around someone who constantly points those out.
Even if you have a sheer amount of self-esteem, overly-critical people can still bring you down.
So if you can, I would limit contact and eventually end the relationship with them if their behaviour doesn’t improve.
However, there are situations where you can’t avoid them (like they’re your parents and you live with them or a troll on the Internet).
The key to dealing with overly critical people is to understand why they are the way they are. Imagine you had their voice in your head all day, every day. That’s how they live their life.
Projecting their insecurities
Overly critical people criticize others to validate their own insecurities and to reaffirm the negative perception they have of themselves (and the world).
It’s like the parent who picks on their kid’s physical appearance, constantly aware of how their child looks, barking at them to fix their glasses, to wipe their mouth, to comb their hair, to lose weight, to have better skin, to wear nice clothes…
Deep down inside, the parent is incredibly insecure with their own physical appearance and they are projecting their self-esteem issues onto their child.
Perhaps others made fun of their appearance when they were a child?
Perhaps physical appearance was highly valued when they were growing up and their parents put a lot of emphasis on that?
Perhaps they were severely disciplined every time they looked unkempt?
They continually do this even when the child is grown.
If the parent is unable to curb their criticism, the child suffers, raised in an environment that promotes self-criticism and poor self-esteem.
And if that grown child isn’t able to change their negative mindset and learn to treat themselves with love and compassion, they will become overly critical, putting themselves and others down as a way to justify and normalize their own self-doubt.
Rinse and repeat when they become parents.
Projecting their fears and bad decisions
Overly critical people have a “one size fits all” mindset. They have jade-coloured glasses one, judging the world solely based on their own life experiences. If this happened to me, it will happen to everyone else.
It’s like that “friend” or family member who talks down to you about your life decisions.
They criticize you because they’re projecting their greatest fears. They are too afraid to make a decision.
Or they criticize you because they’re projecting a bad decision they’ve made in the past.
They criticize your occupation. Think of their situation:
Maybe they hate their jobs and are too scared to quit?
Or they’ve worked their entire life in a job they despised and regret not leaving it.
Or they changed jobs once and they were let go. They’ve never been able to find a better job and develop the self-assurance that they can.
They criticize who you’re dating. Think of their situation:
Maybe they want to date but they’re too scared to put themselves out there?
Or they dated someone similar and had their heartbroken.
Or they’re unhappy in their current relationship and don’t want to leave them because they’re afraid of being alone.
They criticize how you parent. Think of their situation:
Maybe they had horrible parents and they’re deeply afraid of becoming them?
Or they think they’re horrible parents and are worried that you’ll make the same mistakes as them.
Bottom line: Empathize with your critics so you don’t take it personally
Empathy isn’t putting yourself in their situation and judging them based on your paradigm. It’s appreciating where they’ve come from, taking their context into consideration and thoroughly understanding why they say and do the things they say and do.
Empathizing with overly critical people depersonalizes their criticism (It’s not actually about you), defusing the tension you feel and redirecting your focus to the truth behind their words (It’s actually about them).
Remove yourself from their cynical influence. Build your self-esteem up and be confident in who you are. Toxicity can be contagious so don’t let their negative mindset affect how you see the world.