Sometimes your most brutal critics can be the people you love. Your parent, siblings, spouse, children-you know, the people who should be supporting you, right? Instead, you get the most unvarnished, unsweetened criticism about your clothes, your choice in partners, your job. Usually, in front of the rest of the family. So, what can you do when it feels like you’re putting yourself in front of a firing squad over family dinner?
Here are five things you can do to survive family criticism:
1 – Reframe Criticism as Caring
It can help to change your perspective on your family’s criticism. Maybe they don’t think you’re a terrible person or a failure. Perhaps they care enough about you to want the best for you. Sometimes worries or concern can come out as criticism even if the person didn’t mean it that way. Reframe those hurtful words as a sign that your family member really cares about you.
2 – Talk About the Effect of Criticism on You
Not all caring feels warm and fuzzy. Your mom probably has no idea that it hurts when she calls out your life choices or criticizes your own parenting. Sometimes the best thing you can do is calmly tell the other person how their criticism makes you feel. Say you value their advice, but perhaps they could be more positive and helpful in the way they deliver it. Ask for concrete suggestions and see how you can work together.
3 – Remind Them About Unconditional Love
Families are supposed to love each other no matter what, but sometimes people forget that. They think it doesn’t matter how they talk to their child or their sibling, and the niceties of politeness fall by the wayside. Remind your critic that love is unconditional, and that harsh criticism is not loving.
4 – Set Clear Boundaries
Sometimes parents forget their grown-up children are adults, not kids anymore. Adults make their own mistakes and take responsibility for their actions and life decisions. Usually, they don’t need the guidance or advice from their parents unless they ask for it.
Maybe your folks need a gentle reminder that you’re independent and grown-up now. Be clear about your boundaries and that whatever your circumstances, your job, house, partner, or debts are your choices, and you will have to deal with the consequences.
5 – Step Away from Negativity
Ultimately, it’s your choice. You don’t have to meekly take your family’s criticism. You can choose to take on their negativity or not. Loving families accept everyone for who they are. If you aren’t getting the respect you deserve, even after implementing the steps above, maybe it’s best to limit how much time you spend with your family critics.