I have a critical dad who is critical of everything including me. Being the highly sensitive child that I am, I used to feel really hurt by his comments. But over the years, I learn how to manage his criticisms and improve our relationship.
Before I go any further, I would like to point out that:
Not all critical parents are unloving.
Your parents might love you dearly, but they can’t stop criticising you. Like my dad, he always criticises us because he believes that criticisms would help us. I used to think he didn’t love me and this created an obstacle between us. So I urge you to keep an open mind about your parents and not judge them as bad, mean, or toxic yet until you understand where they are coming from.
If you are reading this, you probably have low self-esteem or feel unworthy about yourself, so let’s understand the side-effects of having critical parents on our self-esteem first.
Know what they criticise you for and avoid the “firing range”.
There are different types of critical parent. Your parent can be a mixture of two or more of the following types:
- Controlling parents: They criticise you because they want to have control over your choices. For example, they might criticise your date or your job to make you feel bad about your choices, so as to influence you to choose something else they want.
- Narcissistic parents: They criticize you because they feel threatened by your success and independence. But at the same time, if they see you as an extension of themselves, they might find faults in you too when you don’t do well.
- Emotionally abusive parents: They call you names, they belittle you, and they swear at you because you reminded them of somebody else. These parents usually have some psychological problems or disorder and have a bad or abusive childhood.
- Anxious parents: They are overly-protective and they criticize you because they are afraid that you make mistakes. They show their care by nagging at you constantly.
- Negative parents: They are pessimistic and have a negative view of life. They are sceptical of everything and criticise everything including you.
These tips will help you:
1. Stop seeking your parents’ approval.
Are you still looking for your dad’s or mom’s approval? If yes, this might be the reason why you are still getting criticized by your parents all the time.
Seeking approval from others means you are asking them for opinions and permission to do something. It means wanting to be accepted. But it also means there’s a chance of being rejected. Which child doesn’t want to be approved by their parent and feel accepted? But we are adults now, we are responsible for most if not all of our life choices.
As children, our survival depends on our parents. If we don’t get approved by our parents, we risk not able to survive on our own. This is not the case now, but most of us still seek approval from our parents for everything ranging from our partners to our jobs to our purchases.
2. Self-approval is more important than your parents’ approval.
Even if your parents disagree with your choices, what’s stopping you from moving ahead? The reason why their disapproval has so much emotional charge on you is that you think they are still in control of you. But no, they don’t. If you don’t want to get disapproved by your parents, then don’t ask for their opinions, especially if you have controlling parents. You just give them the opportunities to criticize you.
Don’t expect your parents will give you the approval and recognition you want so badly someday. This might sound a bit disheartening, but having an expectation like this is going to disappoint you all the time. Instead, always give yourself the approval first. Let your parents’ approval be a bonus and not something you seek.
3. Don’t believe their criticisms.
What our parents say aren’t the truth. They learn it from someone else, most likely from our grandparents. So don’t trust their criticisms. In fact, don’t believe your own thoughts too. You inner critic is also influenced by your parents.
How do you know if you believe what your parents say? You know when you reacted to it. If someone were to tell you that you are a green monster, you don’t have any feelings for it because you know you are not a green monster. But if your parents tell you what you have done is dumb or stupid and you feel sad about it, then a part of your mind believes that they are right.
4. The criticisms are never about you, so don’t take them personally.
Most parents see their children as the extension of themselves. Whatever they are criticizing you for is what they don’t want to see in themselves too. Know that as children, we kind of trigger problems that our parents don’t want to face and hence the criticisms. They don’t want you to be the lazy or bad child that your grandparents see them as.
And sometimes, parents just don’t know how hurtful their words are and how sensitive their children are. Just recently, my dad called me stupid for eating the rice dumpling before a meal. Then after realizing what he had just said, he clarified not stupid as in really stupid and we laughed about it.
Understand the intention of their criticisms. Extract what your parents want to tell you without believing that there’s something wrong with you. We almost have to develop an internal filter or translator to prevent our minds from forming unnecessary meanings from what we hear.
5. Be compassionate and don’t pass the criticisms on.
When you are criticized by your parents, don’t criticize others, don’t criticize your parents and don’t even criticize yourself. Stop the cycle there.
If someone were to pass you the poison, you don’t pass it on to someone else. You don’t drink it. You find a way to dispose of it without harming the environment.
6. Your parents will not be the only ones who criticise you.
You need to know how to neutralize any poison that is given to you at any time by any person, and not let the poison spread in your body.
Take the time to heal yourself and get rid of any “poison” you have already consumed i.e. all the hurt you have accumulated in the past since you were young. Understand how you have internalized some of the criticisms and believed what they said are true. Be your own best friend and be compassionate to yourself.
Your parents might have been hurt at some point in their life and they don’t know how to undo the hurt they received. But it’s your responsibility to undo the hurt inflicted on you and be impeccable with your words.