Why Criticism is so Painful When You Have BPD

dbt path criticism painful bpd

Receiving and handling criticism when you have Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) or are emotionally sensitive can be very difficult; however, learning to skillfully handle it can have a dramatically positive impact on your life.  For many years I struggled with a true intolerance to criticism.  Maybe you can relate in some way.

I have always been sensitive to being called out on mistakes or imperfections, even as a child.  I strove to be perfect, or at least to have my parents and teachers believe that I was, because I believed this would please them and lead to my Dad being more loving and less verbally and physically abusive.  For the most part, it worked, but sometimes I inevitably failed, and the consequences were often severe.  I have PTSD to this day from certain incidents.   I look back the younger me and her need to be perfect and never “mess up” with compassion now.  NO WONDER I became afraid to be “exposed” for being imperfect or making mistakes as an adult in the workplace and in relationships.  My brain had long ago associated this with devastating outcomes!

I didn’t have the insight into this for many years, though, and because of it, I sabotaged relationships, jobs, academic opportunities, and housing.  I knew I experienced deep pain when I was criticized, but I simply felt ill equipped to manage the intense, frightening feelings that came up, as well as the torturous worry thoughts, i.e. “This is it – he’s going to leave me,” “Now they are going to fire me,” “Everyone sees me for the phony that I am,” “Now they know I’m not perfect.”  Instead of being able to acknowledge and accept that I had been criticized, separate my emotional reaction from the information I’d received from the person offering the critique, and decide whether there was some truth and validity I could use to grow, I became defensive, angry, shut down, and rigid.  I was so terrified of what I could lose, but ironically I would often lose that relationship or job because of my inability to receive and grow from well-meaning, constructive criticism, which emotionally healthy people receive and process all of the time.  It doesn’t destroy them, but it had been destroying me.

So, what changed?  How was I able to begin to receive and process something that caused me such deep pain, shame, and fear?  Check out my video, below, and let me know your thoughts and answers to the questions I pose.

Can you relate to having difficulty handling critique, either now or in the past?

 

 

Thank you for reading and watching.  I hope you’ll subscribe to my blog using the sign-up box to the right, and that you’ll follow my Facebook, YouTube, and new Pinterest page, too!

More soon.

In kindness,

Debbie Corso Blog

 

 

 

 

Learn how implementing DBT Skills into my daily life helped me OVERCOME Borderline Personality Disorder and THRIVE as an emotionally sensitive person. Click HERE to learn more and to sign up for my online, worldwide, live, weekly DBT psychoeducational class, where I teach you everything I learned. Class is co-facilitated by a therapist who is also in recovery from BPD.

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14 replies
  1. Kristen
    Kristen says:

    I have a difficult time receiving criticism around food preparation and a few other areas. My ex constantly shamed me for how I would cut up food and when I would tell him that how I cut food is how I cut food he would attack my character. Now, if my current partner comments on how I am making food I will react negatively possibly 50% of the time. I struggle with essentially being trained to be afraid of criticism when I actually used to be ok with it (years of therapy have made me acknowledge that I am not perfect). I have used fact-checking in these instances because I know my current partner is not trying to be mean to me and he works with me also to say things nicely or just not say them at all (not everything needs to be said).

    Reply
    • Debbie Corso
      Debbie Corso says:

      Hi Kristen,

      Thanks for reading this post and taking the time to share with your comment! I am so glad to hear that you’re making progress with this issue and that you find yourself reacting negatively only about half of the time as opposed to all of it. That’s huge and a major reduction of suffering in your life!

      It sounds like fact checking works for you, too, with your current partner, which is great. I think it really helps to remember, as you’ve been doing with your current partner, that most people in our lives who love and care about us aren’t offering feedback to be vicious. This can really create a healthier mindset.

      Thanks again, Kristen!

      In kindness,
      Debbie

      Reply
  2. Julie
    Julie says:

    Debbie, you have really spoken to me in your book, website, and blog. I appreciate it so much, because I’m now reaching out for help. Thank you, thank you!

    Reply
    • Debbie Corso
      Debbie Corso says:

      Hi Julie,

      Oh, thank you so much for your kind words! I am so happy that you’re finding what I put out there to really resonate and to be helpful to you. I’m super proud of you that you’re now seeking help in your own personal journey. This is awesome!

      Hugs,
      Debbie

      Reply
  3. Kate Caithness
    Kate Caithness says:

    Being criticized is my worst trigger…I absolutely flip out whenever it happens. Criticism leads to most of my dysregulation, and is the main reason I have not been able to keep jobs or relationships. I’ve had several years of DBT but I still have problems with this. And truthfully, though I try to use wise mind, I still think the fault usually lies with other people rather than myself. But what is said in the video does make a lot of sense.

    Reply
    • Debbie Corso
      Debbie Corso says:

      Hi Kate,

      First off, thanks for reading, watching, and commenting! You bring up a really good and valid point. *Some* people are facetious in offering their criticism and feedback. Unfortunately these people get a rise out of triggering others through this type of verbal abuse.

      I’ve been in those kinds of relationships, and getting out was the best thing I could have done for my mental health.

      Some people are miserable and want you to be miserable, too. Others are insecure about you feeling confident and may try to tear you down with mean critiques designed to hurt rather than help, lift up, and encourage.

      I have found Interpersonal Effectiveness skills to be helpful in these cases.

      I hope that with time and practice and your willingness to be open to working on this trigger, Kate,things get much better!

      Hugs,
      Debbie

      Reply
      • Kate Caithness
        Kate Caithness says:

        Thank you Debbie. As usual, a lot of practice and patience. I had a therapist who once said that, “the universe will continue to give us ‘opportunities’ to practice our skills.” Sometimes I hate the fact she is right! But many of these things are day to day and moment to moment, and I can only hope that each moment will get easier. DBT has been a tremendous help to me, but I have to admit that willingness and interpersonal skills continue to be “challenging opportunities”. 😉

        Your response and validation were very much appreciated.

        Reply
  4. Kath
    Kath says:

    I absolutely love this blog and crosses all the t’s so to speak after only just learning about bpd only just recently (2 months to be precise) I am still very much learning about the condition and I’m still learning very much about my triggers this has come up as a huge trigger to me finding out this has ruined relationships work and even family at times I too have always been called crazy when I get critisized my whole body shakes then the thoughts come running out my mouth as they do

    Again thanks for this

    Reply
    • Debbie Corso
      Debbie Corso says:

      Hi Kath,

      Wow! Thanks so much for commenting. Sounds like it was serendipitous that you came across this post at this time. You are NOT alone in this experience, and I am so glad that you found this post helpful! Just know that this is something that I and many others with BPD have overcome, so I have hope for you, too. That’s not to say there are never any challenges in this area. There are definitely plenty… but it’s how a change in responding (to a skillful, healthier response) can make all the difference!

      In kindness,
      Debbie

      Reply
  5. Sara
    Sara says:

    I recently learned of this disorder in therapy today and it’s going to be life changing for me. And yes I struggle with this as mentioned in article.

    Reply
    • Debbie Corso
      Debbie Corso says:

      Hi Sara,

      I know it can be a scary diagnosis to receive, but there is hope for overcoming. It takes a lot of work and lots of strength, and it can be done.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

      In kindness,
      Debbie

      Reply
  6. Clare
    Clare says:

    This is an interesting characteristic in having BPD which I found helpful to watch today thank you Debbie. I feel with the constant expectation to succeed contributes to why I personally struggle in receiving criticism ……

    Reply

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