How to Recover from a Critical Parent

Having one or more critical parents can put a sledgehammer through your childhood confidence and leave effects lasting long into adulthood. If your father or mother responded with criticism and judgment instead of joy and delight when you did what came naturally, you may have felt as if there was something wrong with you and internalized their critical voice inside your head. You learned to hold back and now every time you step out of line or go to express yourself naturally, you rebuke yourself first instead. This will seriously undermine your self-confidence and your relationships with other people... especially women.

But there is hope. Here's How to Recover From a Critical Parent:

Understand That Criticism Is About Projection and Loneliness

Critical people are stuck in a perpetual vicious cycle of projection, pain, loneliness and disconnection. They've been hurt at some point in the past when they felt vulnerable and they're still carrying this wound in their psyche. Often they're afraid of facing the pain they feel around this and don't know how to deal with the unpleasant emotions involved, or perhaps they aren't even consciously aware of it. The criticism that pushes people away further prevents them from experiencing the deep connections with others that would reduce their loneliness and heal the very hurt they are avoiding by criticizing others.

Having a critical parent can damage your self-confidence as an adult.

Having a critical parent can damage your self-confidence as an adult.

Our criticisms and judgments of others are really just projections of unhealed, unaccepted or unacknowledged parts of ourselves. Parents can't help but see themselves in their children, so when you started acting in ways that triggered your mother or father's shame, hurt, sadness or loneliness they are likely to have felt their unhealed pain particularly deeply. So it's not surprising that a critical parent's most common victim is their own children.

The cycle of judgment, pain, criticism and loneliness works like this:

  1. A critical person has some unhealed and often denied emotional wound from the past. The deepest wounds are about loneliness, rejection, abandonment, separation and disconnection.

  2. When other people do what comes naturally, it inadvertently triggers this pain

  3. The overwhelming pain from the unhealed wound is too much, so they deflect it with an internal judgment about the other person

  4. The judgment is projected outwards onto the other person as a criticism

  5. Criticism is painful and destroys the empathic connection with other people, causing the person encountering the criticism to either become defensive or to retreat.

  6. Defensiveness and retreating lead to further loneliness, rejection and abandonment of the critical person. This reinforces the pain of their original wound, further hurting and isolating them. Over time, criticism becomes their default defense against what feels like a hostile world.

People who criticize others have a fierce internal critic aimed right back at themselves too. When you understand that the parent who criticized you was actually hurting inside as a result of the way their judgments and criticisms shut down their own self-expression and isolated them from other people, you can start to feel more compassion towards them.

Understand That The Criticism Was Never About Us

Your parent's criticism of you was never about you. It always came down to some unhealed and often denied emotional wound from their past which they projected onto you. When your natural behavior reminded them of their unhealed pain, it was easier for them to criticize you and get you to stop acting in that way than it was for them to heal their pain. Unfortunately this taught you that your natural way of behaving was somehow bad and wrong as a side-effect, undermining your natural confidence in who you are.

A self-aware parent will realize that their children are their best teachers precisely because children know exactly how to trigger a parent's unhealed emotional pain, and triggering the pain is necessary in order to heal it. However, a parent that lacks self-awareness or who is simply overwhelmed by the magnitude of their unhealed issues is likely to do anything they can to stop you reminding them of how hurt they are inside. Hence such parents can become the harshest critics of the very children they love so much.

If a critical parent has wounded you deeply it's helpful to remember that the criticism and the wounding were never really about you. It was always just a projection of something your parent hadn't dealt with in themselves.

Allow Yourself To Get Angry

I'm feeling a little angry at the injustice of this situation as I write this. It is grossly unfair that many children bear the burdens of their parent's unhealed wounds. This is what the Christian Bible means when it talks about the sins of the father being passed on to the sons for many generations. Insecurities get passed on from parent to children by critical, judgmental parents who are too scared to really own and deal with their own issues. If you've been on the receiving end of this, it ought to make you angry too.

Anger is one emotion that my parents were especially uncomfortable with. I don't remember ever being explicitly criticized for being angry myself, but I do remember believing that it was a bad emotion because I saw the destructive force it caused in my parent's relationship. I developed a great deal of shame about being angry and learned to repress it pretty solidly. Yet I now realize that the problem wasn't that my parents got angry: the problem was their attempts to deny their anger, and the resulting destructive way they ended up expressing it.

Being angry with a parent is frightening because as infants we were totally dependent on them for our survival. Alienating a parent through anger could lead to abandonment, and that would mean certain death in our childhood thinking. If your parents continue to criticize or humiliate you as an adult and you never find yourself feeling angry with them, or never express your anger towards them, now is the time to start allowing your true feelings of anger to surface. Learn to say:

“I feel really angry when you criticize me”, in response to their criticism.

On the other hand, if you readily express anger towards your parents it could be time to move on to the next step and go deeper into what's happening for you.

Learn To Express Your Feelings

One of the most damaging forms of childhood criticism is when we were criticized for how we feel. Our feelings represent our deepest experiences and if you encountered criticism when you expressed them as a child, you may have learned that it just wasn't OK to express yourself, or even to be yourself. Shutting down your expression of feeling is the first step towards restricting who you are from showing up in the world.

Being able to express unpleasant emotions freely allows us to accept our experience of life and of ourselves much more deeply. It also frees us to feel the pleasant emotions more deeply including love, peace, happiness and joy.

While anger is a useful defense mechanism, it's often a cover for fear, hurt and sadness. When a stranger who you'll probably never see again threatens you, anger can do an effective job of motivating you to protect yourself. But in long term relationships like those in a family, it's more helpful to be able to express the underlying emotion beneath the anger.

The best way to express your true feelings is to be direct about them. Avoid passive-aggressive or indirect expressions of how you feel. Don't just assume that other people should know how you are feeling: learn how to be direct and tell them. Learn to say:

“I feel really hurt when you say that” or

“I feel sad when you criticize me” or

“I feel afraid of your judgments”

Acknowledging your true feelings in the face of criticism helps to break the vicious cycle that critical people find themselves in by triggering their compassion and lessening their emotional isolation. I'm still learning to do this, and it can be heavy going at times.

Parents do not generally like the idea of hurting their children (even their adult children), so when you make them aware that what they are doing is hurting you they may back off and become less critical. However there is no guarantee of this; they may even become more aggressive. The important thing isn't how they respond, it's how authentically you express yourself. When you express your true feelings in the face of criticism you exercise courage, and exercising courage builds your confidence.

Take Time Out If You Need It

Some parents are so deeply wounded that even a true expression of hurt and sadness in the face of their criticism may trigger their defensiveness instead of their compassion. For a parent like this, you may need to take some time out and learn to express your true feelings in a more supportive environment first.

Personally, I've found group therapy to be tremendously valuable in learning to express true feelings that I suppressed for many years after growing up with a critical mother. I was tremendously afraid of expressing my feelings towards her and receiving criticism in return for my vulnerability. So I used my therapy group to practice on first. Over time I learned to express rather than repress how I felt when being criticized. At first I got angry, which was really new for me. I'm still learning to express the hurt and sadness underneath the anger.

Don't Listen To The Critical Voice In Your Head

We often internalize our parent's criticism as a voice in our head that's constantly monitoring and judging our every move, and everyone else’s. Everyone has a voice in their head chattering away at them to some degree, but we often don't reveal it to other people because the things it says to us are so shamefully horrible. The voice of my inner critic sounds a lot like my critical mother mixed with a little of my under-confident father.

The volume with which our inner critic speaks to us is directly proportional to the amount of pent-up unhealed emotional baggage we have hidden in our subconscious. The job of the critic is to try and contain this emotional stress so that we can avoid experiencing the pain associated with it. So long as our inner critic keeps us in line, we don't have to deal with painful criticism from other people.

Unfortunately this is a recipe for ongoing stress, depression and misery. To free yourself from the tyranny of your inner critic, you need to stop taking it seriously. You can't just ignore it, or it will just ratchet up the volume to get your attention. But once you learn to express the emotions that you've been holding in for many years, you'll start to dissipate some of the fear, sadness, pain and anxiety that keeps the critic vigilant. Over time you'll find the voice of your inner critic getting softer and softer until you eventually forget that they were ever there.

Notice When You're Being Critical Yourself

As hard as we might try to never be like our critical parents, we can't help but take on to some degree the world view and the relational and coping strategies of the parents who raised us. If you had a critical parent you'll more than likely have a strong critic in you as well. Perhaps you recognized how damaging this is and turned it against yourself to avoid hurting other people, or perhaps you formed a cynical world view. Maybe you keep other people at a distance because you find faults with them when they get too close, or avoid intimate relationships because you discover things about people that you don't like. Or you long for the world, the people in it and yourself to be perfect. All of these are symptoms of a critical nature inherited from a critical parent.

The first step towards dropping your own critical nature is to acknowledge it. Stop hiding the fact that you are critical and perfectionist towards yourself and other people. Start revealing your own dark side that you're afraid people will reject you when they discover it. Quit pretending to be a righteous man and let the world know about your own inner struggles and conflicts.

The sheer weight of carrying an internal critic is exhausting, whether you focus the energy out on the world as cynicism or in on yourself as perfectionism and low self-esteem. Either way, resolve to drop your inner critic. Start noticing when you are critical of yourself and others, and take your own internal criticisms less seriously. Just notice them and let them go.

Get the emotional healing you need to heal your internalized anger and accept yourself and the world exactly the way it is without projecting your old pain onto everything. Rebuild the confidence that was stolen from you by having a critical parent so you can get to a place where you are grateful for the lessons that they taught you instead of recreating their flaws in your own life.

Get Professional Help and Support

Recovering from the damage done by a critical parent is one of the most challenging tasks we can face because the emotional scars can go deep into our nervous systems. Often other members of the family have also been affected but may be too afraid to face the truth; which is why your siblings are more likely to side with your critical parent than to support your recovery, despite the negative consequences of the critical parent's behavior on them too.

In some cases it may be necessary to cut contact with your critical parent for a period of time, which is likely to incur the wrath of siblings who are in denial of the impact that parent's behavior has had on them, and too afraid to take such action themselves. As a result, the first person in a family to stand up to a critical parent tends to feel very isolated.

I highly recommend getting professional advice, help and support on this journey. The step-by-step action plan I used to recover from my critical mother is in The Confident Man Program. Since I've personally been there myself, I now specialize in helping people recover from the devastating emotional impact of growing up with a critical parent and offer emotional healing sessions via Skype wherever you are in the world. If you're still suffering the effects of growing up with a critical parent and want to set yourself free, contact me about coaching.

Graham Stoney

About Graham Stoney

I struggled for years with low self-esteem, anxiety and a lack of self-confidence before finding a solution that really worked. I created The Confident Man Program to help other men live the life of their dreams. I also offer 1-on-1 coaching via Skype so if you related to this article contact me about coaching.
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77 Responses to How to Recover from a Critical Parent

  1. antoine says:

    I didn't know any of what I'm about to share until I had kids of my own and treat them like unique, adorable, supersmart critters who are learning to be interdependent. I'm in my 40s. My parents weren't abusive, just relentlessly. critical.

    My mom was honest. School pictures would come back and she'd say, "It looks like you." I didn't know that if you think your kid is cute, their school pictures are cute! I somehow knew was ugly and she knew I knew. I was also not outgoing or likeable and neither were my friends. In her defence she was chronically depressed.

    My dad is critical of the work people have done. Of my high school themes which went through multiple drafts with lots of red ink. My college admissions essay was rewritten from the bottom up in a completely phony way. I got into a good school and got decent grades but didn't deserve to be there and still ignore alumni mailings.

    I still have my dad over for dinner a lot. I treat him like he's a live spider. I avoid giving him the chance to criticise me. I don't tell him about my feelings, dreams, accomplishments (did I actually say accomplishments?) or feelings. He is good to my kids but if I show him out of pride a piece they did for school, he sits down and starts telling them what's wrong with it. Compliments and encouragements remain unspecific and inauthentic. If dinner was "good" why not eat more of it? Like you do when I serve hot dogs? I don't serve hot dogs anymore. Fuck that shit.

    I used to chastise myself for being oversensitive but I realized I'm actually desperate for something I'm never gonna get. In his defence he is completely moderate in his habits and a good example to everyone; he just has no concept that people have feelings. Because he's a dude and he might be on one of those spectra.

    I can't say anything nice about myself because all I can think of are improvements. Wait, I can say a couple of nice things. I have good practice skills since I work on whatever that is lacking. I am also patient with myself because by common notion I am a failure. I have learned to keep plugging in the case of underemployment (a side effect of not saying anything nice about yourself). I am companionable because I see the cool things that people do unconsciously, that I wish I could.

    Thanks for letting me say this. I won't say how long I spent editing it but my therapy will be never to read it again.

    • Thanks Antoine. Well done on breaking the cycle and treating your own children differently to how your relentlessly critical parents treated you. I acknowledge you for wanting to move on! Let me know if I can help in any way. Cheers, Graham

  2. C. Doucet says:

    Born to 19 year old female who was totally critical/unloving my entire life - no matter how much I loved or tried to please her. She totally loves her 2 male children - no matter what they do. Chronic alcoholic father was OK when I was a child. But he became very critical & abusive once I was 18.
    If you do not learn to Protect / Distance / Stay Away & Keep them OUT of your life - they can literally destroy you, your marriage, and affect every decision you make.
    Over time you realize that they are not reliable, mature, or meeting your most basic needs in ANY way. They are actually like toxic parasites. I finally realized just how verbally abusive my "Father" was the day my brother brought him over & he was totally silent (had Dementia / Alzheimers). I was so shocked when I slowly realized that he was there & he was not spewing criticism - that's when it REALLY hit me that Every time we got together he never had a positive thing to say to me.
    Even at his funeral I felt absolutely nothing - he had killed all the loving feelings I had ever had for him as a child.
    Do not be surprized to realize as you age that there never was any REAL "relationship" with these damaged / negative type of "parents". They were & always are totally wrapped up in themselves (their OWN needs & wants). You were just a CAPTIVE Audience as a child.
    I always chose & feel most comfortable around cheerful, joyful, funny, positive friends & people with a good sense of humor. I feel SAFE around them.
    I have consciously & definitely stayed clear & avoided like the plague anyone who I sense has a bad temper, could be violent or does not seem to value others. Those are warning signs of someone who is NO fun to be around at all.
    Just be a kind person with:
    Good Thoughts, Good Words, and Good Deeds and your life will unfold in a healthy way for you & those you care about.
    Having the child like belief that God was always my best friend that I could talk to at anytime deep down inside is what kept me feeling safe & loved then & even now. It is a very private relationship to me.
    All the Best to everyone!

  3. Shelly says:

    Hello Graham, thanks for having this form. This is about a friend of mine who has reached out to me for help. He is 28 and had a very Strict and abusive ahcoloic mother. He is acting out of control with older women, meaning he is jumping from bed to bed. He just says he feels it is mommy issues. But it is really getting out of control to the point he has put his job at risk , by leaving and meeting older women for sex during the day. He tells me he needs help , but will not go get it professionally right now. Can you please tell me what I can say or do to help him?
    I care a great deal for him . Im worried for him. Also I will add , he has asked me for help and ask can he call me mommy and if I would please call him son. Please HELP. Thank you so much!

    • Hi Shelly,
      I acknowledge your concern for your friend and desire to help him. Point him to the article I just posted on How To Heal Your Mother Issues. I recommend that you offer him empathy for the pain that he's in, but don't indulge his desire to be treated as a child by you. Maintain your adult boundaries and let him know that you're uncomfortable with him calling you "mommy" and calling him "son". He needs some secure adult support so his inner child can heal. I'd be happy to help him via Skype with therapy and coaching once he's ready.
      Cheers, Graham

  4. Daniel Tzabary says:

    I find a good dose of cruelty is a good thing. I focus on my critical parents insecurities and push their buttons for satisfaction....Even when I was 18yo, a girl used to visit my brother and I in 1988, (at the house where we lived with dad after my parents divorce). She was 18yo too, but wasn't attracted to me because I violently argued with my critical dad. Instead, she pursued my 14yo brother. This angered my mum rightly but she blamed me for lacking the confidence to attract her first thus preventing this unhealthy union. The truth is I wasn't attracted to this girl either and wasn't interested in dating as I still am not. Girls were critical of my looks and boring. My mother failed to control for the fact that my brother is far better looking than me, yet both my parents expected me to have the same level of success with girls as my brother. In other words they always accused me of lacking confidence with everything including girls. I've never really felt a desire to have a girlfriend. I'd usually wank off to porn or later in life just had fuckbuddies. Now at 46 my parents still think I lack confidence!! I showed my dad a picture of a cute woman with my dick in her mouth to shut him up recently. Also, back in 1989 I lost my virginity with a woman I seduced and closed the deal with, a woman he was seeing after he divorced my mum. I was 19 at the time...bit old I know...she was 28 with a hot body and well skilled in bed. There are more examples that are less damaging to my male ego that took place,(in other words non-sexual criticism)....Academic criticism, despite winning several major awards for my inventions. My mum told me not to bother applying as I wouldn't win. I ended up winning 1st place in my state! A few awards later and no real praise at all. These days I no longer feel the need to get into women's pants to feel manly, but I do reject to being friend zoned by women who I'm attracted to. One female friend I have, wanted to leave her belongings at my place after moving apartments, so I told her to leave it with the guy she's seeing or she can leave it here. But I am direct and joked that leaving her stuff here will (cost) her. I only managed to passionately kiss her a few times but I aim to seduce her next time she visits. I'm no pushover and what her boyfriend doesn't know won't do any harm Friends with Benefits or it's the highway! I'm no beta male charity!

    • Sounds like your parents really did a number on you, and I sense that you're still angry with them about it. What would you like your future relationships with women to look like?

      • Daniel Tzabary says:

        I'm now a celibate but have a dear female friend. I would say that she is very much unlike most women. She's not a tribe follower or a heardster. Firstly parents should have the common sense to raise their children in healthy ways. Otherwise, they'll enter society without the weaponry to defend themselves from the hostile populace. I've had to teach myself everything from driving a car to valuing myself without being violent towards people. Women only want leadership and protection from men. I personally don't care about male/female relations. I guess you can say I'm fed up with the concept after decades of the idea being rammed down my throat. However, ironically, my best friend is a woman (my ex). She agrees that people, both men and women are degenerate these days. Unless we're taught to value ourselves, we'll never value eachother.

  5. Anonymus says:

    After an hour of searching the net for an article that addressed my circumstance I finally found it. I have a 50yo father who has always been over-controllive, mean, critical, manipulative, judgmental and border-line abusive. These traits are becoming more pronounced as he ages (except the abusive part) and has tried to use psychological tactics to separate me from my girlfriend and to make me feel guilty for not spending time with him. I just want to move out but Sydney housing is the most over-inflated in the world at the moment. I'm not sure how much longer I can take it. I think the reason behind his issues is he never knew his father but it's ridiculously unfair to burden your son with this cr@p. He has a girlfriend of 7 years who you can tell isn't compatible with him. They fight all the time and she's depressed. She's cheated before as a form of escapism but he manipulated her to stay with him (probably because he feels lonely). The whole situation is so pathetic. Because of his emotional and physical abuse as a kid, I live with anxiety and depression. Do you have any advice?

  6. Angela says:

    Hi! After reading this article, a lot has become clear to me. My parents were very critical when I was growing up. I remember trying to please them since I was a little girl. Straight A's great job etc. Nothing was good enough. I never got the validation or praise. I suffered from some bullying in school and now in a relationship with someone who is also very critical. I've realized that in the past few years, my self esteem has plummeted and as a result, I have become very depressed. I've been spending time with my father recently and he has criticised everything in my life. It has gotten so bad that I suddenly realized that this might have contributed my self esteem. You speak of that inner voice-YES! It's always there. I am so hard on myself and very critical of myself. I also hope others to the same standard and become disappointed with people and let down very frequently. I very much want to begin to heal. Mostly because, in recent months I have found myself treating my own children the same way, especially my son who reminds me of myself when I was young. Thank you!

    • Hi Angela. I'm glad you found the article insightful. I hear that you very much want to begin to heal, and I'm wondering if you have someone to help guide you? I relate to what you say and believe I could help you. Drop me a line if you'd like to talk more. Cheers, Graham

  7. Angela says:

    How does a child's natural behavior remind the parent of unhealed wounds? Can you clarify and/or give an example?

    • Hi Angela. Great question. Children are naturally freely self-expressed; at least until they encounter adults or other children who react negatively to their natural expression of emotion. Most adults are walking around with a truckload of unhealed wounds and conditioning that gets triggered by a freely self-expressed child. For example a child throwing a tantrum in a supermarket because their parent won't buy them lollies may leave their parent feeling anxious and embarrassed about what other people might thing of their parenting. An insightful parent might respond with empathy by saying "It's frustrating when we can't always have what we want" and give the child a hug. A parent whose unhealed wounds are triggered by the tantrum might berate, shame or punish the child for their anger instead, or give in by buying the lollies that aren't good for the child just to keep the peace.

  8. Matt says:

    I don't like this attitude of always portraying people who chip away at your sense of self in a pitiful light: "It's about their loneliness." No, I don't care about that, I'm tired of having to put myself into my abusers' shoes. I need strength and self-concern, not another reason to think of myself as selfish for daring be angry!

    • Hi Matt. I hear that you're angry, and that's part of the healing process. I'm not suggesting that you have to put yourself into your abuser's shoes; merely that their criticism of you wasn't really about you at all which can make it easier not to take personally. Right now though, I suggest you allow yourself to express your anger about what has happened to you. Do you have someone to help you do that?

    • Daniel Tzabary says:

      Amen!!! Good point. I see my parents as fools. They fail to control for variables that dictate obvious outcomes. When I won all my awards, they never told my brother to be more confident and do likewise. They instead told (me) to be more confident and that had I been more confident, the situation of my kid brother being seduced by Fern could have been averted...(See my original post)

  9. Lara says:

    This does not help. Telling yourself it is not your fault does not help. Can't you guys come up with anything that actually helps?

  10. James says:

    My parents provided well for me and gave me many, many gifts - a love of music, books and an appreciation for art. My father taught me a lot about technical things, (he was a radio engineer). They were very critical of me all along, well into adulthood and I never really felt free to express myself. I felt that I should love my parents and indeed liked the things I was shown by them but couldn't understand why I was criticized all the time and harboured a great deal of anger, especially towards my father. At school I attracted physical abuse as I was not ‘sporty’, but well spoken and mannered, liking books and music. I soon learned to keep my mouth shut and, retreating into myself, I lived in my head until my mid forties, pursuing my interests privately. Early on, I struggled with relationships – both at work, especially with authority figures and also with women – I recall these times as desperately and erodingly lonely. It crossed my mind to take my life more than once.
    It was after attending a self esteem workshop in my mid forties that I first began to feel worthwhile as a human. I began to work on myself and tried hard to heal. I am a qualified health care professional and have made a good success of my life. I married in my mid fifties and have a supportive wife who loves me - I love growing our marriage and have a great deal to contribute and do so. I am well liked and respected at work – my ‘sensitive qualities are sought after there and are needed - for the first time in 38 years. (I am 63 years old) Dear God, it has been a long wait. Thoreau said that most men live lives of quiet desperation – please, if you are struggling like me there are always good alternatives – get help - like this forum- I hope you don’t struggle as long as I did. It has helped me a lot to read in this forum and also what others have written

    • Thanks for your comment James; it really resonates with me, especially your experience of loneliness and sensitivity. I appreciate you sharing your success story with us. Cheers, Graham

      • James says:

        Thank you Graham, reading your material has shown me, for the first time, why my parents acted why they did, and with this understanding comes a degree of acceptance, with the acceptance comes freedom. Thank you so, so much for providing this forum for people to express themselves.
        Take care,

    • Daniel Tzabary says:

      It's human nature to kick a person when they're down. It's like a rape tag team. Our parents set up the conditions for us to lack confidence, then send us out into a cruel, narcissistic, ignorant world. We then get further abused by society, since the abuse we suffered by our parents is embedded into our demure out in public.

      • It's only human nature to kick a person when they're down when we've been damaged and haven't found a more appropriate outlet for our anger. Damaged parents tend to bring up damaged children, until someone breaks the cycle by healing their pain so it doesn't get passed on to the next generation. Society can only damage us if we have poor boundaries that let in the hurt. People who are truly happy deep down don't get their kicks from hurting other people; they're too busy enjoying life to bother. Cheers, Graham

        • Daniel Tzabary says:

          That would then mean that the vast majority of people are unhappy then. This makes sense, because I truly believe that most people just fake their positive emotions. Life's full on conflict and stress so very few people would have the wisdom or spiritual maturity to transcend external negativity. Myself included. Also, Thankyou for replying so quickly. I appreciate your input 🙂

          • I think the vast majority of people (myself also included) haven't fully healed all their past wounds, so our happiness is transient. We have not yet reached enlightenment. When something unpleasant happens, our old pain gets triggered and all the old emotions we've been avoiding come flooding back. I like your phrase "transcend external negativity"; that sounds like a great goal to aim toward! You're welcome; it's been fun. 🙂

  11. LoganAnn says:

    Hi, thanks for writing this article it gives a lot of good advice and information. My problems with my parents are that my parents want me to get everything right and be perfect, but then they say that they don't expect me to be able to do it at all. My parents expect me to act like an adult without the privileges of an adult (I'm 17). Than just in the last few days, I had started getting angry (when I get angry I cry) with my parents contradicting each other and criticizing. We than ended up yelling at each other, my dad ended the argument with calling me a crybaby and saying I should act more like an adult. Than when he leaves my mom says I'm going to live with them for the two years of community college, because their not paying for me to live in a dorm when "you don't even know how to live by yourself and I don't even expect that you to graduate from college". I feels like they always change their views they want me to do something, but than Harley say they expect i'll fail and if I do end up failing than they telling me everything I should have done instead.

    I really would like a relationship with them, but do I have a healthy relationship with them when all we end up doing is yelling at each other. Do you have any tips on how to deal with this? Thanks again for writing the article it was very helpful.

    • Wow, that sounds like a confusing situation with lots of mixed messages coming from your parents. Congratulations on seeking help here, that shows a lot of maturity.

      Any time you have two people yelling at each other, it's a sign that they're both coming from their wounded inner child. Criticism and name-calling, like your dad calling you a crybaby when you are upset, are all childish responses. To break the argument cycle, someone needs to start acting from their adult self; which is challenging for you when you're still developing your sense of who you are as an adult. A more mature response to your crying would be for your father to comfort you because you're in distress; unfortunately it sounds as though his wounded inner child is also in distress, leaving him unable to man-up and be there for you. Many men in our culture never really grow up and unfortunately that means that parents end up projecting their unresolved issues onto their children. This is most obvious during adolescence when it's normal for you to start cutting the emotional umbillical cord to your parents and start acting according to your values instead of theirs. It's a painful transition for both you and your parents, and while you'd think they have many years to prepare for it, it still seems to catch most parents off guard.

      Understanding that this is all normal is the first step. You can't force your parents to grow up and start acting like adults in your arguments, so it's up to you to take the higher ground. Instead of yelling when you feel upset, practise just telling them how you feel. When they yell back at you, practise empathy by saying something like: "I hear that you're really angry". Let go of the expectation that you should be perfect or that your role in life is to keep them happy. Focus on what's important to you in life and how to get there regardless of their obstructions. In a way your parents are helping prepare you for life because the world won't give you everything you want just because you want it; sometimes you'll have to work around obstacles, like other people who will project their self-doubt onto you. It would be nice if all parents acted like mature adults all the time and only offered constructive encouragement to their growing children; but the world isn't perfect and one of the challenges of being an adult is learning to accept people the way they are, and then going for what you want regardless.

      I'd recommend that you look for a mentor to help guide you in the next phase of your life. Perhaps you've exceeded your parent's ability to help you grow, and it's time to look for new role models who treat people (yourself included) more the way that you like. You're on the right track; don't give up. Cheers, Graham

  12. Lily says:

    To give an example - he tried to teach my daughter the violin and every lesson ended in her in tears because he outright tells her she's no good at it and clearly has no aptitude for music. She then got lessons from a teacher at school and my fiance tells her that her teacher doesn't know what he's talking about when he says she's doing well. She's given up.

  13. Lily says:


    Thank you for this resource!

    I'm in a relationship with a very critical man who views his being critical as a good thing and can't understand why it's destroying our relationship. His parents were and are very critical, nothing is good enough for them. He's 53 and his mother still complains about everything he does. He is rather flat emotionally except when he's angry.

    My parents werr also highly critical people, and their voices are so loud I find it difficult to do anything in life. I have ptsd and depression from a very abusive childhood. I love my fiance but find his lack of ability to ever show any form of acknowledgement or appreciation for anything I do well hard to cope with, and when he criticizes me for everything (nothing I do is right or good enough and he feels the need to correct me with every aspect of my being including how I say certain words I find impossible to say correctly) it just sends my inner critic (my parents voices) into overdrive.

    He wonders why I'm struggling to do anything beyond the basics of life. I feel like I'm drowning. How can I deal with this? I can't even set the table right, or run my business without him fixing everything for me. I've changed everything because he harps on about how I've done this or that wrong. I've told him I don't need criticism - I just need his support but he says he has to say something. He reckons he is highly critical because he never had anyone show him how to do something to a high standard. It's affecting me so I can't relax around him, I can't even watch a movie with my kids because nothing is up to his standard except movies from the 1950s and 1960s. What can I do to make this situation better? It's like living with a food critic 24/7 except he's a life critic. 🙁

    • Hi Lily,

      Sounds like a tough situation. It always rings alarm bells in my head when I hear an adult say "I just have to say something"; it demonstrates an inability to deal with their own internal emotional state. It's always about some unresolved conflict in themselves that they aren't willing to face. Often they've got their own baggage about needing to be heard that overrides what's actually important in that moment, like offering support and encouragement. More likely he's highly critical because nobody has ever shown him how to accept being less than perfect. Hell, I feel frustrated with the guy already and I've never met him! I guess the question to ask yourself is: why am I putting up with his behavior, and even worse, exposing my children to it? No amount of "love" is worth that. I don't tolerate people like that in my life any more, and I suspect once you've healed your childhood wounds by standing up to his criticism, you won't either.


  14. Tyler says:

    Hey Graham,
    I'm a third generation Portuguese-American and I come from a farming family. My grandfather was extremely abusive to my father, and now I receive the same treatment. Like my father before me, I have left the family business 2 times. 3rd times the charm? I'm starting to second-guess myself. I thought that being older and being a much more refined worker would create a less stressful environment. However, no matter how hard I work, nothing is ever sufficient enough for my dad. I work 12-18 hour days in California heat, most of the time lacking a lunch break, earning the same salary as all the other employees who complete their ten hours and go home. I do the extra work because I enjoy it and because I am proud of it. But that's beside the point. Being that my Dad has much more experience than me, he loses patience when I take my time learning a new job or when I don't live up to his standards. His philosophy is to learn by doing, which in most cases, has created disaster. Mistakes in Ag are never cheap. Which I grant him that. However, its one thing to provide constructive criticism, but another to be painfully abusive. He's also an alcoholic, I have scars on my face because of one of his drunken friends, and the way I like to describe his demeanor with me: when he's mad, he tears out my soul and damns it to hell (the diction he uses would be too inappropriate for ANY online forum). Despite all of this, I treat him with utmost respect and I do my best to be appreciative. Why? I am proud of my family and what they have created. It's your good ol' classic, American dream story. My grandparents, like many others came to the US with only the clothes on their back and created a beautiful business. Is carrying on my family's legacy worth my sanity? Is it wrong to excuse this sort of behavior with your parents? And does this degrade my own self-worth by letting him walk all over me? I've always told myself I would never treat anyone like that. But being exposed to it every day is depressing. My fiánce is starting to acknowledge my daily upset mood as well. I have always made ends meet, even away from the business, and honestly, I was happier. My father asked me to come back late one night because his foreman quit on him. I was there the next morning. Any advice? Thank you so much for your time, and thank you so much for this article.


    • Hi Tyler,

      I hear that your father's overbearing criticism is really wrecking your experience of working in the family business. I think this is one of the pitfalls of having a family business; it might work well when the family functions well, but when critical people are involved it's hard to maintain the strong boundaries you need to maintain your sanity when he's your father and your boss.

      I suggest asking yourself: Is this helping me to become the person I want to be?

      Either way you've got to stand up to people who treat you unfairly, no matter how much they might think that you are somehow obligated to them. Your father might want you to follow in his footsteps, but that's just ego-driven narcissism. You have the right to be treated well wherever you work, but the only thing that guarantees that in practice is standing up for yourself and setting boundaries on what you're willing to do for other people.

      When you learn to say "no" to your father in the face of unreasonable demands, and tolerate his and your distress, you'll be free whether you stay in the business or leave for greener pastures. You'll also find that your relationship with other men (and women) improves significantly when you've mentally put your father in his rightful place. You are the boss of your life now, not him.


  15. David McKeage says:

    Hi Graham
    I have always had a critical father. My grandfather left when he was a boy and never came back. He's never talked about that. I do feel that he has made me pay for something his father did. I got beatings from him (physical and psychological) on a daily basis. He once said while giving me a beating. I'm going to punish you daddy. I mean I'm your daddy and I'm going to punish you. The sons must pay for the sins of the father. HELP! My father passed on, but he is still here inside my head telling me that I'm not worth the time of day. For most of my life I had negative feelings about myself that surfaced as passive-aggressive towards other people. I beat up on myself by telling myself the things my father told me. I want to get out of this loop. To compensate everything has to be done perfectly. I feel that others are judging me.
    I am paranoid about people being out to get me. Controlling my anger takes all of my energy. What I know and what I feel are two different things. Could you give me a few ideas?

    • Hi David,
      Thanks for your question, it certainly sounds like a confusing situation for you. My guess is that deep down you're still very angry about the way your father treated you, but because his punishment was so violent you've learned to associate expressing anger with danger. You're afraid of losing control of your own anger, so you end up either trying to control it, internalize it as paranoia and anxiety, or acting passive aggressively.

      The way out of the nightmare is to learn to channel and express your anger assertively, rather than aggressively like your father did. Remember that the anger is there to help motivate you to stand up for yourself; it's just that your experience of your father was so brutal that you got conditioned to internalise your rage instead. Also, I suspect that underneath that rage you're still carrying in your psyche is a lot of pain and grief, and the key to dealing with this is to learn to express it in front of a safe, non-judgemental witness who doesn't react the way your father probably did to your distress.

      Heal the pain, release the grief and channel the rage in a healthy way, and the negative thoughts and feelings will subside. This is exactly the kind of emotional healing work I do with my clients over Skype, so if you're interested in finding out if I'm the best person to help you move forward, please drop me a line.

      All the best,

  16. Dd says:

    Thanks. This article helped shift my perspective after some tough recent battles with self-doubt. It can be so frustrating to think back to parents who seemed to actively undermine at every single turn. Especially in the world now where confidence is such an important asset.
    I try to encourage people even if I barely know them, yet they couldn't spare an encouraging word for their child. How could they not recognize how counterproductive that is, it's so damn obvious! Then it's aggravating to have to compete with people who actually got built up some instead of constantly torn down while growing up. Guess I needed to rant. Anyway, you seem to understand where people are coming - it made the article helpful.

    • I totally relate to everything you've said! When my mother complains about things I could have done with my life that would have required more self-confidence than she instilled in me, I just want to scream. Rant complete! 😉

  17. Ishaan says:

    I once aced five math tests in a row. My parents' reaction? Thirty seconds of praise, then they checked that off their to do list and went on with their day.
    When I accidentally miss one single two point homework assignment, I get lectured until one in the morning. Please help... I greatly appreciate any advice

    • It sounds like you're finding it hard to live up to your parent's expectations, and would like more encouragement and praise from them, and less lecturing. Critical parents play out their own insecurities through their children. I know it's tough living through that, but remember that you are the author of your life rather than your parents. Perhaps if you could tell them how you feel during their lectures, and how demoralising you find them, they might realize that their approach is discouraging you rather than encouraging you. If they want you to do well, positive reinforcement works a lot better that negative lectures. Cheers, Graham

  18. Fenris says:

    This is the top article that came up when i googled. My parents were the type that seldom affirm or praise me when i had achieved something makes me criticize them back now. Its so fucking unfair, it Is true they are stubborn n dun listen And yet when i have trouble at work, their so calles advice was to stay on. Definitely how cld i possibly tolerate evil bosses? In the asian context ppl always say give way they are old. Im trying therapy, need it longterm coz mum doesn acknowledge OR listen! Father is ocd n unlikely change

    • Sounds like your parent's behaviour is painful and frustrating to you, and it has undermined your self-confidence. Learning to be assertive via therapy is the key to healing this I believe. If I can help out, please drop me a line. Cheers, Graham
      PS: I'm curious what your searched for on Google to get this as the top response?

  19. Nimzy says:

    Hi , for so long I was searching an article like this ..I relate to this completely ..couldnt agree more .I have suffered and still suffering lot of mental trauma because of my mother .who is a single parent and obviously been though lot of trauma . but surprisingly her behaviours towards my elder brother is very good and very forgiving .and towards me is very criticising. My self esteem is low , I tend to attract wrong people to get support and that itself has got me so much of heart ache..only saviour is going away from her and find solace in my friends or any one for that matter ..she is the last person I will share my problems because she always wrong me . I feel there is no other way then staying away from her ..because when I communicate she becomes defensive.. Thanks for this article and hope to read more about this

    • Hi Nimzy. Thanks for your comment. I hear that at the moment, the best way for you to cope with your mother is to stay away from her. I can relate; I haven't spoken with my mother for over a year. I'm guessing that something in you reminds her of part of herself that she dislikes; whereas your brother doesn't, and perhaps your mother isn't self-aware to spot the difference. It's important to surround yourself with positive people who don't tear you down. I relate to your story, so if you'd like to chat sometime, drop me a line. Cheers, Graham

  20. mari says:

    Thank you for writing these tips. I came here after a particularly bad interaction with my mother. She and I were originally super close, but after some serious disagreements, we became estranged for several years. We're slowly patching things up, but things are still filled with tension. In addition, she now constantly compares me to my brother, and talks about how he's so much smarter/more social/in general better than I am. What's sad is that my brother and I are 12 years apart, and so are in completely different stages of life, so it's almost laughable to compare us. I have done pretty well for myself, but as much as I try to dissociate from her opinions, I still feel so bad about myself after we interact. As someone who grew up being discouraged from showing negative emotions/feelings, I have a hard time verbally advocating for myself.
    I have two questions:
    1. How can I stop letting my mother's opinions affect me?
    2. What are some tiny things I can do to push myself to express my true feelings and advocate for myself?


    • Hi Mari. Thanks for your comment & question. It sounds like you've got a pretty clear handle logically on what's going on, but you're still being triggered emotionally. If there's a magic answer to #1, I'd love to hear it too! I believe it comes down to tackling #2 by being consistently assertive in all situations in life. Start taking small risks by expressing your feelings in less emotionally charged situations, then work your way up to really big triggers, like being criticized by your mother. Over time, being more authentic will start to feel natural as you undo your programming. Stand up to people in every area of your life, and your world will transform so much that your mother's behaviour won't matter as much. Then one day your mother will criticise you and you'll tell her how angry you feel when she says things like that; and you'll reclaim your power. This is the sort of thing I coach my clients on, so if you'd like to talk more, please contact me. Cheers, Graham

      • mari says:

        Hi Graham,
        Thanks so much for your reply! I like your idea of taking care of question 2 first and everything else can follow. I know I need to speak up and just let my mother know that I feel hurt the next time she puts me down. But I always stop short of actually letting her know because I feel like she'll just overlook what I said and pummel on all over my feelings (and this is the sort of thing she has done). Worse, she'll know what she does triggers me emotionally and she'll do it more. If/when she does, then what do I do?


        • I really feel you; I'm in the exact same situation. When that happened to me, I decided I needed to set some strong boundaries with my mother and get emotional support from other people so I didn't continue to spiral into craziness. Once we've healed the wound that our critical parent installed to disable us as a way of protecting themselves, they lose the power to push our buttons. At the moment, for me that means taking time out from her. Do you have someone who can support you through this? I'm available if you want to talk more. Cheers, Graham

          • Mari says:

            Yes, I having support during these moments with our mothers is so important. I think what makes this more difficult for me is that none of my friends experience such problems with their mothers, at least not to this degree, so it's harder for them to relate. Also, I keep kicking myself for failing to be assertive when an opportunity arose, so I feel 10x worse!

  21. Ginger says:

    Very happy that I found this post. It helped me put some unresolved feelings about my parents and sister in a perspective that seems tolerable. I'm all grown up and married, but as a kid my mom constantly berated me and used words such as "you'll never amount to anything", "what do you do all day?", "you are a zero". She criticized my interests and always "helped" me find a way to be more like someone else who she preferred over me. My sister joined forces with her, and my dad never corrected her. I've felt them all aligned in a very negative judgement of me most of my life. I've told them their words and behavior are destructive but after a brief apology, they go back to the same old routines. I've had to just put distance between us with fewer calls and fewer visits. When they realize they haven't seen me in a while or it takes me a couple days to return a call, they start telling me "You don't love me" and "How could you treat me this way after all I've done for you?" At that point, I just drift further away. By the way my parents were both an only child of parents who divorced when they were teenagers. My sister has been in an abusive, and at times even violent marriage for 10 years. How could these people effectively determine what a healthy relationship is?

    • Hi Ginger. I'm glad you found the post helpful, and hear that your relationships with your parents and sister can be really challenging. Unfortunately critical parents often don't ever grow up, and continue to cause stress in our lives even when we're adults. Here's a random suggestion for you to play with: perhaps some truth-telling on your part could help reinforce your boundary to their narcissism. When they say "You don't love me", you could try replying: "You're right; at the moment, I'm not feeling any love for you. And each time you criticize me, I feel even less"; if this feels true for you. They may not like hearing the truth, but at least it will diffuse the power of their criticism over you. If you're lucky, they may even see that their behaviour is contributing you not feeling like returning their calls earlier. I think we know the answer to your final rhetorical question! Good luck, Graham.

      • Ginger says:

        Thanks for the reply Graham. Your suggestion makes sense to me. I especially like having a response that could diffuse the power of their criticism. I'm sure they use criticism because it has given them a reaction that feeds a need for them. I suppose if you cut off the "fuel" the train can't leave the station.

        • Totally; we have no control over other people's behaviour, but we can work to diffuse it's negative influence on us. Let me know how it goes! Cheers, Graham

  22. Matt says:

    Good sir, thank you for sharing your account on critical damage to the psyche; your insights have given me solace I was assured I could not attain any time soon.

    These past couple of years have been a hellish experience. At 26, and in a better personal position in life now, I can reflect on the past two years with awe. The transformation from a meek and passive victim to a progressively more confident and self-reliant man is something I could not have predicted for myself any time soon.

    Sadly, I'm still a work-in-progress. In fact, just tonight I got hit hard with my inner critic (who I've discovered this year as a combination of my mother, father and older brother -- my entire family, go figure) and I was momentarily stunned at how berated I felt for an action I had every right to perform.

    After reading your words, I finally discovered my biggest downfall in trusting myself. Something I could not label, but knew was ever present. The mentality of being abandoned by the people who raised you from birth at the mere thought of expressing anger, frustration and hurt.

    My next goal is to express this directly to them. For I love my family, but there is a barrier that it seems only I can see.

    I want to break it down.

    Thanks again Graham, I really needed this tonight.

    • Hey Matt. I appreciate your comment, and commend you on the journey you're taking here. The role of the inner critic is to protect us from facing that primal abandonment fear. Harsh as it may be, it's actually trying to help you avoid something your ego mistakenly thinks will kill you. I've spent years toning my inner critic down, and have found emotional healing a key part of my process. Like you, I'm still a work in progress, but I'm starting to see that everyone is; so being less-than-perfect actually helps me connect with other people now. Good on you for being willing to go to the scary places to break down the barriers that caused your pain in the first place. I'm always here if you need support and want to talk. Cheers, Graham

  23. Sara says:

    I'm so glad I came across this link,from low self esteem and confidence low from my childhood into adulthood, depression on and off no self belief.. All down to the fact of my parents, more my dad cruel and critical behaviour. Trying to get answers to understand why I'm treated this way, never get resolvement from my Dad but reading on here I think just maybe I could turn this around and start working to heal .. myself .. Thankyou

    • Thanks Sara. One of the most painful lessons of my life has been to let go of expecting the people who contributed to my pain, to also contribute to my healing. No doubt there was some painful stuff going on for your father, and I have gained some solace from understanding why my mother is the way she is; but I still found I needed to process the emotions I'd been left with. Merely understanding hasn't been enough for me. We need to be ruthless about doing what's good for us, and finding supportive people who can help us heal; rather than trying to resolve or get understanding from people who may never really get just how much pain we've been in. If you need to talk, contact me. Cheers, Graham

      • Sara says:

        Thankyou Graham for getting back to me and helping,realising I'm not alone . .
        What would you say is the best way to move forward, from your experience ?

        • I get that you're in a lot of pain and feeling stuck Sara. I believe the way forward is to start wherever you're at, and begin moving towards having the life that you really want, regardless of how your Dad behaves. Maybe he has a place in your future life, or maybe not. Either way, be ruthless and unreasonable about getting what you want out of life. This also involves letting go of our attachment to getting the parents we would have liked, rather than the ones we actually got. Cheers, Graham

  24. Elllie says:

    I'm a female who grew up with a highly critical father who was emotionally abused/neglected by my most likely BPD grandmother. He would project his unresolved pain onto me by being critical of everything including how I felt all in the guise of "love". I never understood that it wasn't my fault and that I'm not defective until I became an adult. At 25 I'm still working on repairing my self esteem.

  25. Andy says:

    Nice articles and amazing comments from people around the world. it feels good to know that I'm not alone out there.
    I cannot stop hearing my mother and father in my head. Any single decision that I take I have these doubts invading my mind. Decision feels like between death and life even though I perfectly understand that there is not a right or wrong decision.
    how can I get better in taking decisions? at the moment my inner instinct is so silent that it's always telling me to don't do something new...
    I'm stuck!

    • I hear you Andy. It sounds like you've received so much criticism in the past, that you've stopped trusting your intuition and developed a fear of getting things wrong. The trick to recovering your trust in yourself is to start making small decisions that don't matter much, and stop putting them off. Learn to deal with the impact of your choices, both when they turn out the way you'd like and when they don't. Then move up to bigger decisions. Getting a coach who can help motivate you when you're feeling stuck would help too! Cheers, Graham

  26. candice says:

    Help!!!! Me out

  27. SK says:

    I grew up with a very critical mother and a father who saw how critical she was/is of me and tried to make up for it so I guess in many ways I am lucky I had a father who saved me. As an adult I am only beginning to learn to love myself. For years I have been suffering from depression, low self-esteem and became so depressed I couldn't even work, which only added to my mother's harsh criticism of me. I am just now starting to get back onto my feet and begin my life anew. I know it might sound weird but I've really gotten into anything that has to do with loving yourself and anything spiritual, like yoga and alternative medicine. I find that these things really help me. I also do art to express my feelings and just draw and paint what I feel and keep it in a journal. I try to limit my contact with my mother to a once a week phone call but I love her so sometimes I call her more often. Should try to do it only once a week though because the last time I called her I felt horrible afterwards because of how critical she was. Don't understand why she can't just love me even though I currently don't work and live with my father (at only 27). She always tells me she loves me, though, and I know she does. I'm pretty sure she does it unconsciously, though, but I'm going to have to limit my time with her because I can't stand it. It just isn't good for me but I still think I should have an adult relationship with her.

    • Hi SK. I relate to your story. Similarly, I love playing music, hanging out with alternative-spirituality types and have just taken up Tai Chi to help with some of my remaining anxiety. And I've barely spoken with my critical mother since the day I finally stood up to her. Another coach also suggested simply spending less time with toxic parents, and that seems to be working for me. If their behaviour changes, that could change things; but I keep reminding myself not to hold out for that. We need to get on and live our lives as adults regardless of how our parents choose to behave. Cheers, Graham

  28. Sara says:

    I am truly thankful I found this link. I do suffer from my low self confidence and once i tried to build it up, i was faced by my parents believing I act like GOD and I feel full of myself. I truly see I do nothing good in their eyes and once I even told them: so I am a sinner? I only see their disapproval, disgust, denial and rejection when I am a truly good person. For years, their behaviour has been the way I identify myself and I couldn't see but the broken dull and ugly sides of me. For years I believed I am a fat kid/teen/adult until few years back when I discovered: I was never fat! YES I became a bit over weight lately but during all the years I was told I am fat: I was NOT! Lots of other issues came along and it left many wounds too. It hurt me deeply to know my parents won't see me or feel proud of me for who I am. Sadly I never heard them saying: I am happy for your achievement or I am proud of you since the childhood years. Now all I hear is the other side of story and it seems we never can get well because the subject is always me and how horrible I came to be when actually I am not. I have to admit I started to verbalize my opinion lately in attempt to be seen as who I am or accepted as who I am but I can't change them and sure how they view me. I am sad to say my parents kind of love is the distructive way: We must break her to make her stronger. They even tell me we know you would get hurt hearing this but we don't mind telling you it because we believe it is the right thing and it is sometimes to matters that has nothing with them but with personal choices or opinions I have. I need to learn to take things less personally I think.

    • I feel for you Sara; it certainly is challenging when we have parents who consistently harp on qualities that they see as negative in us. Ultimately though, what counts is your opinion of yourself, and I believe we can learn to reclaim our true selves. I've found that taking time out from negative family influences, however "well meaning" they may be, has been really helpful. You may also find the post on How to Cut the Emotional Umbilical Cord with your Mother helpful in freeing yourself of the negative conditioning so that you don't have to take their criticism personally. Cheers, Graham

  29. McKenzie O'Malley says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this... I've been beating myself up for years and since I graduated and tried starting a life on my own I've found myself attacking myself and those around me obsessively because these critical voices in my head keep hitting me. I didn't realize until last night on an uncomfortable call with my father that my inner critic is his voice- He has badgered me with "constructive criticism" nearly since birth and now his words are embedded in my being. I guess now comes the time to face the monster- Terrified of the criticism it might bring, but I guess it has to come out sooner or later to break this cycle.

    • Glad you found it helpful. I found that the critical voice in my head (which was my mother's) quietened considerable the day I finally stood up to my critical mother. Similarly, you may find it helpful to challenge your father when he begins to criticise you. I recommend you get yourself some emotional support first though, as that primal fear of abandonment may be lurking ready to strike. Good luck!

  30. Kristina says:

    I will print this article and refer to it when needed. It seems like a sure beginning of the end to a lifelong pain I have from my mother who I now realize has deep wounds herself. It is tricky to be in a situation where you try to help her from falling further into the cracks by grabbing her hand while she's throwing stones and sticks at you. My challenge is how can I help her, since I'm the closest person to her...

    • Hey Kristina. Sounds like a tough situation; which may require some "tough love". Although it can feel tremendously challenging, setting healthy boundaries is the key to ending the lifelong pain for both of you. I suggest a lesson from first aid training: help yourself first. When she sees that you're getting on with your life, she may decide that falling into cracks is no way for her to live either. Cheers, Graham

  31. Div says:

    Wow, this really hit the nail on the head for my familial situation. It was always confusing because I know that my parents are decent people and want what's best for me, and even in therapy I was afraid to bring up any complaint about them for that reason.

    • Yeah, I totally relate to Div. It's challenging to stand up to abusive treatment by parents who are "good people" in many other respects, without feeling guilty. Our inner child goes ballistic at the fear of abandonment, even though as adults we know consciously that we'll survive. But well-intended parents sometimes perpetrate horrendous abuse on their children. Setting strong boundaries with my critical mother has been absolutely key to my healing.

  32. Stu says:

    Gosh. Thank you, right now I'm busy destroying myself through being overwhelmed by continuous critical voices in my head and I'm withdrawing from the world and burning bridges behind me and being immensely lonely. Without being dramatic my thoughts often turn to suicide as the only way to stop the crazy stuff in my head. I've just read your article and you've pretty much described my life. Thank you, you may have helped me more than you will ever know

    • Hey Stu. Yeah I hear ya; it's tough when the inner critic triggers. Just remember that it's not you; it's just conditioning. Do you have people around you who can support you? If not, drop into the forums or reach out to some friends who can remind you that the critic isn't you. Cheers, Graham

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