Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Insecurity & Criticism

From Wikipedia 1 & 2

"Insecurity is a feeling of general unease or nervousness that may be triggered by perceiving of oneself to be vulnerable in some way, or a sense of vulnerability or instability which threatens one's self-image or ego."

"Criticism is the practice of judging the merits and faults of something or someone in an intelligible (or articulate) way."

With those definitions in mind I'll give you a little glimpse into what happened last night.  I was wearing an outfit that I like and when my husband came home he basically told me he didn't like it and that I wear outfits like it too often.  Here's an idea of the outfit, tunic, long sweater, leggings, high socks, scarf.  In other words, coverage from head to toe.  Now, I have to add a note here because my husband is a wonderful man and I don't want him painted in a different light than that.  No he's not perfect, but he's mine and I'm so thankful for that.  He is kind, hard-working and generous.  Most of all he's honest about anything and everything, including what I wear.  He had good reasons for commenting on my clothes which I'll get into.  When I hear criticism of any kind I have a few different defense mechanisms.  I can't honestly say that I'm good at taking criticism, I'm actually very poor at it  Similarly I'm not good at taking compliments either.  I tend to shut-down emotionally and have a tough time conversing about it, get defensive and argue about the critique or make excuses for why the other person might feel that way.  Last night I went through all of them, first arguing with him, second shutting down and third brushing off his compliments.

After arguing he went to take a shower.  We have learned that if we're arguing it's better for me to have some time and space to think because I can get mean when I feel attacked.  My brain automatically goes into a mode that tells me if he hurt me I can hurt him back.  (Not proud of this.)  I truly started to think why his critique hurt so much while he was in the basement.  I came up with three reasons it was painful.  #1: He's my husband and I want him to think I look good.  #2: I like the outfit.  #3: I'm insecure in myself.

When he came up I apologized for getting so angry and started to explain myself.  He apologized as well and I know tried his best to understand my logic and to explain his own.  He said he didn't like the outfit because it covered everything up.  Not in modesty, but I only would've needed a little more fabric and a head covering to look like a nun.  He tried to explain to me that it's was almost like I was wearing a burlap sack, which gave no definition to my body.  Clearly he's not good at sugar-coating, but he probably doesn't because critiques that are sugar-coated go over my head.  This is where it gets difficult for me because the reason I feel good in that outfit is because it covers every imperfection I think I have.  It doesn't show my stomach, my thighs, my upper arms... the list could go on.  I feel if I hide myself I can feel safe and I do when my clothes are flowing.  In all honesty I might not feel like I look that good in that outfit, but I feel safe and that's important to me.  When we have discussions that are hard I get the worst stress headaches ever right above my eyes, those tend to trigger my emotional shut-down.  At this point I'm not good at much except for crying.

When I'm crying John will sit with me and then he usually wants to try and fix the issue.  Last night he helped me pick out clothes he would like and then had to give me a pep talk because they made my "perceived" imperfections visible.  I did my best to brush of his compliments because that's what I do.  He stayed patient with me until I accepted them and understood what he saw in me.  Our night ended up being great as we went on a date to Sam's Club :)

To tie this into the definitions above.  Criticisms are not necessarily meant to harm or hurt.  They are meant to give an educated or instruct or help (at least in this case).  John's intentions were not to hurt me, but to help me.  He wants me to be confident in myself and my body.  Even though his intentions were positive his critique played right into my insecurity, which lead to the difficult situation.  In this situation, however painful I know there are lessons I need to learn.  There are take-away messages that will certainly help me in the future if I take them to heart.
  1. Keep in mind intentions when I receive criticism.  They might only be meant to help.  If they are meant to hurt ignore them.
  2. Understand that my insecurity doesn't have to determine how I process critiques or compliments.
  3. Be grateful for people who want to help me become a better person.
Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day!

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