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Is family trying to tear you down? Here's how to protect yourself

3 Power Tips to Deflect Toxic Criticism

Mia was wounded.

She felt her greatest enemy was herself.


Because one day, in a heated argument with her partner, Mia came to a realization.

Every time her partner pointed out a perceived flaw or cast a negative judgment, it stung her to the core.

And the reason it stung so badly was because Mia already attacks herself viciously about these same things daily.

You see...

The greatest obstacles in life are not external forces but the unseen battles within ourselves.

Mia's story highlights the importance of understanding how our internal chatter can affect our ability to defend against external criticisms.

The constant self-criticism not only weakens our defense against external tear downs but can also seep into our personal relationships and daily lives. 

By building a solid defense against our own tear downs, we create a stable foundation to withstand external attacks.

Instead of solely concentrating on external challenges, we must shift our focus inward and recognize the connection between our inner strength and resilience against the harsh words of others.

And there are three powerful ways to start achieving this...

Tip 1: Use cultural naratives to build an ubreakable back bone

Different cultures have unique expectations and ways of expressing opinions and criticisms, which can make it hard to develop good mental defenses.

For example, countries like China, japan and Korea, there is often a strong emphasis on collective harmony, social hierarchy, and respect for authority.

People are encouraged to prioritize group cohesion and consensus over expressing personal opinions or criticisms openly.

If you come from these cultures self-criticism might actually become a valued asset.

You develop a strong sense of self-criticism, constantly evaluating your thoughts, actions, and opinions against the cultural norms.

The fear of judgment or rejection for deviating from these norms can be deeply ingrained, making it challenging for you to break free from self-criticism.

You see, your internal defense shield, which helps protect you from other people's criticisms, relies heavily on your self-awareness and understanding.

If you're unaware of your own reactions to different cultural contexts, it may leave you feeling more vulnerable and less supported by your defense shield.

Becoming aware of your own biases and working on adapting to various cultural expressions helps you to be better equipped to handle internal and external criticisms.

This allows your internal defense shield to be more effective.

To turn curtural naratives into an asset, start by...

Engaging with diverse sources of inspiration, such as literature, art, or philosophy, to enrich your perspective.

As an example Take a leap of faith, close your eyes, spin a globe, and let your finger land on a country. Make it your mission to study and immerse yourself in that culture for a specified amount of time.

By integrating elements from various cultures into your defense shield, you create a harmonious blend of values and beliefs, ultimately transcending culture-specific expectations and being impervious to abuse tied to cultural norms.


Tip 2: Harness cognitive dissonance and build a robust foundation for self-confidence

Sometimes, you can feel conflicted.

This happens when you try to do something new to protect yourself. But, that new thing goes against what you have always believed about yourself or what others think about you.

It's like having two different ideas in your mind that don't fit together, making it hard to choose which one to believe, just as in Gwen's example below...

Gwen prided herself on being a perfectionist, but life's demands began overwhelming her. Struggling to meet her own high standards, self-doubt crept in.

When others criticized her, Or when they commented on how tired and unwell she looked, it shattered her fragile self-esteem.

The clash between her idealized self-image and reality created unbearable emotional turmoil. 

Can you see how this creates a state of inner tension and uncertainty.

Because if you are already grappling with conflicting thoughts about ourselves, any external criticism further intensifies the internal struggle.

To gaurd against this...

Try using the discomfort arising from conflicting thoughts as a catalyst for creative thinking. Instead of conforming to either old beliefs or new ideas, develop an innovative mindset to merge the best aspects of both.

As an example, you can take each belief contributing to your cognitive dissonance and break it down. Ask yourself why you hold these beliefs, and what would happen if you let them go.

This cognitive flexibility results in a personalized defense shield that continuously evolves and refines itself in the face of external criticism.

Moving on...

Tip 3: Use the vulnerability paradox to fortify you internal self-defence shield

People often shy away from vulnerability, fearing it will make them more susceptible to tear downs. But the fear of vulnerability is actually what makes you weaker and overly sensitive.

The vulnerability paradox is like an old, moss-covered stone wall.

This wall has many tiny cracks and crevices which invite moss and tiny plants to borough through.  

People tend to avoid these weak points, plastering over them, hoping to create a smoother, impenetrable surface. 

Now, Imagine that this moss-covered wall is your psyche. Each crack represents a vulnerability, an area where self-doubt and criticism can seep in.

If these vulnerabilities are ignored or covered up, they don't disappear; instead, they remain hidden beneath the surface, susceptible to external influence.

When someone else points out a flaw or criticizes you, it's as if they are pressing on one of these plastered-over cracks.

This external pressure triggers the underlying vulnerability, causing discomfort or pain.

The criticism stings so much because it aligns with your hidden self-doubt and the areas where you are already hard on yourself.

The besrt solution here is to...

Tap into the power of vulnerability

So, turn the vulnerability paradox into an opportunity by channeling it into creative and empathic problem solving.

Begin by embracing the cracks in your moss-covered wall instead of plastering over them.

Imagine the cracks in your mossy wall are like things you're not so good at yet or feel a little worried about.

Instead of pretending they're not there, it's like watering the little plants that live in those cracks.

As you take care of these parts of yourself, they get stronger. Just like the plants in the wall grow and make it sturdier, you grow too.

So, if someone tries to say something mean, it doesn't hurt as much because you know those cracks are just places where you're still growing, making your wall even stronger!


Here's how to truly guard against external tear downs

To truly guard against external tear downs, you must first delve inward and understand that the greatest conflict often lies within.

The real battleground is not between you and others, but between you and your own perceptions of yourself.

Cultural narratives and cognitive dissonance show us how external influences and our own beliefs can deepen our self-criticism, while the vulnerability paradox highlights how our fear of revealing weaknesses amplifies our sensitivity to tear downs.

But the astounding twist is that these seeming roadblocks can be transformed into unique sources of strength.

By embracing your vulnerabilities, harmonizing cultural narratives, and harnessing cognitive dissonance, you not only build an unshakable defense against external criticisms but also foster a resilient sense of self.

The dual shield is less about armoring up against the world, but more about nurturing a compassionate relationship with yourself.

This shift in perspective defies common beliefs about defense mechanisms and illuminates a fresh, empowering path to resilience and self-acceptance.

 Articles in this series

- How to stop a manipulative family member from draining you emotionally

- When family members fail to understand your mental struggles and emotional pain

- Is family trying to tear you down? Here's how to protect yourself (This article)

- Dealing with family members that are toxic

- 30 Shocking Ways Your Family May Be Manipulating You: And what to do about them.

- How to Set Boundaries with a Manipulative Family Member

- Dealing with Difficult Family Situations? Don't Bother - Embrace the Chaos!

- The Dark Side of Improving Family Relationships: The Secrets They Don't Tell You

- The Truth About Resolving Family Tension: It's Not Just About Maintaining Peace and Harmony

- Decoding Emotional Games: Life Lessons from Manipulative Family Dynamics

- Recognizing and Responding to Psychological Triggers in a Toxic Family

- Why Frequent Reality Checks Are Vital in a Toxic Family

- Harnessing Personal Values For Navigating Manipulative Family Dynamics

Written by Adewale Ademuyiwa


How to deal with a difficult family member

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