What to Do When Criticism Makes You Feel Bad

feeling guilty people pleasing Jul 13, 2023

Recently, I had a former client call and complain that I changed my style when it comes to my sessions, and they wanted something like I originally did 3 years ago. Now keep in mind, this client only had 1 session per year, didn’t follow my recommendations for treatment, and isn’t my ideal client.

In the past, I would’ve felt terrible if someone complained that I wasn’t doing something they wanted. I would start thinking that I had let them down and maybe I should just change the way I do things to accommodate them.

Today, I’m more confident about what I have to offer and accept that I can’t please everyone.

Fortunately, I was able to refer this client to another practitioner who is a better fit for where they are in life because I’m not going backward!

The key to feeling calm and confident in this situation was understanding that I’m not meant for everyone and that not everyone is going to like me or what I do. This is often a hard lesson to learn because we tend to have the unrealistic expectation that everyone should like us even though we don’t even like everyone ourselves! Plus, it's ok to enforce boundaries even if someone else doesn't like them. 

Now, let’s dive into this inner conflict and why criticism hurts so much.

Our emotional brain (AKA your subconscious) urges us to fit in and find a group where we feel loved and accepted. This brain fears judgement and rejection so much that it will cause you to suppress your authentic self to avoid being an outcast. A people pleasing pattern often arises to avoid the pain of rejection even though it causes more exhaustion and anxiety for you.

If you also have low self-esteem, then you may subconsciously feel that the needs of others are more valuable than your own.

This is the perfect storm of terrible feelings because if you disappoint someone, you’ll be criticized, rejected, and end up bringing about the very thing your emotional brain was trying to avoid in the first place.

To make matters worse, your emotional brain (subconscious) will send the fear of rejection to your survival brain (unconscious). The survival brain views being rejected as decreasing your chances of survival because you’ll be alone. If you’re alone, then you’ll die. All roads lead to death for the survival brain.

So, the survival brain will ramp up your anxiety and conspire with your emotional brain to avoid rejection at all costs. It doesn’t care if you’re happy or get what you want. It just wants you to be accepted for your own safety.

Talk about a terrible dilemma!

Whenever we feel judged or criticized, it’s natural for it to sting a little because we’re only human! However, if you’re able to separate the information you receive from the emotions of fear or failure, then you might receive some valuable insight. This is using criticism in a constructive or productive way.

In other times, criticism comes about because someone isn’t getting their way, they don’t like you, or what you’re doing in life. That’s ok! Not everyone is going to be your biggest fan, and you don’t owe them anything. If you’re not a good fit for them or able to help them, then they’ll find someone else.

Remember my favorite saying, “Guilt is optional”!

You’re not a bad person if someone doesn’t like you, or you say no to a request. You’re just as valuable as everyone else and practicing good boundaries while using your discernment when agreeing to something is staying in your power. You deserve to feel safe and appreciated and it’s ok to change your situation if that’s not happening.

If you have a people pleasing habit, want to develop stronger boundaries, and leave behind the fear of rejection, then book a session HERE.

We’ll use the Three Brain Realignment Technique (TBRT) to reprogram your survival and emotional brains for confidence and ease.


April Darley is a Resilience Coach specializing in helping people release stress, anxiety, pain, and sabotaging behavior. Through the Three Brain Realignment Technique (TBRT), you'll learn how to step into your own power, comfortably deal with life's challenges, and stay calm and balanced. 

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