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Unfortunately, in my work as a therapist I’ve seen many clients whose mental health issues were created or exacerbated by the way their parents treated them. Of course, most people are aware of the negative effects abuse has on a child’s development, but they often overlook a more subtle issue – parental criticism.

Parental criticism involves problematic behaviors such as comparing one’s child to others, only recognizing their failures, and projecting one’s regrets and insecurities onto them.  When children experience these behaviors, they form negative belief systems about themselves that affect them for the rest of their lives.

Some of the consequences of parental criticism include low self-esteem, feeling hopeless about one’s ability to be successful, and dependency on external validation. These consequences have a ripple effect in that they result in negative behaviors that continue to perpetuate negative thoughts and feelings in a vicious cycle.

An example of this would be a person with low self-esteem who doesn’t think they are going to be able to get a “good” job after graduating college and bases their success on their ability to get the “good” job.  The person ends up not getting the job because they lack a sense of confidence, which only continues to perpetuate their low self-esteem, feelings of hopelessness about their ability to be successful, and dependency on external validation.

Learn the components

So how does a person who experienced parental criticism break this vicious cycle?  There are several components of doing so:

  • Develop an understanding of where your parent’s criticism comes from: Most likely, it is a result of your parent’s own insecurities or harsh delivery of well-intended messages.
  • Develop a sense of compassion or forgiveness for your parent: Once you understand where the criticism comes from, you will be better able to forgive the parent.
  • Express how the criticism makes you feel: Either to your parent directly or through journaling or therapeutic letter writing. This can be a cathartic experience.
  • Pay attention to your self-criticism statements: Evaluate the validity of these statements.
  • Identify how the criticism has affected you: Work with a therapist to heal those specific issues.

If you or someone you know is seeking help for one of these conditions, Pyramid Family Behavioral Healthcare can help. Our goal is to help you find success.

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