Anxiety and depression have made me and others I know overly sensitive to both pessimism and criticism. When you have to put a lot of effort into maintaining a positive outlook, even the smallest of comments can bring you down.
I know that I have a more intense reaction to criticism than your average person, and for this reason I believe I have developed coping mechanisms to avoid/deal with this.
- Criticising myself first is possibly my go to tactic when I can see a conversation is heading down a path I do not want to go down. I find I do this so much I barely notice it anymore. The best example for me is my height; I’m only 5ft so I now tell people ‘yes, I know I’m short’ just before they are about to comment on my (lack of) height. Additionally my humour is self-depricating and I’m sure this is a reflection of my sensitivity to criticism.
- I am a people pleaser pure and simple. I am constantly apologising and fearfully polite to strangers. The other day I overpaid my haircut by £10 just because I was too polite to say anything – I just handed over my card, smiled and nodded. Generally being a people pleaser makes me feel as though I am a more likeable person, and tends to avoids any negativity or criticism.
- Avoiding the source of criticism altogether is a great tactic; you just stay home and nobody can be mean to you! On a serious note I have noticed myself doing this more and more recently, avoiding situations where I believe I could ‘fail’ or where I have to meet new people who I believe will be judging me.
So my coping mechanisms have been established and are now entrenched in my personality, but does this make them healthy? Obviously it’s nice to be liked but I am aware that I am walking to fine line between being a people pleaser and being a pushover, and from time to time I fall on the wrong side of that line (i.e. In the hairdressers).
I find the feelings and emotions of others contagious when I am down or depressed, and this is the reason I find pessimism so difficult to deal with. When you have depression you spend a lot of time building yourself up to put a happy front on for others, but when these people aren’t being positive themselves it can be even harder to maintain your optimistic persona.
It is therefore necessary to try not to be so easily affected by the moods of others, whilst still keeping a relatively active social life, as hiding away does not help the problem.