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I Get Defensive When People Judge Me

Photo by Ayo Ogunseinde on Unsplash

I was at the gym.

Hesitantly, I tried to perform a shoulder workout that I’ve seen on YouTube.

Because I didn’t have the best physique, and because the exercise was a bit weird, and because I was nervous, I grabbed some people’s attention.

And I was doing it wrong. The form was shitty and the weights were too heavy.

One of the guys beside me pointed out that what I was doing was wrong.

He said something about the form. He also commented on the weight pointing out that I needed to use lighter weights.

And suddenly, my self-confidence was shattered!

I couldn’t look people in the eye anymore. I couldn’t respond to that guy with anything but a nervous laugh. Heck, I couldn’t even finish my workout.

All I could do was putting the weights down. A few minutes later, I was out of the gym.

I felt very insecure and very weak. On my way back home, I was thinking about what had happened.

Somehow, I was able to know why I got so defensive and insecure. It was an idea that I wrote on my phone back at that time. And till this day, I remind myself of it whenever someone judges me or points out my shortcomings.

A few years later…

I was at the gym again.

I was performing another weird shoulder exercise that I’d seen on YouTube.

This time I wasn’t nervous. I was doing it with enthusiasm and power. And also my physique had improved a lot since the last time.

But still, I grabbed some people’s attention.

One guy, who obviously was more experienced than me, commented on my form. He was correct to some extent. There was a specific range of motion that I should’ve stayed in.

Nonetheless, I didn’t feel insecure this time and I didn’t get defensive.

Actually, I was confident that my workout was effective. I thanked the guy who corrected me and I took his advice into consideration.

I continued my workout and then I left the gym.

I didn’t feel insecure and weak. I didn’t question myself and I didn’t feel threatened.

Two similar situations. Two different reactions. I’m the same person, but the mindset is different in each case. Here’s how.

What’s The Difference?

Here’s what I wrote that day I felt insecure:

“Other people’s comment hurt only when they touch an emotional wound or insecurity. They hurt when you are not 100% sure of who you are or what you are doing.”

And that was true.

The first time, I had serious doubts about myself. I had doubt about my physique, my strength, my knowledge, and myself in general.

That’s why the guy’s comment was too painful for me to handle.

I wasn’t sure of what I was doing and I had my own insecurities. And his comment triggered my defensiveness and insecurity because it touched this area of insecurities and uncertainty.

And it doesn’t matter whether the person’s comment is genuine or sarcastic. It’ll hurt as long as it touches a wound.

Meanwhile in the other time, it didn’t hurt much.

The second time I was more confident in myself and in what I was doing. I knew what I was doing and why.

I didn’t have doubts about my physique as I used to. I wasn’t ashamed of my current level of strength and knowledge. Also, I was pretty sure that I’m having an effective workout (I could feel it).

So, the guy’s comment didn’t do much. It didn’t hurt me.

It didn’t hurt me because it didn’t touch any emotional wound or insecurity.

This is Why Other People’s Judgement Hurts

If someone said you are quiet or boring, and you already have insecurities about your social skills and likability, you would definitely get hurt.

The degrading comment already exists in your self-image. It’s already an insecurity. It’s already there in your definition of yourself.

And it’s causing you pain.

It’s just like a wound. And whenever someone says something that touches this wound, you will feel pain. You will feel insecure and get defensive.

Regardless of whether the person is really concerned about you or he is just being an asshole, it’ll hurt.

And as you can see, the solution here is not about silencing the people who judge you (though it’s necessary sometimes). The solution is about healing the wounds and dealing with the insecurities.

Practically, here is what that means:

  • Deal with the insecurities and heal the emotional wounds.

And also…

  • Change the way you look at your insecurities and flaws (because you will always have insecurities and wounds).

So, the next time you get defensive, and insecure, when someone judges you, realize that it’s an emotional wound that got opened by the person’s words. It’s an already existing insecurity.

And you need to work on healing this wound and overcoming this insecurity.

The more wounds and insecurities you have, the more will you get defensive and feel bad about yourself.

Dealing with your insecurities, and even just coming to terms with them, will help you not get hurt by people’s judgment and comments.

Probably not what you wanted to hear. Probably you just wanted someone to tell you that the other person is just an asshole. Well, even if he’s an asshole, you still have to work on yourself.

A shy person who doesn’t like being shy and is insecure about his social skills will suffer a lot. Any comment that highlights his insecurities, directly or indirectly, will hurt him.

On the other hand, overcoming shyness will help him heal his emotional wound about shyness and social skills. Not hating himself because he is/he was shy will also help as well.

Doing both, dealing and coming to terms, will help him even more.

The solution is always inside. The feelings of insecurity show you where the wound is. The rest is your job; heal it.

To the nerds like me, Alfred Adler talked about what he called Inferiority Complex. In it, he said that humans are born with inferiority feelings and they spend the rest of their lives aspiring to reach perfection and superiority.

In other words, they want to overcome their inferiorities and insecurities. It’s the prime motive for the humans, according to Alfred.

(According to Adler, it’s not a bad thing to have inferiorties, so long as we strive to solve them in healthy ways.)

So, it makes sense that we will feel bad when someone points out our insecurities and wounds to us. And it makes sense that those insecurities stand in the way of us reaching perfection and superiority.

And it also makes sense that if we don’t deal with these insecurities and inferiorities, not only comment will hurt us but also we will be living in an emotional hell.

Photo by Cristian Newman on Unsplash

What About The Assholes?

Let’s face it, some people out there are assholes.

They have so many psychological problems that they can’t stand seeing someone out there doing good.

They will judge you and even try to insult you.

And often, they are very good at figuring out your insecurities and then hit you where it hurts.

But also we have those who do care about you.

Those who want you to become a better person. Those who judge and criticize you to help you grow and improve and succeed.

As I mentioned in the beginning, the comment will always hurt regardless of the intentions.

It will hurt less if it is a person who cares about you. But it will feel bad anyway. No one wants to feel small.

In either case, you need to focus not on the person who said the comment, but on the fact that the comment made you feel insecure.

It means there is an unhealed emotional wound. It means there is something you need to work on.

Other than that, you need to learn how to respond when you get judged by people (assholes or people with good intentions).

First of all, don’t get defensive and don’t give justifications. (e.g. lashing out. “You know, I’m just so tired today.”)

Then, know who you are talking to.

If the person has good intentions and is criticizing you in a polite way, listen to him or her. Put your ego aside for minutes and try to listen.

The 2 people who judged my performance had good intentions.

If the person is just being an asshole, you need to act assertively.

Respond in a firm and an assertive way in order to silence this bully forever. Again, don’t get defensive and don’t justify yourself. Turn the table and make it about them.

Don’t allow the bullies to toy with your emotional well-being.

But in all cases, if it hurts, it’s a wound and it’s an insecurity.

Work on solving your emotional problems and your insecurities in order not to get affected by people’s words and opinions.

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