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Self Caring

Critical Comments

By , Caring.com contributing editor
Last updated: September 12, 2011
Water Wings

How often have you heard the advice, "Just let it roll off your back"? Pretty often, if you've read much of my work here at Caring, because I seem to say it a lot as a de-stressing tactic, whether in quoting an outside expert in caregiving or psychology, or when offering my own ten cents. I said it just last week in my post about how to cope with relatives who heap extra stress on caregiving.

In the comments on that post, someone asked for help on just how to do that. Good question!

How do you let criticisms roll off your back? How do you ignore busybodies who create chaos, not help? How do you make yourself impervious to the stress?

Try these self-psyching ideas:

  1. Ask yourself, frankly, if there's any truth in the comment.

    Better to get this part out of the way first: Deep in your heart, do you know it's true that, say, you can't continue dealing with Mom's incontinence without help? Or that your partner might benefit from a different doctor or therapy?

    Most, but not all, criticisms are unproductive. But sometimes we're annoyed by truths we don't want to hear -- and that's important to be able to recognize.

  2. Try to parse out what it is about the annoying comments that's so annoying.

    Even when comments are unproductive, asking yourself why, exactly, you're so bugged can reveal a useful nugget to work with. For example:

    • Is your sister lack of action rather than her words that really gets your goat? That cues you that this isn't about you, but her, and should make it easier to ignore (or point out).

    • Is it that she's your older sister and her criticisms make you feel like a fifth grader again? Then you know it's really about your own insecurities, and you can draw power from remembering that you're a fully functioning, competent grown-up now.

    • Is it that the comments are so relentless? Then you can tune them out by picturing the speaker like the grownup voices as heard by the kids in the old Charlie Brown cartoons: "Myah-myah-myah-myah."

  3. Run through a quick self-praise list.

    After taking a deep breath, remind yourself of an inventory of all you're doing right: I'm looking after Dad. Dad is happy and safe. My husband loves me. I have three great kids. I have dear friends. I always balance my checkbook. Last week the doctor praised me for how well I've been helping Dad manage his blood sugar.

    Sounds corny, but actually articulating your strengths, blessings, and skills is like putting up an invisible shield against the slings and arrows of outside offenses.

  4. Smile and keep moving.

    The best way to skip past hurts is to not stop and dwell on them. Arch your brows, frown, or smile, whichever suits you -- and then move your mind and body onto something else. Sound hard? It gets easier with practice.

  5. Turn the tables.

    I love this tactic, from a wise reader of that same post: "Play dumb, like their 'wisdom' is an offer to volunteer," she suggests: 'Oh, wow, thanks so much for your help! Those are some great suggestions! You know what?... I'll take you up on that! You can stay with Mom a couple hours this Friday, so I can go to a doctor appointment! That will give me some much-needed help - thanks SO much! You're a lifesaver! Boy, I didn't know what I was going to do about Mom during that appointment until you volunteered! Thanks a million!' Then hope they either put up or shut up."

Good luck!

Anything else the thicker-skinned can share with the rest of us?