Mind Your Words

Over the last few days I've done a lot of re-reading on my Myers-Briggs Personality type, as well as a friend of mine's. We are exact opposites. I'm ESFP and she's INTJ (makes remembering our types easy, though).

One thing that I've read consistently in all the ESFP analysis is that people with personalities like mine can often take criticism too personally. I've discussed here and here, for example how bad I know I am with criticism. I'm not quite as bad as some of the personality explanations suggest someone who is an ESFP might be, but I think a lot of that is because I try to be cognizant of my knee-jerk reaction to criticism.

My friend's personality type, on the other hand, repeatedly mentions that people like her do well with criticism. It's true and is one thing I like and envy about her.

I'm going somewhere with this, so hold on...

Last night a friend of mine took me out to eat to celebrate my getting into grad school. On the way there we talked about eating and body image and other yucky stuff. I told her that I remember something my mom said to me once when I was younger...

I was pretty average in size until early middle school. I don't have any specific story to explain why I started gaining weight, but I was a chubby middle schooler and I've grown into an overweight adult. My mother is big into nutrition and health (she has a degree in the former). So I've gone a lot of my life dealing with her nagging me about my health habits (or lack thereof). In high school I was required to participate in an after-school activity. For 90% of us that meant a sport and for the rest, that meant a P.E. type class held 3 times each week during what would be our study hall or free period. For 8th, 9th and half of 10th I was a member of the 90% group. I fenced.

I don't know how much any of you may know about fencing, but it is NOT an easy sport to train for. Our coach (who was also my Latin teacher) was serious about us being good, so we trained hard. As a result, I started losing serious weight.

I can remember when a specific shirt I had started to fit a little better and being very proud of the weight I was losing. It felt good to have something to show for my work. I used to sit in one of my favorite chairs while watching TV and flex my calf muscle over and over, giggling at how big it was!

The best part about all of this was the compliments I recieved from people who noticed I was losing weight. At church, at school, with family -- everyone noticed! One evening I was at my Godmother's. My Godmother is the manager of an apartment building for the elderly/disabled and I practically grew up there. She noticed and so did some of the residents, that I'd lost weight.

When my mom came to pick me up, I got another compliment as we headed out of the door. In the car, my mom said what I will never forget...
"You know the reason people compliment you on losing weight is because they noticed you were overweight before."
Yes. Total record scratch moment.

My mother really isn't like that. I mean, I think about this and that's not in her character to say something like that. Not maliciously anyway. I'm old enough to be logical and think that perhaps she was trying to show me that she hadn't been making it up that I needed to lose weight. Perhaps in some weird way she thought that a compliment. But at the time, and I couldn'tve been more than 13 or 14, it hurt.

I don't know what was said after that -- but I know that 10+ years later, I remember her saying that. I took it as criticism of the utmost degree and it has stuck with me.

A few months ago a friend of mine said something to me that I know was either said without thinking or because she was frustrated at something else that was going on, but it hurt and I noticed today that I've significantly modified my behavior as a result. Nothing anyone would really notice, but I took what she said as criticism and it's sticking with me.

Anyway -- I wonder what other people's catches are. Criticism is mine -- the one type of communication I run into frequently that I have to be conscious of not overreacting to.

Some people are like that about compliments, gifts, percieved miffs, etc...

Anyone got suggestions for me?


Kit (Keep It Trill) said...

Forgive me, but that quote by your mama had me laughing! Parents can say some of the darnest things and do it so dryly, so factually, and so cluelessly that you're having a fit.

Case in point. I asked my dad once if he thought a boyfriend loved me. He shrugged, "Oh, I dunno," he says, "he probably like the sex more than anything."


But he was right. Telling the no-frills version of the truth was one of the things I later came to appreciate.

KG said...

OMG...That comment by your mum is definitely something my mum would say albeit in a more 'blunt' way.

The thing is I'm an INTJ like your friend but I've been told I take criticism too personally as well. Go figure. For me I think it's more a function of thinking about it too deeply & reading too much meaning behind the words while ignoring the true intention of the person. I've had to learn to separate that and as I've gotten older it's gotten easier to do. I think that might be helpful for you too.

It's funny you mention compliments cos I get embarrassed when I get compliments etc. Friends have told me it might be a confidence thing but I think it's more being uncomfortable with being the center of attention of anything and not taking myself too seriously.

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