This will probably sound impertinent, but it’s a problem I’d genuinely appreciate help with.

I’ve discovered that one of my greatest weaknesses is a deep vulnerability to being criticised by old(er) white men. Like, in their 50s+

Now, it could simply be that the power imbalance is so extreme between them and I that there’s virtually no cure. (Maybe until I’m also old?) And it’s also true that they are often dismissive and smug. But I don’t usually have a problem with critical thought and debate in general – I’ve become inured to it firstly from years of high school debating, then being constantly edited in a Journalism diploma, then arguing my way through two humanities degrees. In many ways, critical engagement has been a key action in virtually everything I’ve done.

And yet… I’ve become aware of an almost irrational over-response to the criticisms of old(er) white men. The less they know me, the more it hurts. And I become almost unable to respond in a measured way, without hatred toward the person involved. I don’t think I always reacted this way: it’s grown over time, as wounds have accumulated really…

I’ve been pondering this problem for a little while, as it’s a bit of a hurdle to the things I’d like to do with my gifts. And I don’t like that. I also don’t want to develop bitterness toward people.

So I’ve realised, perhaps the best people to ask for help with this are those others who seem most sensitive to criticism, and in my experience, that has often been old(er) white men. Some of them have seemed so sensitive, they’ve even been offended at being described by age, ethnicity and sex.

So guys, how do you deal with it? How do you cope with being offended? And/or criticised? And what do you do to combat bitterness against those who criticise you? Do you have any advice for someone trying not to be overcome by rage?

If it helps, the main thing I’ve tried to do so far is pinpoint why exactly it hurts, and I think it’s because it touches against a deep need to be accepted. When I’m criticised or dismissed by gatekeepers, it feels like they’re saying “you’re not allowed in. You’re wrong. Get out. You’re stupid and unworthy.” And my main objection is “you don’t get to decide that!!!” But a lot of me feels like their words will come true – ie, I will be seen to be unworthy, stupid and wrong, so should be excluded. I think being unnecessarily proud of my intellect and having had deep and long-lasting experiences of rejection and exclusion are part of what make this so hurtful – it’s sticking fingers into an open wound. So that’s the why, I think.

As for the how…? How would you respond?

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