People who can’t handle criticism often display these 8 character traits

While no one enjoys receiving criticism, it’s an inevitable part of life.

There are those who criticize unfairly and those who criticize constructively – with the goal of helping the other person improve.

Regardless, being able to handle criticism isn’t easy. But it’s important for us to do so if we want to identify our weaknesses and work on becoming a much better version of ourselves.

So, are you someone who can handle criticism well? Read on to find out if you have these 8 traits.

1) Defensive

People who aren’t able to handle criticism well usually get very defensive when they’re criticized. They’ll make excuses and blame everyone else, rather than accept responsibility for their mistakes.

I can fully relate to this because I used to be that person.

When I was in University, I received a poor assessment for one of the projects I’d spent months on. I thought I deserved a better grade and spoke to my tutor about this. When she explained why she gave me that grade, instead of accepting her points – which were all valid – I blamed her teaching methods instead.

Thinking back about it now makes me cringe, but back then, the criticism I received felt unfair. It actually felt like a personal attack because I thought that my efforts were good enough.

But in reality, I had so much more to work on and my tutor was patient in pointing out areas that I fell short in.

After much reflection, I realized that all she intended was for me to improve.

And this usually stems from a person with…

2) Low self-esteem

As a result, they take criticism as if they are personal attacks. 

Continuing from my previous example, when my tutor pointed out that I could have presented my work in a much clearer manner, my mind interpreted this as: I can’t even do the simplest of things – presenting work well.

Or when she gave feedback that I may have interpreted the question wrongly, my mind interpreted this as: I’m in University and I can’t read properly.

While she didn’t mean to make her feedback personal, my mind immediately understood this differently.

This stemmed from my utter lack of confidence.

I ended up feeling that I wasn’t worthy enough to be in my tutor’s class, or in University at all, because of how my mind processed her feedback. 

To make things worse, people who aren’t able to handle criticism well also end up…

3) Constantly comparing themselves with others

Their lack of self-confidence also causes them to compare themselves with others. Their self-worth is determined by the amount of positive feedback they receive, and how much better they performed over everyone else.

I used to have the habit of asking my coursemates how they performed on quizzes, exams, and assignments. If they performed worse than me, I’d feel a lot better, and if they did better than me, I’d be in quite a negative mood for the rest of the day.

This was how much I pegged my self-worth to how well I did as compared to my peers. And this caused a lot of stress and anxiety because to me, everything was like a competition that I had to win.

Therefore, when I received criticism, this made me feel like I was performing a lot worse than everyone else.

4) Give up easily

Another key aspect of those who aren’t able to handle criticism well, is that they give up easily.

They have an idealized version of themselves that they want to show people. And when they receive criticism, this shatters the identity they have constructed for themselves. Most of the time, they just give up whatever it is they’re doing, as they don’t see the point in pressing forward.

At my first job after graduation, I sat through my first performance review after working for about a year. Remember that I was still trying to learn how to handle criticism with grace, even though I was much better at doing that as compared to when I was in school.

My supervisor shared some areas that she felt I could do better in while pointing out areas of improvement that I could work on, which caused me to get a grade that fell short of my expectations.

I was crushed and was in no mood to continue with work for the rest of the week. My inability to cope with criticism nearly caused me to give up just as I’d started out in my career.

5) Enjoys the approval of others

phrases narcissistic use People who can't handle criticism often display these 8 character traits

It’s no wonder that these individuals enjoy the approval of others. It forms the core of their identity and self-worth.

They get a kick out of receiving praise and positive feedback and crumble when people have negative opinions about them. Sometimes, they don’t even work on feedback that they disagree with.

They feel that the other person’s opinion may be shortsighted or unfair and will instead focus on the positive feedback they received instead.

While it’s important to keep an open mind about what others say about us, it’s not healthy to base our identity on the opinions of others – even those closest to us.

6) Doesn’t take responsibility for their mistakes

It’s easier sometimes to blame others for your mistakes. That way, you shirk all responsibility to the other person as they try their best to clean up your mistake.

However, ignoring feedback and opinions that could potentially help you improve will stem your growth in the long run.

People who are unable to handle criticism would rather someone else be the ‘bad guy’. 

While this may cause them to feel slightly better about themselves in the short run, it robs them of the chance to work on their weaknesses.

If it’s an assignment, project, or task that was thrown back to you because of improvements that are required, work on these with an open mind.

You’ll see that in the long-run, you’ll have the respect of others and hone your skills as you work on the feedback others have of you.

7) Fear of rejection

Another key trait that people who are unable to handle criticism share is the fear of rejection.

Since they peg their self-worth to the approval of others, they feel that receiving disapproval will cause others to avoid them, or reject their friendship or presence. 

They may find that they are unworthy to be accepted into a group or participate in an activity with people who are performing much better than them.

These people have rationalized to themselves that everyone else would not want to work with someone who is ‘lagging behind’ – whether is it in class or at work.

8) Over-reacting to negative feedback

As such, they are overly sensitive to feedback. Their emotions can be seen plainly on their faces. 

They may burst into tears, get very angry and start arguing with the person who criticised them, or immediately refuse to speak to anyone.

And this also happens when they receive mild criticism. In the long run, this discourages others from sharing their feedback, which can hinder a person’s growth. It makes it challenging for both parties to engage in productive discussions that could help with self-improvement.


While it’s perfectly natural to not enjoy receiving criticism, exhibiting the above traits whenever someone offers you negative feedback can be unhealthy.

What helped me improve in this area was to accept that these criticisms weren’t personal. I took each feedback and comment as an opportunity for me to improve and get better at what I was doing.

This shift in mindset doesn’t happen overnight though. It required me to put aside my ego, acknowledge that I don’t know everything and work towards improving areas that were highlighted to me by the other person.

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Tina Fey

I've ridden the rails, gone off track and lost my train of thought. I'm writing for Ideapod to try and find it again. Hope you enjoy the journey with me.

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