Defensiveness in many ways is a psychological way to survive in this world. We feel we need to defend ourselves, and in many cases, this is true. For example, if someone physically attacks you then you should defend yourself at all costs. If someone falsely accuses you, then you should defend your integrity. If external forces threaten the harmony of your family, then you should defend your family connection and bonds. However, when others criticize us for an idea, our creativity, or even just for a unique quality about us, we feel we need to defend ourselves on a deeper psychological level. Sometimes, those critical comments are meant for our growth and therefore are good. However, if we cannot take the constructive criticism with a healthy mindset, then we are most likely going to do more harm than good to ourselves and our growth.
I was visiting a museum on one occasion where a variety of artists’ work was on display. I came across some paintings which were not pleasing to my eye; however, they were obviously museum quality. The background of the artists, whom I cannot remember his name, stated that his art was criticized by many art critics in his time (this was many decades ago). Therefore, he was offended, and retreated to his home to paint. He refused visitors, and he did not leave his home unless absolutely necessary. He detached from everyone but his wife. This was a defensive move, because he believed in his work. Therefore, it is safe to assume that the mindset was the same as many of us would have, “well if you don’t like it you don’t have to look at it.” It is safe to assume that he found fault in their opinions while stroking his own ego. This is not an uncommon response. However, the point here is that he hurt himself in many ways. He may have been bitter and depressed, he certainly did not enjoy the social connections that God made everyone to need. And his wife may have suffered from the isolation as well. Now of course, this is a therapist’s speculation. But what if ….. just what if ….he had responded differently to the criticism. What if he had used the critical opinions as a way to learn and grow. He most likely would have been more successful in the art world. And he may have accomplished more than just having a couple of paintings on the wall of a museum. Clinically speaking, it is safe to assume he most likely would have lived a much happier life with a higher level of life satisfaction.