4 signs you received criticism from your parents and what you can do

Disclaimer: This post is not to blame nor absolve parents. It’s purely to promote understanding. It comes from the perspective of Asian Australian families, but this might not apply to every Asian family and could apply to non-Asian families. Enhancing Minds recognises that every culture has aspects that work and don’t work for individual personalities.


In the 14 years I’ve worked with parents and in parenting support, I’ve seen that it’s an essential part of a parent’s job to teach, instruct, give feedback to, and discipline their children. We might get constructive feedback from our parents that comes with some praise and offers of support, minus any sadness or anger. We might get something that feels more like criticism than constructive feedback. Here are some signs that you received more criticism than feedback.

1. Justifying criticism

This could apply to criticism from yourself or from your parents. You may say to yourself: “Criticism is the only way to learn” or “My parents’ criticism was well meaning.”

2. Controlled through shame

You may make decisions led by feelings of guilt or shame. You feel like you’ve done something wrong if you don’t do things the way your parents want things. Or you’re worried about how you’ll be perceived by your parents and/or the outside world. So you do things your parents’ way to temporarily escape these feelings or to try to avoid these feelings in the first place.

3. Suppressing yourself

Similar to the previous point, you end of avoiding doing lot of things that you want or are good for you over the years, even things you really like. You’re afraid of being criticised or humiliated.

4. Overly indebted

There’s nothing wrong with being understanding towards your parents, their struggles, and all the things they’ve done for you, but there’s a difference between giving back and being overly indebted to them. You feel that you HAVE TO live out your parents’ dream for them, no matter how much that path clashes with your own personality, values, and strengths.

Why does it feel this way?

When you were growing up, that was prime time for you to be building your self-confidence (with the help of your parents), but instead it was knocked down. You may have received mixed messages from your parents. From one angle, you’re getting a push to succeed and achieve more, and from the other angle, you’re receiving criticism and being treated like a failure. Your parents’ voices start to take up space in your mind, which can make you feel like a loser.

For our parents, this isn’t always intentional. Some of them might only know how to teach and give guidance through criticism. Some may not have immersed themselves in the different values-systems that exist in the West, and in turn, they don’t realise that their kids live by a different values-system to themselves. For some parents, they may be grappling with their own sense of inadequacy. Being from the ‘survival-generation’, they may not have had the education and career path that they wanted, leading to feeling like a failure themselves. This could influence their ‘at-all-costs’ kind of communication with their kids.

No matter where it comes from, it feels like tiger parenting and it still hurts.

What to do?

The process of reteaching our thought patterns could take a bit of time and effort. Here are some suggestions to start with:

  • Start to recognise when your parents’ communication or your own thoughts are criticism, rather than your objective voice
  • If talking with your parents continues to bring out feelings of hurt, consider where you’d like to set your boundaries
  • Practise mindfulness
  • Teach your brain to recognise positives in yourself
  • Explore your own identity and what your values are
  • Connect with a psychologist to help you through these steps and more. Feel free to use the form on the right to book an appointment with us!