Growing up with criticism can damage your self-confidence, make you self-conscious and lead to becoming overly sensitive to how others react to you. That has been my experience. When the criticism alternates with extreme praise, the mixed messages that you are left with are even more damaging. I felt like the rug was constantly being pulled out from under me. I was afraid to be happy, waiting for the other shoe to drop.
In order to protect myself emotionally, I unconsciously became a keen observer, a people watcher, an avid reader about human nature. Outwardly passive, inwardly I harbored deep resentment and anger. Because I was not permitted to vent these strong emotions as a child, they manifested themselves into self destructive behaviors and eventuality led to mental illness. I was extremely shy, stoic and an introvert. Because of trust issues, I rarely let anyone get close to me.
Adding to my feelings of inadequacy, I developed several phobias including fear of heights, open paces, crowds, eating in public and speaking in front of my peers. After a summer vacation to Germany, without parental supervision, I became obese at the age of ten. Always being the shortest in the class, near sighted (without glasses) and having untreated asthma, didn't help matters. Obesity was not common in children during the 60's. Immigrants from Germany were also not popular due to postwar attitudes of adults, which filtered down to their children. As a result of all these factors, I was a target of ridicule from my peers.
I entered puberty earlier than most and developed cystic, scarring acne that did not completely clear up until I was in my 40's Depression and suicidal tendencies plagued my adolescence and adulthood. Fortunately, I never completely self-destructed due to an inner strength that no amount of mental and physical abuse could destroy.
It has taken a long time to finally recognize that God was protecting me during those dark years and that he never gave up on me. I am still a work in progress. Never give up on yourself and try not to take criticism too personally. The one trying to put you down is the one that has the problem!