Legacy of My Grandmother: Dealing with Critical People

Nonny’s Legacy as a Critical Person

Nonny, my paternal grandmother, had many good qualities: she had an enviable work ethic, she was organized–I never knew her to lose anything until Alzheimer’s disease eventually took its toll, she had an amazing green thumb–an expert in raising African violets, and she was highly intelligent and articulate. Unfortunately, these tremendous character traits are overshadowed, even today–though she is now in her grave–by one major character flaw: she was hypercritical about everything and everyone.

From the moment she greeted you until the time of departure, the barrage of criticism would begin, concerning the clothes you wore, your body weight at the time, the particular way you wore your hair, as well as choices in career and relationships. If you were a young child, your tender age would not excuse you from the litany of criticism: the kinds of toys you played with, and how you played with them (there was only one way to play with a doll or a set of Legos, for instance), were fair game for negative comments. Being around her would cause nervousness, which would lead to mistakes and clumsiness, which would lead to more criticism.

When we were little, my stepmother would insist that we all visit Nonny, even though we all dreaded the visit, because “it was the right thing to do.” Even my father protested, and for many years, whenever he visited Nonny, or Nonny visited him, he would become sick with a headache and upset stomach–psychosomatic symptoms, of course.

It is a shame that many people shunned her, because my grandmother had many otherwise admirable qualities. As I think about it more through the years, I realize that she must have been increasingly unhappy and lonely as more and more people avoided her in order to escape her virulent criticism. I try to keep this perspective in mind as I deal with the occasional hypercritical person: I walk away when I must, but oh do I feel guilty for doing so. Yet I see no other viable option, as confronting the critical person directly seems to be a no-win situation for all involved.

Do you have any overly critical people in your life? How do you deal with them? Please feel free to share in the comments section. Namaste and blessings to you.


ceridwen [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons Unhappy and critical

ceridwen [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Unhappy and critical

One thought on “Legacy of My Grandmother: Dealing with Critical People

  1. Tom N.

    Everyone who has a parent or grandparent, and that’s almost everyone, has at least one who’ overly critical. I think like a lot of people, I avoid the overly critical person. On one occasion I tried to find flaws in the critique and point those out as a defense by attack, and that has to date shown to just make things worse. This has carried over into the being and functioning of my own life. I tend to be highly self critical, and have trouble finishing things I struggle with, and when I’m not successful tend to be more critical of others, or simply shut in. I also have a tendency to define accomplishment for myself, and set my own attainable goals, which are sometimes mere avoidance of the larger issues in my life. People are really much more complicated than they or others give themselves credit for, and usually more intelligent and cunning, sometimes frighteningly so.

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