We’re more likely to remember the bad things said about us than the good
Anna* spent the better part of her adulthood raising kids. After she and her husband married in 1983, the pair wasted no time starting a family. Their four boys, who were all born within a decade, are now in their 20s and 30s and have begun having kids of their own.
The 57-year-old office administrator was thrilled to become a grandmother, but was recently surprised by criticism she faced over her child-rearing skills. Last year, Anna was feeding her newborn grandson in what she referred to as the “old-school way”—with him in her lap, laid out horizontally, bottle in his mouth—when her son chastised her. “You’re doing it all wrong,” he told her, noting that the baby needed to be sitting upright. “People don’t do it like that anymore.”
“I thought, I raised four of you. How could I not know what I’m doing?” Anna recalls. “It was pretty hurtful.” The comment stuck with her and ever since has made her wonder: Was I a bad mother?
Ruminating over negative feedback is something we all do: a famous 2001 paper published in the Review of General Psychology even proved that we’re disproportionately more likely to remember the bad things said about us than the good. From negative comments in the office to pointed words about our behaviour from loved ones, criticism is something we can’t avoid. But building resilience to it, and learning to accept and grow from negative feedback, is a skill anyone can and should develop.
*Name has been changed.