Updated: Nov 30, 2020
Criticism, judgment, accusations, and insults are awful, especially if they come directly at you, especially if they are false. When this happens, your confidence and self-worth get crashed right in front of your eyes; you begin to feel exposed, insecure, and even inadequate. In moments like this, you are willing to do almost anything to feel better and get your sense of security back. That’s why it feels nearly natural or even necessary to defend yourself from those who dared to criticize you. So, you armor up in your defense attire and hit back at that inconsiderate and preposterous lunatic who is trying to make a fool out of you. And you are not holding back because this person should have known better before attacking and shaming you.
“That’s right, no one can mess with me! I know how to defend myself!”- you think to yourself as you slam the one who is trying to undermine you by telling you what you are doing wrong or forcing their opinion onto you.
And you may feel good about your successful conquest, tasting that sweet sense of pride and high self-esteem on the tip of your tongue for just a split second before it vanishes down your throat, leaving a long-lasting bitterness instead.
Why? Because, dear reader, that was your defense response in action, and defensiveness only gives you an illusion of confidence and self-worth, a deception that only lasts a short period of time, like a drug. And just like any drug, it will always lead to a painful hangover or withdrawal.
Defensiveness is a coping tool that we utilize to reverse or deny perceived criticism or attack from others. It may seem like others are trying to push our buttons and destabilize us, when in reality, we feel vulnerable, insecure, or sensitive about the subject that is being addressed. Defensiveness takes place when we feel like our identity is being threatened.
Reasons we become defensive:
In most cases, defensiveness stems from chronic or even occasional self-victimization. If you feel like this world is against you, something or someone is trying to prevent you from succeeding, life is unfair towards you, there is no justice, and you are just a helpless victim of circumstances, the chances are that defensiveness is your go-to strategy to communicate with others.
Defensiveness also is common if you have experienced abuse and trauma in your childhood. Sadly, it was the only coping strategy that you learned and continued to use throughout your adulthood. Acquiring new tools to help you communicate effectively is a must if you recognize that this category applies to you. However, childhood traumas get deep-rooted in our consciousness, and, often, you may require professional help such as therapy or hypnosis.
Defensiveness can also be a byproduct of your other mental conditions, such as anxiety. Do a little self-observation and journaling to see how these two coexist, triggered, and contribute to the development of one another.