What It Means When You Dream About Being Criticized

Falling from the sky, being chased by a tiger, finding a box in your house that's teeming with hissing snakes: nightmares can take all shapes. For some of us, though, there's nothing quite as terrifying as being criticized, and dreams about a verbal attack delivered by someone we respect can leave us feeling raw and vulnerable the next morning. So what does it mean when you dream about someone scolding you? 

Psychology experts say it's important to understand that dreams are symbolic. That means that the person who is being critical of you in the dream isn't necessarily someone else — it could be you giving yourself a tongue-lashing. "[L]et's say 'I' am being criticized by someone in a dream. I am not only the one criticized or hurt; I am also the one who is being critical," counselor, educator and attorney David Bedrick explained in Psychology Today. "Maybe I need to be less judgmental of others or myself, or be more consciously critical of the ideas and people I accept."

Your dream might mean you're disappointed in yourself

Another possible reason why you might be dreaming about someone criticizing you is that you know you could have done better with your relationship with that person. If you have a dream that your friend had some harsh words for you — perhaps you dream that she's mad because you forgot her birthday — you might actually be scolding yourself because you know you haven't been as attentive to her as you should have been. "It's super important to pay attention to what's being said to you in a dream because it's really something you're saying to yourself. Dreams are a conversation with the self about the self," Lauri Loewenberg, certified dream analyst, told Bustle.

While sometimes the person criticizing you in your dream is a stand-in for yourself, other times, he or she will represent someone else in your life. For example, if you dream that you're a kid in school and are getting a tongue-lashing from a teacher you haven't seen in decades, take a look at other people in your life who you currently consider authority figures. Are you worried that your boss or your mother-in-law, or the president of your book club, have been judging you? It's possible you're being transported back to that 9th grade chemistry class when you broke the beaker because you're anxious that you're a disappointment to someone else whose opinion you value (via BeliefNet).