I was born a sensitive creature. Emotionally and physically I feel things quite intensely. There are upsides and downsides to this. The downsides mean that my downs have been pretty low and I get hurt easily. They also mean that I am affected a lot by the moods and states of others. The upsides help me to be good at what I do. Being able to sense what other people are thinking and feeling is enormously useful in helping them change and improve.
Of course, there are many sensitive people out there who face similar challenges and benefit in the same kind of ways. So, what are the things I have learned that helped me to develop thicker skin and handle such sensitivity more effectively?
First, if we take the metaphor of thick skin literally, it is apparent that thick skin has more protection than thin skin to our insides. What we really need then is protection or a buffer or filter between what hits our skin and what we take into ourselves.
Such a filter has to be able to extract learning from the things people say and do to us. We must be able to still be sensitive to others’ feelings and thoughts and be impacted emotionally by the world. At the same time, we need to be able to filter such experiences so that they do not cause excessive pain and anguish.
What we are really talking about then is a way of thinking that can help us feel strong regardless of what people say about us. Recently, on my charisma course, I asked a number of celebrities and artists who were on a panel… how did they deal with haters? Their answers were terrific.
The core ideas were that when a hater hated it was ‘their stuff’ and it’s not yours to take. The key is to laugh at them and take their power away by not allowing them to see you impacted by it. Another idea was the realisation that the only ones who will hate are those who are deeply suffering themselves in a lost feeling of inadequacy. The truth is that success comes from not giving a shit about what haters say but learning from useful feedback.
To me, the way I see things now is that I am a learning machine. I want to continuously improve every single day and I can’t do that unless I hear the negative feedback. I can’t do it unless I get used to hearing the bad and the good. I can’t do it unless I accept that sometimes I will feel hurt and upset but that’s okay and it doesn’t have to last long. What matters is that the lessons last forever and the emotions just a moment.
We don’t grow thick skin. We only get better at handling negativity in all its forms. And when you look to learn and accept sometimes the learning is that it is nothing to do with you, you will start to master the art of thick skin.
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