Life is full of obligations. There are lots of things that we have to do for others that are burdensome, unpleasant or just not fun. That is life. The question we have to ask ourselves is this: Will I serve with a bitter heart or a joyful heart? To give you an example, my daughter […]
I spent most of my life being very sensitive. If someone said something mean to me or merely insinuated that I was unattractive, unintelligent or unsuccessful, I felt quite hurt. As a result, I, effectively, gave other people the power to control whether or not I was happy.
But with age comes confidence. And wisdom. I am not the same person I was 30 years ago. In fact, I am not the same person I was 10 years ago. Today, other people’s opinions no longer have a meaningful effect on me. And that is a massive relief.
To give a very small example, this week I went to a church meeting. At the meeting, one of the gentlemen criticized one of my decisions. It was a fairly minor decision, but he made clear that he thought that I’d made the wrong choice.
In the past, even a small criticism would have raised my blood pressure. I would have been upset and hurt. But strangely, I felt nothing. Zero. I smiled, explained my reasoning and was otherwise unperturbed.
My reaction, in part, was due to the fact that this gentleman is a friend of mine. He and his wife come over for dinner on occasion, and they truly have been a blessing to me since we joined the church. So, I really don’t mind him hassling me a bit.
But what I find is that as I age, I have this reaction more frequently. I don’t have an emotional reaction to the negative comments and behaviors of others in the same way that I used to. And feeling nothing in those situations is the best feeling I’ve had. Having a thick skin is liberating.
Below are three ways to develop a thick skin. Consider how you might use these approaches to develop your own thick skin!
Detachment: Detachment is a Buddhist concept. Buddha stated that the root of suffering is attachment. As soon as we become attached to anything, whether it be belongings, people or the approval of others, that thing holds us in bondage. It controls whether or not we are happy. If we have the thing we are seeking, we are happy. If we don’t have it, we are sad.
So, detachment is liberating. If I am not attached to whether or not you approve of me, then your approval (or disapproval) has no power over me. I am free from you. I can love you. I can care for you and be good to you. But I am not affected by your opinion of me. Being detached from others in that way allows us to have a thick skin. We aren’t perturbed by the words and actions of others.
Confidence: When we lack confidence, we can be hyper-sensitive to the comments and behaviors of others. When I first became an adult, I wasn’t confident. That was because I didn’t know myself. I hadn’t yet assessed my strengths and weaknesses. So, if someone expressed their opinion about me, I accepted it as true, whether or not it was accurate.
I, effectively, viewed myself through the opinions of others. If people gave me positive feedback, I felt very, very good. But if someone criticized or insulted me, I was terribly hurt. And I wasn’t mad at the person who insulted me. I was mad at myself for not being good enough.
Fast forward through many years, and today, I am a confident person. I know my strengths and weaknesses, and that allows me to have a thick skin. I know myself better than anyone. As a result, the opinions of others simply don’t have any effect on how I view myself.
So, someone can insult me, and I might agree with them! I know my weaknesses. But I also feel very good about my strengths.
Benevolence: When dealing with other people, it helps to have a benevolent attitude. In fact, the best attitude you can have with difficult people is one of kind tolerance. If someone insults you or is rude to you, just laugh it off and be glad you aren’t that person!
The question you need to ask yourself is this: What position do you want to be in when you interact with other people? If you are easily offended, then you are in a position of weakness with others. They have the power to hurt you with a simple comment.
However, if you have a benevolent view of others, then you are in a power position. The comments of others have no effect on you. You truly have a thick skin.
So, when someone insults you, look past the insulting comment to get to the individual’s true motivation. When you do that, invariably you will find that weak and insecure people spend their time insulting other people. The only reasonable response to them is to treat them with pity and compassion.
This week, think about ways that you can develop a thick skin in your interactions with others. When we aren’t easily offended, our relationships run much more smoothly, our self-esteem increases and every area of our life improves.
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