How Do You Develop Thick Skin?

How do you create thick skin?

No seriously, I’m asking you. I’m an incredibly sensitive person. It’s such a blessing and a curse to feel everything so intensely. While no, I wouldn’t change myself, it can be incredibly difficult to function when from time to time it feels like a breeze could bring you down like a house of cards.

Remember that Rhubarb is my safe word / trigger warning for when things may be a bit uncomfortable to read, particularly if you know me personally.

Rhubarb

I feel everything. I don’t even have the luxury dulling my senses with alcohol, so when my emotions get out of control, I have no choice but to weather the stormy weather. Man…I don’t know if I’m a word nerd or just an idiom idiot with that last quip. So last night…when the needle of my emotional gauge swung into the meltdown section and teetered into the implosion territory; I sat on a bench by the “river” in Siem Reap, thinking to myself, there’s literally nothing I can do. A few years ago this would have been a cakewalk, I would just go to my friendly neighborhood “pharmaceutical rep”, throw a few uppers, downers, poppers, and candy corn down my gaping maw; and ride that roller coaster into sweet oblivion. Don’t worry Mom, that’s all in my past, I’ve come so far with my sobriety that I don’t even see using as an option anymore. Plus I managed to find an AA group in Siem Reap, which will be incredibly nice to meet people who aren’t constantly trying to get fucked up, I mean come on Mary it’s a Wednesday and you’re one Slippery Nipple away from showing everyone which nipple of yours is pierced. I don’t judge Mary, though, because I am Mary, well…was.

Anyways, back to melancholy. If that’s not the name of at least seven pop punk albums I will get my taint pierced. So there I was, as distraught as a seven-foot man in a limbo competition, able to do absolutely nothing about the past and inevitable failure to come. And what would make me feel so manic? A boy of course…what else would it be? But here are a few things that make me cry:

Elderly couples
Artwork. I’ve lost count of the number of times going to galleries has made me cry
Music. Literally any music. Although if you put on Bon Iver in my presence…there will be tears.
Commercials. My uncle builds amazing pools for a living and he made a commercial sharing the stories of a few of his clients. I was sobbing by the end of it just repeating “he makes…he makes people so happy.”
Friends. When I think about how fucking amazing my friends are the water works are so real.
Rain / gloomy weather. I’m not even kidding. And not in a melancholic, seasonal affective disorder sort of way. I cry when it rains because I find it so beautiful. I won’t even use an umbrella because of how pure I think it is. I know…I am a nightmare human.
Stories. Hearing another person’s experience / struggle is the fastest way to make me reach for a handkerchief.
Ice cream on the ground. They say don’t cry over spilled milk, but someone was really looking forward to that ice cream!

Those are just a few off the top of my head. I know what you’re thinking, and yes you can take me on a date. Seriously, though, it fucking sucks feeling so hypersensitive. Sometimes I wonder if disappointment will ever stop feeling like heartbreak. I’ve discussed this with a few close friends, and they pointed out that if I wasn’t so intensely emotional that I probably would not be as intuitive or perceptive, or as compassionate, or as artistic. So like I said earlier, I wouldn’t change myself. I like myself. I’m just trying to learn how to not be completely derailed from criticism or rejection. When I was told I was a bad photographer, I couldn’t think about anything else for a week, and my mind eventually morphed bad photographer to a bad person. When a boy I was interested in told me he just wanted to be friends, I pretended to be cool with it, and after a few days I was cool with it…until he sent videos of him having sex with a friend of mine. After that, I couldn’t keep it in anymore. I bought a six-pack of soda water in glass bottles, drank as much water as I could stomach (I know, I’m incredibly hardcore), poured out the rest and then proceeded to throw the bottles at a wall of an abandoned building. Then I felt so bad about the environmental impact / someone potentially getting injured from all the broken glass, I found a shovel and a tarp from a nearby construction site and scooped the glass onto the tarp then used the tarp to wrap it all and threw it away.

I can’t even do mayhem right. If you ever need someone to accompany you to a riot, I’ll be your “ride and hide immediately.”

So usually bloggers give you advice or give you knowledgeable tips on how to be a better person. But I’m actually asking you. How do you create a thicker skin? I like being sensitive, but this is crazy, a lot of the time I feel at the mercy of my environment instead of in control of myself. So how to I stay in touch with my emotions while still having some sort of line of defense?

Everyone deals with rejection and criticism, but if you are in a creative line of work, it’s the name of the game. Which is why I found Melissa Dinwiddie’s post incredibly inspiring, and practical. I don’t feel at liberty to give any of you advice on how to develop a thicker skin when truth is told, I’m trying to learn right now. But her post beautifully summarizes how debilitating criticisms and rejection can be to sensitive people and how to let it go. And has really begun to help me grow.

Awesome advice on dealing with criticism

Much love & many adventures,
Wolfe