How To Have A Thin Skin

On criticism, then.

It happens, and while it generally happens in a constructive environment, it can sometimes happen amidst the public masses – shouting, pointing, laughing – and you can sometimes find it when you aren’t looking, and then you cry, at first. You go to the grocery for eggs and it follows, the criticism, the words, the sting. You hear it on the morning radio and you swallow it with your vitamin, and it stays in you, and it lives.

This will go on for a few days, and you’ll be softer, and your skin will be thinner, so you must take great care of yourself. You might declare tonight’s dinner a takeout night, or skip writing and go for a walk with your toddler, or treat yourself to an afternoon matinee.

Get off the computer.

Remind yourself that this is the world, that people hurt people, that we all play a part in the predator, the prey, the circle. We have all hurt. We have all been hurt. Sometimes the hurt is intentional, other times it is not. It will leave a scar either way.

Breathe in.

Realize that we all have limitations, that this is human nature, that we are bound to offend or criticize, and that we all look much stronger than we are.

Breathe out.

Here’s the choice:

We can harden ourselves to the choir and don thicker robes, or we can use our thin skin to feel something different. We can allow ourselves to feel scratched, and we can let it heal in time. We can gain a new perspective. We can agree, or disagree, and we can continue working within our limitations, just as before.

It is what it is. We cannot be all things to all people, and sometimes the choir calls for a song we cannot sing. Sometimes we do not know the words, or sometimes the rhythm feels off, and sometimes we cannot find our own harmony.

We all look much stronger than we are.

We all have a burden too big to carry.

And so, we share.

And we try.

And we keep humming, and we quiet to listen, to hear the refrain.

And we notice this: that underneath, we’re all just blood and bones and souls and voices, doing our best to sing what we know.

  • I love you sweet friend. I love the positive light you bring to all, I love the smile you always carry around on your face. I love that when you are tired and busy take out and a bottle of wine cures your day. You are a beautiful friend, wife and momma. Thank you for bringing happiness and encouragement to the world.

  • “we’re all just blood and bones and souls and voices”
    I love that! Beautifully written, as always. Your blog always ,makes me smile. Thank you.

  • I just love everything you write. <3 And always find myself tearing up whenever I come to your blog. Thank you for sharing your beautiful gift with us!

  • We all look much stronger than we are.
    I love that line. Beautifully written as always.
    Ps. The rock climbing wall in Bee’s room is completely awesome!!

    • thank you, jennifer. and thanks for the rock climbing wall! i have a very adventurous husband. ;)

  • Yes, thin skin, I am feeling that right now. Mine isn’t from criticism it’s pain that comes from grief. The grief feels like it is sucking the breath right out of me. Thin Skin. Trying to process so much information coming at me. Thin skin. Rest, drink water, writing in my grateful journal, deep breath, worship music, praying. Yes. Peace, Grace, Love, Faith. Thin Skin

    • oh ginny, i’m so sorry to hear of this. i’ll be keeping you in my thoughts and prayers as well – grief certainly does thin the skin for a long while, doesn’t it?

  • Who was it that said scars are evidence of having overcome? :)
    So loved this, Erin.
    Thank you again for being a light.

  • Yes, a million times yes to what makes us all humans, in the end. Still, as I grow holder (and grow a family of my own), I also tend to take it all in and, whenever needed, leave the cruel ones behind. While we all need others to grow – be it in pain – at some point it becomes useless to dwell in suffering. And so, I leave the mean, cruel ones behind and shed my skin.

  • I have always been deemed “sensitive”. I feel I am in a perpetual state of healing for many reasons. What’s funny is the more I learn about living with thin skin, the more I realize that the real hurt come from the criticism I place on myself after someone else has said their bit to me. I’m trying to learn to be a bit more gentle and not take things as personally. Thank you for your beautiful writing, I just re-entered the world of blogging and your writing inspires me to continue being honest in what I write and to give myself the room to improve and to really enjoy it :)

    • Yes, Erin! I completely agree with this (and Chelsea, your comment really resonates with me as well.)

      We are our own worst critics. I feel most criticism comes from the teeny voice within, where this desire to be able to sing ANY song or sing it “the best” is born. Or if someone else does criticize me, for whatever reason I take it on and begin to multiply it – thinking their words must be founded in SOME truth. But I love this notion of “the choir calling for a song we cannot sing” or in my own life the reminder that “you can’t be everybody’s teacher.” There is strength in humbleness. And there is great, great strength in vulnerability (see Brene Brown! :) )

    • ah you’re so kind, chelsea – and yes, i relate to this so much!:
      “What’s funny is the more I learn about living with thin skin, the more I realize that the real hurt come from the criticism I place on myself after someone else has said their bit to me. I’m trying to learn to be a bit more gentle and not take things as personally.”

  • As always, beautifully put Erin. Thank you for eloquently expressing these emotions. The blogosphere is an interesting universe and it can be so easy to get bogged down by the negative comments, criticism or, as I have been struggling with, trying to be like all the other successful blogs I see.

  • Erin, YES. How beautifully and accurately written. I have dealt with my fair share of criticism, both online and off, and i once thought it would break me. Now I see it, embrace it, acknowledge the fact that, as you said, we are all stronger than we look — including those who are doing the criticizing. One of the things I want to teach my kids is resilience. Not building thick skin or walls, but to go for it and see. They will undoubtably hear criticism, they will understand failure. Only then will they truly know how strong they really are.

    • Oh, I love love the focus on resilience in kids! It’s an important skill, today and always. :)

  • This piece, to me, is well-considered and we’ll written. I especially liked the early grounding effect of “you go to the grocery for eggs…” I respect the work. And I have 2 questions. What does “It is what it is.”mean? What role did you intend for that statement here? I don’t mean to be a jerk here, the rest of the writing is good enough that I’ll likely profit from your answers.
    Len Cook

    • Thank you, Len! I think I mean this: we cannot control the message, or the messenger, or the receiver of that message. We can do our best, but ultimately, it is what it is, to me, means that “it” will always be short of perfection – whether we’re talking life, words, or circumstance – or, in this case, the reaction thereof. :)

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