Psychology

What You Should Know About Developing a Thick Skin

Written by Keenan Patram

If you’re going to achieve your dreams in life, developing a thick skin is critical and essential. It is not optional.

The reason is simple…

If you have a thin skin, and even casual remarks make you tremble, causing you to worry and fret over what was said to or about you, perhaps for hours or even days, it will probably prevent you from taking risks. And risks are a requirement of learning and later succeeding in any endeavor.

what_you_should_know_about_developing_a_thick_skinSo let me share what I’ve learned about overcoming being overly-sensitive and developing a thick skin.

Let’s start with the cause…

The reason for having a thin skin is an unquenchable need to get approval and validation from others. Add to this the fear of rejection, or the worry about not getting approval and validation, and it’s a recipe for being a push-over.

We all want others to approve of us, but when that’s what drives our decisions in life, the future will forever look dismal and our goals will go unrealized, if we even have the courage to establish them.

Why?

Because when we crave approval and fear disapproval, our destinies get placed in the hands of the opinions of others. Then those opinions steer our direction in life — instead of ourselves.

And what if those opinions aren’t even valid? Then what? Isn’t that like falling or getting caught in a trap?

We all want to be esteemed. But in that desire lies the problem, for what if others only validate us and our behavior when it corresponds to their own hidden agenda or secret motives which are contrary to our own best interests?

Just what do I mean by that?

This truth may be hard to stomach, but some people want you to fail in life. In fact, these people are often very close to you… perhaps family members, or even friends and acquaintances you’ve had for a long time.

There are two general reasons for this…

First, they’re accustomed to viewing and interacting with you in a certain way, as they’ve been doing it for a long time. For you to change — as you must and will if you move toward achieving your dreams — it will force others to also change the way they view and interact with you.

Some people hate change. It makes them feel uncomfortable. So, in this case, it’s not so much about failure directly, but rather an unwillingness of others to see you change and then have to deal with those changes.

Second, some people can’t stand to see others excel them. It makes them feel insecure that someone they’ve viewed as an equal (or even secretly as an inferior) may rise above them. So, here, their opinions may be designed to discourage you from succeeding.

What does all this have to do with developing a thick skin?

Understanding the reasons why others form negative or discouraging opinions about us, our choices, and our behavior allows us to start making distinctions. Since the cause of a thin skin is placing power behind others opinions, knowing when opinions can be harmful to succeeding in realizing your dreams empowers you to start becoming aware and selective.

Determining the motives behind people’s opinions and then choosing to accept or ignore them based on that knowledge is the key to developing a thick skin.

So what basis do you use to accept or ignore opinions? How do you determine which are worth listening to and which are worthless?

Evaluating others opinions revolves around your goals in life. A rule of thumb is to ignore opinions from all people who don’t share the same goals as you and who haven’t gotten the results you desire, in regard to your goals.

Because guess what?

Everything good you desire in life, others probably also desire, like more money, better health and closer relationships. However, most people don’t have the courage to pursue these desires. Thus, their opinions will tend to be discouraging rather than encouraging.

When you recognize where these opinions come from and why they were developed, you see the light, so to speak. And seeing the light makes it much easier to reject and ignore these opinions, and carry on toward your goals. These weak-minded opinions stop getting under your skin and immobilizing you, preventing you from living the life you know you truly want to live.

And on the other hand, when you have goals and a strong desire for their attainment, you start valuing and listening only to people who have already achieved those goals. Their opinions are actually valuable and worth listening to for the simple reason that they will be helpful and encouraging in your journey. They can be used to gauge and measure your path to success in whatever you’re pursuing.

All other opinions become useless… and even worse than useless.

Now with all that said, how do you develop a thick skin?

Figure out whose opinions are relevant to your goals, and whose are not. Listen and accept those that harmonize with your dreams, and ignore all others.

A thick skin is developed by evaluating the strength of others opinions based on their stock of knowledge. If they form their opinions based solely on fear, either of change or being excelled, resolve to be okay with people thinking negatively of you. Not everyone’s going to like you. That’s a fact. So why try to make everyone like you by putting your dreams on the back burner in a vain attempt to make them, and perhaps leading your life into a miserable existence in the process?

Instead, think about yourself, and in terms of your own desires in life. Focus on the people who are on your side, who want for you what you want for yourself.

Value their opinions, and ignore the rest!

When you adopt this perspective and practice, you’ll probably find yourself naturally evolving a thick skin. The reason is simple. You will care more about yourself and living a life you are pleased with, and less about what others think about it.

Remember, trying to please everyone is a surefire way to fail at pleasing yourself.

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About the author

Keenan Patram

Keenan Patram is a thinker and writer. His interests revolve around deepening his understanding of human nature and identifying why some people succeed in life while others fail. He publishes these discoveries on his blog: keenanpatram.com/blog