Working out the thickness of your skin

Last week was all about senses and trying to pay more attention to small things in order to maintain a sense of calm and control. I have to say it was something I found hard, as it was a particularly challenging week for my emotions.

For various reasons, I had to deal with sadness, anger, worry and grief and it all came within a few days so my stress levels were high.

I took lots of moments to breathe, to listen to music loudly and to notice the small things, like how the thistles disperse their seeds and the sound of grasshoppers in the sunshine. But there were also times where I needed that release. To cry, to be angry and then to be quiet again.

I would say that I am a fairly forgiving person but some things in life get to us, they go against our values. For me, one of those things is getting let down by people I consider friends. Those last minute cancellations, poor excuses or just finding other plans. Perhaps, I should ask are they really friends? Do I belong within their realm? But it also leads to another interesting point around not being overly sensitive, and trying to make a distinction between things that are personal and things that affect you but are not personal.

I have a sensitive nature, which means I am affected by the emotions of others around me and I tend to take things to heart. It’s one of the reasons I have found it hard to deal with constructive criticism in the workplace because, to me, it feels like a personal criticism. I’m getting better at this as time goes on but it’s something I wanted to cover in the subject of belonging because it involves partly detaching yourself from yourself in order to deal with such things.

To receive and process a criticism, you must first detach it from your personal self and put out a barrier in which to openly receive it. Barriers in this case are not blockers but more receptacles. This protective barrier makes the criticism less personal and allows you to see it from a distance for what it really is. Barriers come in different forms, they could be words, like ‘That is your opinion’, or it could be the way you receive the comments, by email or in person.

A lot of our perceptions come from the way we interpret information. Like seeing a post on Facebook of your friend having fun with another girl friend and then assuming they don’t like you as much because they didn’t invite you. Or it could be thinking your boss doesn’t think much of your work because they haven’t acknowledged it. When actually it turns out your friend saw this other girl once a year and they knew each from school, or your boss has been swamped in emails and hasn’t had chance to look at your work. We are quick to judge and slow to forgive.

So this week, thinking about perceptions, criticism and protective barriers, I am going to focus on ‘thickening my skin’. Basically, trying to let things wash over me rather than soaking under the surface and causing me to overthink things.

Some people say the best way to do this is to do more, so you don’t have time to think. However, I know that I can’t be busy 24/7 and that I need some downtime, so instead I want to receive remarks, give them space to air and then practice letting them go.

Having a protective layer around you is important but it needs to be thick enough to let things wash off. We don’t have the mental capacity to always be dealing with a stream of emotions.

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