Quite some time ago, a loved one referred to me as “thin-skinned”. And ironically (or perhaps not), this statement threw me off-guard as I found myself asking, “Really? Am I thin-skinned?" I have always considered the opposite was true.
Curious of the actual definition, I looked it up and read that “thin skinned” is an adjective used to describe someone as “easily offended by criticism and rebuffs”. For good measure, I looked up “thick-skinned”, which was defined as “not easily hurt by insult; callous, unfeeling, hardhearted; and largely unaffected by others.”
After reading these definitions, I concluded that most of us fall somewhere in the middle of this spectrum, striking a healthy balance of sensitivity while also having the ability to let things go. And while some of us may veer toward one end of the spectrum or the other, most of us would say that we are not entirely thin- or thick-skinned. And personally, I think that is good. Who wants to be considered callous, unfeeling, and insensitive? Conversely, who wants to take everything personally? No one. Most of us would like to be sensitive and empathic enough to be emotionally available to those that we care about, even if that means we are vulnerable at times. Similarly, most of us would also like to have a strong enough sense of self to know which comments or actions to take to heart, and those that we should not internalize.
Yet, while most of us would agree with this optimal balance of sensitivity and emotional resilience, we often forget this as we interact with other people. Why are we told to toughen up when something has gotten us down? Why do we pretend that something has not hurt us if it really has? Why do some of us act as if we cannot be touched by the words and deeds of others? Conversely, why do some of us seem to take everything personally? Why do some of us tend to invalidate our own feelings, or feel victimized by every slight?
Of course, the answers to these questions depend on personal differences. We all experience life differently and therefore have different interpretations of our interactions with other people. What we all seem to have in common though, is that we are all sensitive beings. We are all capable of being hurt, whether we admit it or not, and we all care about the feelings and experiences of others.
Today, I encourage you to examine your feelings, particularly those that relate to the people surrounding you. I hope that you are able to have the softness of heart to be emotionally available, and the strength and the courage it takes to be vulnerable. Too, I hope that you are self-assured and secure enough to be true to yourself, and to know when to take things personally while also being conscious of what you internalize. Know that it is okay to feel what you are feeling, and that it is equally important to be mindful of how you express and act upon your emotions. Remind yourself that you are human, as are your loved ones, and that we are all worthy of love, acceptance, consideration and grace.