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How to grow thicker skin?

dragon lady

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I am emotionally hypersensitive and I do not take criticism well.


Some examples:


- A few years ago I started a new job and I was trying really hard to learn quickly and be friendly so they would like me. Apparently my boss didn't think I was trying hard enough and she said that I looked bored all the time (a lot of people say this, even though I'm not). I guess I wasn't bubbly enough for the position? Anyway, I immediately walked out and cried in the bathrooms for about an hour. I never went back and never answered their phone calls.


- Last year I took a class that required several presentation components and everyone in the class had to do an evaluation on my performance. When I got the evaluations back and read all the negative comments I burst into tears and sent myself into panic mode until several weeks after the class finished. I didn't look at any of the following evaluations, tore them up and threw them away.


- This morning I woke my boyfriend up for sex and he willingly participated. Then when we were done he said that he didn't enjoy it (even though he came) and he doesn't want me waking him up anymore. This was the first time I've ever been rejected for sex and it hurt a lot more than I thought it would. It's also the first time he's upset me to the point of crying.



These were the best 3 examples I could think of where things that wouldn't bother most people really bothered me. I recognize that my responses were completely over the top and I need to learn how to handle criticism more appropriately. The real world is big and scary I know I'm going to be faced with far worse than any of the above. And I already have- I'm trying to highlight cases that had the worst responses for the most mild forms of criticism.


How do you lovely people do it?

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The second one was pretty harsh, and then reading all the negative comments only makes it worse, i think alot of people would feel like crap if that happened to them.


As far as i know there really isn't away you can change your emotions, you could tell yourself you aren't an emotional person but that isn't a promiss that it will work. For some or most people its something you grow out of. I've been an emotional person when i was younger, and stil lam but its gone down by abit, but not that much.


I have my days were i will fly off the bars on the smallest thing, just like a child lol. Sorry i can't really help you but the best way to get it out is come on here, write it down, or look at something postivie that you have coming up, always works for me.

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Firstly I think you need to know that it wasn't out of place to feel upset, just maybe you need to tune the degree of 'upset'. I used to be very similar and I think it's simply a matter of putting some real hard work into building up your self esteem.


I used to imagine myself as a hermit crab with no shell. That's how painful life felt. I got help, read books, pushed myself a little beyond my comfort zone in safe ways (not always easy though!) and learnt to have an inner dialogue which is nurturing.


For example (though personally I think your b/f is way out of order and I'd seriously be thinking about leaving!) you can REFRAME events - just like taking a picture and putting it in another setting, you can CHOOSE to change how you see things.


"I was in bed and didn't realise how tired my boyfriend was when I woke him for sex. Well, how would I have known? I was expressing love and desire and I certainly didn't deserve the X-Factor judgement! He was ungracious, maybe he has stuff going on, but he didn't have to join in if he really didn't want to. He could have even SAID he was tired and could we do it later. But he chose a) not to say anything (passive aggressive) and then, b) to criticise me although he knows how much that hurts.


Well - I may have inadvertently done the wrong thing but it was for the best reasons and he didn't communicate his needs. I did NOTHING WRONG at ALL!"

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Gonecrazy, I too have days where I'm fine and others where I overreact. Sometimes I even react with anger, rather than sadness. Although I would say that most days I feel quite weak and vulnerable. You're right that coming here and venting helps. I used to be one of the top posters in Ghost's vent thread in off topic. But in all honesty I'd like to learn how to deflect unwanted criticism. I don't want it to get to me so much anymore.


Speranza, I think that my self esteem is practically in ruins and you're right in that I need to try to build some, but I'm not sure how to go about it. I'm constantly out of my comfort zone, so I'm not sure how to push myself further.


I'm not about to leave my boyfriend over what happened. He has been wonderful in pretty much every other way and he did apologize for upsetting me. He does understand how sensitive I am and he's the only person I've ever met who hasn't tried to make me feel bad about it. Everyone else in my life just tries to tell me to toughen up, and they're right, but I'm very happy to have a boyfriend who accepts that I am the way that I am.


You're correct that I didn't do anything wrong. It was just bad timing and he was tired and cranky. It's just that I don't want him to have negative feelings toward me. That's where I seem to be having problems. And this is in all of the above cases I might add.

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Ok, so maybe you are pushing yourself TOO FAR out of your comfort zone?


Look at that last paragraph you wrote. Those first two sentences are great self-talk. Perhaps you could start a reframing journal? And if your b/f is wonderful, enlist him as a coach. My daughters (when they were adults) helped me by using an agreed signal every time I dissed myself! That helped me begin to see just how much negative stuff I was saying on a daily basis, that's how I started to deal with it.

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The negative self-talk and thinking is a huge issue for me. I try not to talk badly of myself around other people, but it does tend to slip out. It usually comes on the form of "I'm not good at..." or "I'm not a good..." Then I have a hard time thinking of things I am good at. I'm well aware that it turns people off. No one wants to be around someone who thinks lowly of themselves.


My boyfriend has been really encouraging with trying to get me to explore my interests and talents. He doesn't put me down for my faults either, which is great. He's already a coach in a way. It's been very helpful. I think I'm going to start taking more of his suggestions on board instead of dismissing the majority of them.


A reframing journal sounds like a good idea too. Maybe if I stop focusing on the negatives and start writing in a positive light I might be able to eventually believe what I write.

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That sounds great! Why would you dismiss them? That would be to sabotage all this hard work you've been doing already.


Something else I remember trying (it worked for me) was putting the words 'I used to' in once I'd caught those negative sentences: "I used to be so rubbish at..."


Kind of gets you moving on.


I know you can do this! I have changed so much that I actually sometimes think I'm imagining the person I used to be!

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dragon lady,

You have already figured out that the words of others are causing your reactions. Isn't it strange how a few words can have such an impact on us and our lives. Total strangers can put us into a tailspin if we allow it. This is the key. If we allow it to happen.

It is okay to acknowledge the feelings you have had over these situations. You are human and everyone has feelings like you. The problem for most comes from our own ego's and how the ego turns what can be a simple thing into a day, week or even years of being upset about it. You see the ego relives these things to keep us in this state and doesn't want us to see it as it really is. I encourage you to learn about the ego and how it affects us more than most of us know. Elkart Tolle has written some very good books on the ego. They have helped me through some times that would have lasted much longer without this new understanding.

As far as your bf goes: There will come a time when he will beg you to be waking him up to fool around. After all you can sleep anytime you want but you can't make love to a beautiful woman anytime you want can you? He's not gay is he? LOL just kidding



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We can be so wrapped up in the negativity of things rather than the positive side until it starts to control us.

I always thought life experiences teach us to have thicker skin. however, I know there are people who regardless of life experiences still suffer due to what others say to them.

Best you can do is try and emphasize the good in what people tell you, as for negative comments, take it as a good thing. It's better t be told the truth rather than a lie. I know a lie can make you feel better that moment, but after a while when the truth comes out it would hurt you even more.

I think once you gain a good solid foundation when it comes to self esteem and feeling better about yourself, knowing yourself, your strengths and weaknesses, you will start accepting that we all make mistakes and the world is not here to fondle us, but we can try and change for the better.

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It comes down to the notion that if someone rejects us (especially neutral or positively associated parties) we feel that it somehow reflects our personal worth.


RuPaul says it best (lol I know.):

"What other people think about me is none of my business. It isn't me, that's their ****."


I'm similar to you that way, if someone doesn't like me or rejects me I get very upset and worried like I did something wrong. I think it is a confidence issue.

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Curious to know if you are sensitive in other ways, not just with criticism.


This could be that your senses are very acute or you are very perceptive to subtle things that others don't notice, etc.


If so, your sensitivity may be just the way you are wired. Doesn't mean you can't do anything about it, but learning more about this issue might be helpful.


A book that deals with that is The Highly Sensitive Person


I just did a search for "highly sensitive person" on amazon - and it pulls up a bunch of different books on the subject:


you can see it link removed

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Tenneseegirl, yes, my senses are very, well, sensitive. Strong odors, tastes, loud noises and bright lights all bother me a great deal, they always have. I've posted quite a bit about it on ENA. Actually, I was even thinking about starting a thread asking for ways to dull my senses. It makes my life miserable to smell every fart in the room, to taste chlorine in my drinking water and to frequently wake up to the sound of the clock ticking in the next room. It's like I can't block out all this extra stimulation.


I'd be interested in checking out the book. I have actually heard of it before while researching my problems with this, but I had forgotten about it. Thanks for the reminder.

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