How do you toughen up yourself? Simple answer: Get out there and do something!
If you have read anything about me, you know that I grew up on a family farm. A farmer’s life teaches you many things, and one of them is that no one is going to do the work for you. This goes for easy and tough work alike.
This will sound like “when I was your age,” yet that is not the intent. Having said that, when I was a teen on the farm, we did not have the nice air conditioned cabs that most farmers sit in today. On those hot August days, I was on the tractor, under the sun, surrounded by dust, with the AM radio blaring over the tractor noise. At the end of the day (between 9:00 pm and 10:00 pm), while taking a shower, I watched the dirty water drain off of me. All clean, my skin took on a deeper color from the day before. All in all, I was just a little tougher skinned.
Today, I may be at a higher risk for skin cancer, and my kids tell me I need a hearing aid. Other than that, I learned that hard work has to be done if you want to get things done, and the best way to toughen up yourself is to jump in and get busy.
President Theodore Roosevelt really said it best:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” (April 23, 1910, Citizenship In A Republic speech)
This has always been one of my favorite quotes and core to my life philosophy.
All this relates to toughening up. Getting thicker skin means that you have to just get out there, take a deep breath, absorb what comes your way, reflect a little, and then repeat.
Toughening Up in Four Steps:
Step 1: Take a deep breath. When the criticism – constructive, petty, or otherwise – comes our way, we need to take a deep breath to center ourselves. Our initial reaction may be the correct one, but we need to get our second wind before deciding. Just breathe! Take a long, deep breath and release the comment as you exhale. Don’t look back. Be confident in who you are and what you stand for.
Step 2: Absorb it. Whatever comes our way, we cannot run from it. We need to take it in and then let it roll or roll with it. The elements worth anything we should keep. All others we just need to put behind us. By doing this, we will not let the words or actions hang around, festering inside. There are two choices: Know it was said or done in spite and not worth another moment of time or do something with what was received.
Step 3: Reflect. Does it really matter? This is where we need to be really honest with ourselves. What was the intent of the remark or action? What caused it? Reflect to understand the meaningful comments and actions. If the intent is well-meant, then we need to explore and determine how to get better in what we say and do. In the end, it is about strengthening and improving ourselves – one way or another.
Step 4: Repeat. Life’s hurdles are never-ending. This is a continuous process, which makes us stronger, more confident. It is not being cocky, but it is changing constructively and keeping centered in doing the meaningful work we were called to do.
It is just like those days on the farm. There are certain elements that toughen our skin while the rest we need to let run down the drain, just like the dirt and grime at the end of a day. We need to dive in to do the work, no matter how challenging it may be. It is the best way to continue to grow and strengthen our resolve and, ultimately, our soul.