Why Having Thick Skin Is Essential

By January 24, 2012Millennial

Get Thick Skin“Get thicker skin!”

“She/he must have thicker skin.”

We hear these statements, and what rings through our mind is “toughen up.” There is truth in this thought. We do need to have thick skin in our life.

Many things come at us –

  • Making ends meet
  • Surviving annual reviews
  • Being told you are not good enough or smart enough
  • Being ignored
  • Raising teens
  • Getting old
  • Navigating troubled economic times

You, undoubtedly, can add to this list. Especially over the last several years, we get worn out trying to keep up with everything and worrying about when some of the uncertainty will disappear. Tensions seem more apt to grow than dissipate.

Thicker skin is a requirement in today’s world. In reality, it was no different 100 years ago. Different challenges just existed then. Think about the wagon trains moving from East to West. Think about turning soil over for crops with just one plowshare and a horse or mule. Think about surviving a blizzard huddled in a sod house in the middle of the prairies – no wind break, no way to escape the blistering cold winds.

We have always encountered challenges. In many ways, it is part of being human. We don’t live in heaven. We live on earth, and we are constantly tested. Why? It is what helps us grow in our understanding and our capabilities. It challenges our soul, mind, and body to get better in all that we do. It is more than just surviving; it is transforming ourselves from the conditions we encounter.

The conditions we meet include:

  • People
  • Opportunities
  • Threats
  • Environmental changes
  • Economic shifts

Again, you can add to this list, given your own set of experiences. No one is immune from good or bad conditions. This fact is the primary reason we need to have thick skin.

Thick skin gives us the ability to:

  • Absorb constructive feedback. We need to take in comments and observations that will enable us to learn how to do better, learn more, and return a higher level on whatever our life gifts are. It is reflection based on converting feedback into renovated actions.
  • Deflect inaccurate or hurtful criticism. People or situations will try to slow us down at times. We need to weather the storms and gain strength. These are the situations, sometimes, that carve in our skin’s character lines.
  • Thrive in uncertainty and through tests. With our internal strength of spirit, we can do more than just survive unexpected encounters and life-changing events. We can gain a renewed commitment or a refreshed outlook. We cannot afford to be clamped down for one simple reason – life is too short.
  • Maintain momentum forward. One step back and two steps forward still give us forward momentum. The one step back should be the absorption moment, reflecting and transforming ourselves and our mission. We should be propelled out of this step with more forward motion than before.

Having thick skin is vital. It is our protection, yet it is not only a shield. It is what enables us to shed what is unimportant and focus on our core purpose. Thick skin is what bounds us to our life purpose while enabling us to reach outside of it and continue our spirited, meaningful work.

What helps you develop thick skin? How has your thick skin helped you thrive in uncertain times?

Jon Mertz
Jon Mertz is one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business and highlighted as one of the Leaders to Watch in 2015 by the American Management Association. He also is the author of Activate Leadership: Aspen Truths to Empower Millennial Leaders. Jon serves as vice president of marketing at Corepoint Health. Outside of his professional life, Jon brings together a community to inspire Millennial leaders and close the gap between two generations of leaders.
Jon Mertz
Jon Mertz

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Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Great topic, Jon.

    Years ago I was struggling to manage my relationship with a difficult co-worker and someone told me I needed to get a thicker skin. The comment stung at the time, but on some level I sucked it up and did my best to move forward.

    When I think about having a thicker skin, I don’t think about being tough and unyielding, I think about being confident and loving enough in my view of myself that I am better able to manage difficult situations.

    I have developed a “thicker skin” through self-love and self-care, a positive attitude, gratitude, and surrounding myself with a healthy support system. When I am secure in myself, and emotionally, mentally and physically healthy, the minor inconveniences truly seem minor.


    • Anonymous says:

      Chrysta, Your story nails it! It is about a sense of self and ability to weather the challenges and come out better for it. Thanks so much for contributing to the conversation! Jon

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