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Do you take things personally?
But not as much as I used to.
I've learned to develop thick skin.
And it's made my life so much easier.
As someone who lives with anxiety, I know I'll still overthink some things.
But there's one core concept I've learned that's made all the difference.
Today, if you stay with me for a few minutes, you'll learn it too.
A Timeline From Thin Skin to Thick Skin
When I was younger, most negative comments would bother me.
"Jordan, you shouldn't have done it like that."
"You know, I think you could have done a lot better."
Oooh, it aggravated me to hear criticism like this, especially if I didn't feel it was warranted. I wanted to prove these people wrong. I wanted to show them who was boss!
Do you know what I did instead?
I went home, or to my college dorm, or to my apartment, or to my office, and thought myself into circles. I was a ravenous thinker, rewriting scenarios in my head, always coming out the victor, always winning in the end.
But do you know how much good it did me?
Not one ounce of good. Not even a measly ounce.
Because I didn't have thick skin.
I didn't yet have the awareness and the toolkit to know how to deal with these comments. And so the comments and the racing thoughts that ensued, they swiftly dealt with me.
Until something changed.
Until, one day, I learned about a concept that changed my life.
The Great Concept Behind Thick Skin
Most concepts that change my life first appear to me in books.
I'm an avid reader, and I like to collect as much information as I can to improve my life.
I think this one concept finally hit home when I read Meditations by Marcus Aurelius.
“Choose not to be harmed—and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed—and you haven’t been.”
I saw those words, and something went off in my brain.
It's such an obvious statement, but I had never seen it expressed so bluntly before.
You mean, I can choose not to take things personally? I can develop thicker skin just like that?
My mind revved and raced--but, this time, it was in a good way.
Most great changes start with a simple idea, a tiny trickle that one day carves a vast canyon.
For me, this was the start of a great change.
This was the one concept to beget all concepts when it comes to developing thicker skin and no longer taking things personally.
How to Apply This Concept to Your Life
If you've gotten this far, you're intrigued, but you also know that nothing in life can happen in an instant.
Sure, you can have an epiphany in an instant. But there is work to do after the epiphany. There always is.
To apply this to your life, you need a rough guide, you need a tentative outline to which you attach the experiences of your life.
If You're Ready to Make a Change, Here is Your Roadmap:
1 - Start Small
Anything great in life starts small. Developing thicker skin is a relative concept.
Thicker than what?
Than the skin you currently have!
Test this idea out in safe idea of your life.
Try to take some feedback from friends or a family member you trust.
Exposing yourself to criticism in safe spaces will give you the foundation you need to up the ante and accept criticism in areas of your life that are not so safe.
2 - Expand to Multiple Areas of Your Life
Which leads to step number two.
Once you've stepped out of the safe spaces, it's time to test your newfound approach in other areas of your life. Go to your workplace, or a classroom, or a place where you volunteer. These are not foreign places--they are places you should know fairly well.
And because you know them fairly well, you'll be able to tell if the feedback you received has a shred of truth to it. If it does, can you sit with what you receive and weigh its validity?
If you know in your heart of hearts that the feedback is not about you, that the person who delivered it is not sleeping well or is simply having an off day, you can choose to not be harmed.
It really can be that easy.
When I gave myself permission to not take things seriously, I was able to move on with my life instead of spinning with my thoughts, endlessly and dangerously in place.
3 - Review Your Progress and Repeat the Cycle
But with all new skills or mental frameworks, you must assess your progress.
How can you know how far you've come if you don't step back to admire your progress?
How can you get better if you don't compare what you're better than?
Take time in your life to assess how you're doing with this concept.
I suggest once a month--or at least every three months. So much can change from one month to the next. You could have an entirely different way of looking at the world at the end of 30 days.
Think about any great hardship you've been through.
I bet it changed you. I bet it drastically altered the way you view the world.
That's often what it takes for people to change their minds.
But catastrophe isn't the only changer of minds. You have more power than you realize.
And often, all that it takes to use your power is to give yourself permission to do so.
Today, give yourself permission to not be harmed.
And you won't be.
Because you'll know that no other person can harm what they have no control over in the first place.