Developing Thick Skin

According to the dictionary, “thick skin” means – not easily offended; the ability to withstand criticism.

Fiction or non-fiction, if you write for publication (newspapers, magazines, books, or even blogs) it’s important to develop thick skin—to not be held hostage by the opinion of others. 

How thick is thick enough? 

The answer differs by person, but the vital element for everyone is that it be thick enough to handle any negative response. 

To develop thick skin, I learned to shift my perspective. Now when I receive a rejection letter—a “no”—I’m absolutely confident it puts me one step closer to my “Yes!”

Is your skin thick enough? 

Listen with your heart,

Laurie Buchanan

Whatever you are not changing, you are choosing.”
                — Laurie Buchanan and our Facebook page

© 2011 Laurie Buchanan – All Rights Reserved

45 thoughts on “Developing Thick Skin

  1. Yes Laurie it about shifting our perspective. If we are coming from a place of ego with our art or any other type of creativity, with expectations we are sometime jolted out of our well being.

    It may look to others that we have acquired “thick skin” yet we have learned listen or take the no’s and or other criticism as a learning tool.

    The Artist’s Way says, “As artists, we must learn when criticism is appropriate and from whom. Not only the source but the timing is very important here.”

    • Jeff – I’m glad that you pointed out the added advantage of feedback/criticism/no’s being a learning tool. Yes! And thank you for sharing “The Artist’s Way” quote — I love that book!

  2. Hi Laurie! Being a fan of gnarly old trees, I sure love the picture you put on here! In regard to “thick skin” – good way to put that. I’ve felt for a very long time that we are all living in a twilight zone – my reality is not yours, yours is not mine, and that all opinions are just that – opinions – and not necessarily wedded to any facts whatsoever.

    I used to save my rejection letters! Quite liberating to pitch them all and not look back. It’s all part of the “work-out” – a bit painful, perhaps, causes some sweating too, but it’s all part of the process of getting in shape (or accepted for publication). I’m familiar with the huff n puff 🙂

    • SuZen – Trees are my favorite beings on this planet. This particular tree is in southern California, at the foot of the hill that leads up to my dad’s house. I appreciated what you had to say about the twilight zone. Isn’t that the truth?! I make a little ceremony with my rejection letters. Upon receipt, I read it and then step outside where I roll it up — scroll fashion. Then I set it on fire and tell the Universe that I’m confident it’s in good hands, and send it up (in the form of smoke) for the Universe to handle so that I don’t carry it on my shoulders 🙂

  3. Geez, laurie I would certainly hope it was thick enough, but there are numerous things that bug me more than others, and one is always struggling to maintain some moderation. Those who are thin-skinned are people who don’t do well in maintaining lasting friendships, and who find themselves always on edge. The attitiude should always be that life is too short, and there are so many positive pursuits to engage one’s temperaments and sensibilities on. Love the post and that ideal photo there! Ha!

    • Sam – I love your philosophy: “Life is too short, and there are so many positive pursuits to engage one’s temperaments and sensibilities on.” I hope you guys have been able to dig out from under the snow and that you’ve got your electricity back 🙂

      • Thanks Laurie! The snow has just about melted now, and we did get our electricity back yesterday at about 10:00 A.M. But we wound up with about three inches of water in our basement (where we watch our movies on a plasma) as a result of the sump pump not working because of no power. Ugh! Today we’ll be doing some serious mopping.

      • Sam – If our sump pump went out due to lack of electricity we’d be in serious trouble. We have “protected wetlands” behind us and our basement is lower than it is. Hence, when all the snow melts in the spring, we would take on more water than we normally do (it’s an annual occurrence), if we didn’t have our sump pump. We don’t have a back-up generator. Note to self: talk with Len…

  4. That is quite a thick-skinned tree. It must have taken your advice long ago………….. I so appreciate your suggestion to think of each “no” as another step in the direction of “yes.” Timeless.

  5. Hi Laurie,

    At times, the idea of a “thick” skin can be both comforting (not easily ruffled) and dense (can’t get through it), so I am choosing to go with a newer technology type skin – ultra light silicone rubber. It does not weigh me down, easy to penetrate with the appropriate words (positive, uplifting, constructive and healing (ring a bell)) and thoughts or comments that are not for my highest good effortlessly bounce off of me into a new direction.

    These skins are available free of charge from the Universe, just for the asking. Get yours today.

    • Lisa – “Ultra light silicone rubber” – you technological wizardress, you 🙂 And it meets the standards of our highest and best good: positive, uplifting, constructive, and healing. I’m sold!

  6. This is such a good blog, Laurie, with such a pertinent question for us to ponder. I have had lots of trouble handling criticism over the years. I think I am better handling it now–but please don’t test this, LOL! Learning to blog on Gaia was the perfect training ground for learning how to respond thoughtfully and lovingly to on-line criticism. Did Gaia help you with that at all, or where you already learning how to handle it?

    • Kathy – Like you, the original Gaia was where I cut my blogging teeth. And I can tell you that not everyone — by any stretch of the imagination — always agreed with me. I had to learn to thicken my skin if I wanted to stay outside and play. And I’m glad I did 🙂

  7. “If you take the the insults of your fellow human beings personally, you will be offended for the rest of your life.”—Deepak Chopra

    One must be able to be tolerant of others requests and comments simply from the stand point that everyone is entitled to their opinion unless truth is challenged. As there are many ways to phrase and rephrase things as I think my skin is as thick as the tone my opponent speaks. There is a big difference between politely criticizing and ripping one to shreds. One is of negative/defense mode the other is brought in a different light. At that point, perspective is everything….

    We can have thicker skin as long as we give it a good massage to lighten up and be refreshed! 🙂

  8. Well said, Laurie.
    It always helps me to realize that I only need one yes–that yes coming from a source that truly embraces what I am giving. In fact, I rather have a chorus of “no”s that a wishy-washy yes.
    Something else that helps me is walking into my local bookstore. I walk from book to book. They’ve all been written by a devoted, skilled author.
    Can I buy every book?
    No. Now, I begin to understand how a literary agent or a book publisher must feel.
    Oh, yes, and I also like my thick skin to have pores–so that I can let wisdom in. : )

    • Leanne – I love how you try to walk a mile in the literary agent and/or publisher’s shoes. And I love love your comment, “I also like my thick skin to have pores–so that I can let wisdom in.”

  9. Love the tree picture – wow that is very skinny! and fun.

    When I was trying to sell green products and vitamins, I was told that most sales people don’t worry until they have gotten 500 No s……because there are about 500 No s to 1 yes…so each no was a step closer….I thought I had truly figured out how, because I got 69 customers with ease and 8 of them said they would also like to sell on my team….WELL,,,they wanted me to do all the work…there was a stipulation to their yes which just gummed up the works.

    When I had done my 500th presentation and still had no true team members…I just became a customer. I still get a little residual income from the company and great satisfaction in knowing the vitamins are fabulous for my partner with Celiac Disease….I can still hold my head up high and say In 17 years, I have made nearly $50,000 from this company.

    So I still haven’t given up….I learned that I just have to write for myself and do what I need to do….some folks will say Yes with strings attached and eventually the right yes will come along….and open the doors…

    I like how you can just say these things in so few words…. Thank you for sharing

    • Patricia – Thank you for sharing your story. $50K of residual income isn’t too darned shabby! “Strings attached” aren’t much fun, that’s why companion animals are so darned terrific. It’s unconditional all the way 🙂

      • The thing that bothers me the most is that when they did not make more than a few dollars from my work, they told me my presentations were awful and not productive….
        Yes, animals are so unconditional…although we have a neighbors cat that is spraying our front door daily….I am not fond of this behavior! goo attached

  10. I agree although it is not always easy. I have received some negative comments from people who are not wordpress bloggers, and their writing sounds like they may be from some other country and not sure the english words are what they really want to say. Do you get anything like that?

  11. Hi Laurie — I am more thick-headed than thick-skinned . . . probably the Polish in me. I think this way about rejection: I am not meeting another person’s projection of what they think they want/need/desire/crave/expect. And that doesn’t have anything to do with me, but everything to do with them. I read your writing not because I expect it to please me but because I expect it to reflect something of me that I need to pay attention to. THAT is what makes good writing a great read.

    • Barbara – “I read your writing not because I expect it to please me, but because I expect it to reflect something of me that I need to pay attention to.” When I read this statement of yours to Len, he fist-punched the air and said, “Yes! – that’s what writing’s all about.” 🙂

  12. Laurie, having read all of the above, I can only nod my head and think “Yes, yes, that is so.” While I have been criticized for any number of things, I can only bow my head and know that I have very often been just as critical to and about others. The old childhood adage comes to mind, “Don’t dish it out if you can’t take it.” It’s taken me long years to develop a skin that will repel the worst while allowing the truth to penetrate. Oh, and to keep my own opinion to myself if it not of the positive and constructive kind.

    • Sandi – You bring up a great angle to this conversation. That of not dishing out criticism. I’ve been guilty of that myself. As I’ve gotten older, I try to build in some front-end consideration before I speak (or write). Unfortunately, every now and then I still manage to cram a foot into my mouth, but it doesn’t happen nearly so often anymore.

  13. What kind of a tree is that? I love its skin!

    The wise words of Emerson help me keep unwelcome criticism in perspective:
    “Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.”

  14. Gotta agree with Barbara and Len, its what we see of ourselves reflected in the writing of others that makes a difference.

    On the “thick skinned” topic, I like Brian Johnson’s little mantra “I am totally independent of the good or bad opinion of others” – don’t always achieve it, and it is something to aim at.

    Seems to me that skin needs to be thick enough to keep the important stuff inside, and not be too easily damaged, and also thin and flexible enough to get the maximum from the experiences available to it (touch, cuddles, a summer breeze).

    30 years ago I was running 4 miles a day on gravel roads, barefoot, so my foot skin was almost half an inch thick. Now I wear socks and boots and it is much thinner.

    It seems to me that we need to be open to the contribution of others, and we also need to be very clear that their issues are theirs, not ours. No simple answers.

    • Ted – The Brian Johnson mantra is great — “…independent of both good and bad opinion of others.” I like the way you reasoned out the “thick enough to” and “think and flexible enough to.” Yowza! Running four miles a day, barefoot — ouch.

      I’m currently reading a book where every time I turn a page I think, “Ted would love this.” Or “Ted would laugh out loud at this.” It’s called “Fluke” by Christopher Moore. Lots of whales/ocean, lots of science, and LOTS of humor! Check it out 🙂

  15. Hi,
    Love the photo, it looks like a beautiful old tree.
    Bloggers I feel need a thick skin every now and then, and definitely a sense of humor. 🙂
    I love your quote:-
    a “no”—I’m absolutely confident it puts me one step closer to my “Yes!” brilliant.

  16. This is a difficult one, because some criticism is constructive and worth hearing.
    I would argue not so much for a thick skin, but for resilience.
    To perhaps be hurt – to feel it – but to pick yourself up again and go forwards anyway.

  17. Pingback: Thick Skin | Ted Howard NZ's Blog

    • Sheila – You are oh-so-correct in that “different perspectives are healthy and encouraging (as long as they are not abusive).” That’s one of the fun aspects of having a blog with a community that gets to know each other. We’re all so different and I learn something from readers each and every time I publish a post, and when I read someone else’s blog.

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