Yetley: Thick skin needed before we can put ourselves out there


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Opinion: Yetley 9/7

Claire Yetley

Some people have “thick skin” in the metaphoric sense of the phrase. This would mean that these people do not let small insults or rude comments bother them. They just keep on doing whatever they were doing in the first place. Where do we find such people in our society, and how do they acquire such numbness?

I work as a waitress, and in such business, we talk to and deal with a lot of different people. I did a small informal survey the other night as I was standing around cracking peanuts and talking while I should have been doing side work. I was curious how many of us there thought we had thick skin. I believe based on that small survey that the servers that have experience either have obtained a thick skin because of working or servers who stick around are people that have thick skin.

So who else other than servers have thick skin? Athletes, performers, writers, and I’m sure there are more that I’m not thinking of right now, but what do these people have in common? I believe the common factor to all these people is that they stand up as individuals in public and expose themselves in some way. This makes them open and vulnerable for criticism. They have grown accustomed to the openness and as a result acquired a thick skin.

Originally when I thought of athletes, I thought of a coach tearing into young athletes mentally so that they will perform better physically. This example could also stand as the same principle as parents yelling at their child to do something better, whether it be to do better in school or keep his or her room more tidy. But this one-on-one contact is much more influential than I originally assumed, and the results could possibly go the opposite way.

When I actually spoke to a friend who is an athlete about this topic, he said that the real thick skin comes from crowds yelling or chanting comments at you. The extent of my athletic performance was as a dancer, a completely different arena. Dancers do their piece and leave the stage, like most artistic performers. They perform, leave the stage and wait for their criticism. Athletes have to hear it while they are still competing.

In an article titled “The Thick Skinned” in Psychology Today by Lybi Ma, the claim is that people who do not have thick skin feel as if they are the reason for others’ foul actions. Their suggestion is to stop believing the world revolves around yourself and to try to understand where the other person is coming from. They list various ways to learn how to calm down, think rationally, not take things personally and think how the other person is feeling.

In situations of everyday interaction, this article is completely relevant. I think during those interactions people generally have more time to think and over analyze the situation. If it’s a situation where you are putting yourself in front of a crowd you don’t have time or enough effort to understand each person who criticizes you.

But still the common factor is that all these people are putting themselves out there as individuals. The degree to how thick you think your skin is simply depends on which situation you find yourself in. The benefits seem to be the ability to be able to function while brushing off stressful comments. But each person evaluates what a stressful situation is differently.

Some people choose to never put themselves in stressful situations. They will never have the need to build such a characteristic. These are the ones that never talk in class discussions or choose to work in a cubicle every day. Each person chooses to live his or her life differently. To which I quote one of my favorite anonymous quotes: “To each their own.”

Maybe these people are happy. Who am I to question their life choices?

But for every great achievement, there is a great challenge. If anyone is to notice that achievement, it must be made public. Or else it becomes your crazy aunt’s figurine collection that no one takes notice of. There are plenty of opportunities to put yourself out there; there are just as many opportunities to keep away from the criticism. We choose who we want to be.