A Step-by-Step Guide on How to Build a Thicker Skin

By Krista

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Last Updated: November 7, 2022

For some of us, insults or offensive comments roll off our shoulders like no big deal.

For others, it stings a little more than skin deep. We might dwell on it more or even take it to heart, allowing words to leave massive wounds or bruises in our souls. So, what gives?

Well, some of us tend to have thicker skin, and others don’t. But the good news is you can develop it. And we’re going to offer up a step-by-step guide on exactly what you need to do to do that.

How can you become more resilient and build thicker skin? Keep reading to find out.

 

 

How to Develop Thicker Skin

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines thick skin as, “an ability to keep from getting upset or offended by the things other people say and do.” It’s when someone else’s comments don’t matter because the only opinion and voice that does is our own. 

Unfortunately, varying degrees of trauma can erode our skin and leave us susceptible to external voices and opinions. In turn, this can cause us to become “people pleasers” or even cause us to tip-toe around others to avoid causing offense. Inevitably, this isn’t living our most authentic life. 

Yet, developing thicker skin can help you do so!

It’ll make you feel more aligned with your choices, decisions, and actions. You’ll also be able to “roll with the punches” and overcome the challenges life inevitably throws at us all. So, here’s how to get that thick skin you’ve always wanted!

 

Step 1: Learn to take others’ perspectives into account.

This is so basic but so hard to remember in the moment.

The truth is that when someone insults us, it usually more to do with them and their experience than it actually is about us. Insults usually come from a place of anger and hurt. Thinking about where the other person is coming from can help remind us of this and help us avoid taking it personally. 

Now, this step will involve your imagination and some seriously selfless thought.

You’ll have to put yourself in another’s shoes. Yes, it’s tough, but with practice, it’s totally doable. At the end of the day, if you lived their experience, you would likely feel or do similar. This can help us not take things to heart, as well as understand others to the highest of our capabilities.

For instance, next time someone says something offensive to you, try to take a deep breath and pause.

Then, ask yourself: If you weren’t to take this personally, what would you consider about the other person and how they feel?

 

Step 2: Nurture the relationships closest to you.

Various evidence has pointed out that what matters most in our lives is meaningful relationships.

In fact, these matter more than money, fame, or any other external entity (including what that stranger said to you harshly on the street!). 

Take into account those you care about and surround yourself with. Focus on improving the quality of these relationships. In turn, these connections will be there for you throughout life’s challenges, helping you overcome the inevitable hurdles.

And there are a few ways to do this:

  • Spend more quality time together
  • Take up a new hobby together
  • Be present and listen to the other person
  • Ask questions about their life and interests 
  • Give genuine compliments
  • Treat others how you would want to be treated

Enhancing these relationships can give our lives meaning, help us develop thicker skin, and become more resilient overall.

 

Step 3: Focus on your own self-care routines.

Audre Lorde, a civil rights leader, once said, “Self-care is not indulgence, it is self-preservation.”

In other words, building thick skin relies on having strategies to self-soothe and fall back on when life gets hard (as it will!). 

And this means making time for yourself and putting yourself first. Ultimately, you can’t give your best without feeling your best. So, pour some of that love into you! 

Again, there are so many ways to do this. It comes down to finding what works for you and what calms the stress in your life.

A few self-care examples include:

  • Regular meditation sessions
  • Daily journaling
  • Massage appointments
  • Warm baths
  • Taking time to do what you love (like binging that one show or participating in the hobbies you enjoy!)
  • Taking care of yourself with proper nutrition and exercise
  • Setting goals and going after them

Related Article: Top 5 Simple Ways to Start a Self-Care Routine in Your Life

 

Step 4: Practice positive self-talk.

This almost falls under the umbrella of self-care, but we decided it truly needed its own step for emphasis. This practice draws on many aspects of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). 

When you have a negative thought (whether that means believing what someone else said about you or finding yourself in an negative thought spiral due to life events), challenge it. Is there an alternative to this negative thought? Usually, there is. 

For example, instead of “I can’t,” try saying “I can” or “I can learn…” Or instead of “I’m the reason they didn’t answer the text,” consider what else in the other person’s life could interfere with them getting back to you? There’s probably countless answers here.

Using this tactic can help prevent depression and anxiety, helping you gain control of your thoughts and helping you build that thick skin!

 

Step 5: Set realistic expectations.

Many times we get let down simply because of our own expectations.

It’s always a good idea to remain hopeful but also realistic. This can prevent you from internalizing things or facing an array of negative emotions. 

For example, it’s good to hope that you get that scholarship. But if we’re being realistic and only two out of 20 people get it, it’s important to take this into account when thinking we will be the ones to obtain it. Again, hope is good. But we also want to be realistic

It might help to set expectations by assessing both sides of the equation, the positive and negative.

  • What is the best-case scenario?
  • What is the worst-case scenario?

Most likely, the result will fall somewhere in the middle.

 

Step 6: Consider talk therapy.

I firmly believe that everyone can benefit from therapy.

It helps you understand yourself better and can help you develop self-care and resilient strategies specific to you and your traumas. Even a couple of sessions can do wonders of good in your life, helping you learn to deal. 

A therapist will work with you to uncover past traumas and how they impact your life now, as well as offer new ways to think about things (and accept what has happened!). If you’ve got the time (and benefits or money), definitely consider this to develop that thick skin.

Related Article: How To Ask For Help (And When You Really Should)

 

 

Thicker Skin Can Be Learned!

You aren’t constrained by your past or current self.

In fact, building thick skin is like building muscle. It just takes consistent practice! Try out the steps above one-by-one, and go easy on yourself as you do. All of the above, including building thick skin, requires self-compassion and patience with yourself.

Read Next: Emotional Resilience: How to Start Building Your Ability to Adapt

Photo by Egor Kamelev

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14 comments on “A Step-by-Step Guide on How to Build a Thicker Skin”

    1. Interesting Geraldine. Do you think they have become more introverted, or that since lockdown, people have embraced their already existing introversion?

  1. This article should be more elaborate and also give clear guidance about how to prevent from going into negative spiral.
    Details about different rituals for keeping oneself internally at peace.

  2. Warren Buffet said " You will continue to suffer if you have an emotional reaction to everything that is said to you" .True power is sitting back and observing things with logic. True power is restraint. If words control you that means everyone else can control you. Breathe and allow things to pass.

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