How many times is it said that to be a leader you have to be tough, detached, hard-nosed and, above all, thick-skinned? This is the Myth of the Thick Skin.
And it can be compelling because, if you’re not thick-skinned then you are thin-skinned, figuratively speaking. You feel your emotions, you take on board other people’s ideas, opinions, criticisms and judgments, you may feel vulnerable, unprotected and even bullied.
If only I had a thicker skin, you lament to yourself.
Let’s imagine for a moment that, magically, you grow that thicker skin.
Now, your emotions are hidden and under control, other people’s criticism and judgment doesn’t touch you anymore. You feel protected and tough. You have this amazing external protection that keeps you safe.
But how are you feeling inside?
Are you feeling empowered, strong and comfortable in that thick skin of yours?
Or are you feeling controlled, up-tight and fearful that even with your new thick skin, it may not be enough?
You see, there are two things you have to remember.
First, when you feel criticised or judged by the words of others, whatever they are saying has come out of their mouths, has been seen through their eyes, has been subject to their preconceived ideas, misconceptions, distortions, prejudices (you name it), has been filtered by their environment and life experiences… you get the picture?
It’s their stuff and actually has very little to do with you.
The second, is that your feelings and emotions are your most precious ally. They are there to help and support you, to bring understanding and awareness and ultimately, enable you to grow into the fullness of who you are. They are your ultimate learning tool.
And, that is why shutting down your inner emotional vulnerability in favour of developing your outer thick skin is not the answer.
Rather, examine your emotions as they rise to the surface. Ask yourself what your feelings are telling you. Work on letting go of your own preconceived ideas, values, judgments and beliefs that hold you prisoner.
Let other people deal with their stuff; all you need to do is deal with yours. Because, when you work on becoming strong from the inside out, no thick skin is required!