I was born with a thin skin, and it took me nearly a decade to grow thick skin.
What was my secret? What helped me?
I care too much about what others think of me
The biggest problem that I have is that for my entire life, I was a ‘people pleaser.’ I always put the preferences of others before myself.
In some ways, this was good. It helped me build empathy and love for others. The downside— I wasn’t living a life true to myself.
I always cared too much about what others thought of me. But when I realized that it was holding me back, I knew that I had to do something different.
One of the biggest benefits was studying sociology. It taught me all the “rules” I learned in society were from my parents, family, and society. None of these rules were “real”. These societal rules were flexible. I could break them.
This liberated me, and gave me a lot of personal power. I realize that no matter what, I would always piss someone off (as long as I was following my dreams).
Don’t be afraid to follow your own dreams
If you follow your dreams, you will always find someone who will oppose you. Think of all the great people in history — Jesus, Gandhi, Socrates — who dedicated their lives to service others, but were killed by those they were trying to help.
Not to be overly dramatic, but the point is that no matter what your intentions are — you will always have backlash.
Trust me, the internet hasn’t made this any easier. The internet has given us a platform to share our ideas with others, but it has also opened up the floodgates to internet trolls and “haters”.
But if you are doing something truly great with your life, you’re going to have to build a thick skin. You’re going to have to put on a suit of armor. You’re going to get stabbed, bleed, and hurt in this battle of life. There is no avoiding it.
But all you can do is to continue to grow a thicker skin. You need to make your body stronger, and bear with the assaults from others patiently. You’re going to have to build a colossal mind, which disregards the opinions of others. You’re going to have to build supreme confidence in yourself.
How I’ve built a thicker skin
Of course, easier said than done.
Here are some things which I have personally done which has helped me build a thicker skin:
- Disable comments: Honestly, it isn’t worth your mental energy to respond to haters. Rather, just ignore them. The easiest way I’ve done this is disabling comments. I disabled comments on my blog, and I have a plugin on my Safari browser called “shut up” — which blocks comments on most popular sites (YouTube, Facebook, etc). I know that for me personally, one negative comment can offset 10 positive comments. So protect yourself from negative comments, at least on the internet.
- See negative feedback as a positive thing: Once you start getting negative feedback, and hateful comments — that is a sign that you’re doing something right. Nobody who tries to attempt a great enterprise will have 100% crowd support. When you’re a “nobody” — everyone will encourage you, and nobody will hate on you. But the higher you climb, the more hate you will get. The more haters you have, the more successful you are. So take negative feedback as a positive thing.
- Build resistance to physical pain: I’ve been experimenting with “intermittent fasting” (only eating one meal a day, usually dinner), cold showers, and powerlifting (physically painful). The more I build resistance to physical pain, the less I take the insults and assaults from others.
And honestly, even today, I still have a pretty thin skin. Whenever I hear hateful words form others, it still hurts me. But it hurts me a lot less than it has in the past.
I think the last piece of advice I would give you is this — have compassion for others. If people say hateful things towards you, it is because they feel miserable in their lives. Who knows, the person who is saying hateful things to you might have suffered death in their family. They might have suffered sexual abuse as a child. They might have some sort of mental illness. Who knows.
But realize that living life is more like boxing than dancing. Even if you’re a world-class boxer, you will get punched, bruised, you will spit out blood, and you will get beaten up. But it is your job to play “rope a dope”, and patiently take the beatings from others. But to be strong, and continue to fight towards victory.
Learn more: Stoicism >