Dear Crissy

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Why it’s okay to have a thin skin

Life is complicated—and we’re all acutely aware of that fact. We will all encounter tough interpersonal conflict and criticism, and unfortunately, we might even (as adults) still face name-calling that harks back to our time as elementary school students.

It happens within our families, within our social circles, and yes—sometimes between our peers in the workplace. It’s certainly happened to me, as a blogger, and the advice I invariably hear is that I should develop a thicker skin. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been given that advice in my life.

Why It's Okay To Have A Thin Skin

Photo CC license ejorpin.

What I’ve come to realize, however, is that I’m okay with my thin skin. I am a very emotional person, and I definitely wear my heart on my sleeve.

I understand that the thick skin advice comes from a good place when given, however, what is wrong with being affected? Furthermore, what’s wrong with admitting to other people that you are affected?

Don’t let anyone tell you that having a “thin skin” is a flaw. Your beautiful and feeling heart is a strength. (Tweet This)

Some of my favorite people have a thin skin, and most of the truly gifted, creative, and innovative people that I’ve met in my life are highly emotional and feeling individuals.

When people criticize me, I feel it. When people are right down rude or insulting to me, I really feel it. I don’t let it keep me down, because I have enough self-worth (at this age) to see ugliness for what it is—but by golly—I’ve got a super thin skin, and I’m not ashamed of that—I’m proud of it.

Have you ever been accused of having a thin skin, or of being too emotional?

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58 comments

  1. All the time, I am working to see it as a strength, as opposed to a weakness, when the world tells you otherwise.

  2. Okay this is my second blog I’ve read from you and I’m officially a fan… For my whole life I’ve been accused of being “oversensitive” but I now am learning to where my sensitivity as a badge of honor. I am an organizational diversity trainer by trade and what some see as weakness I realize gives me the gift of connecting with people on a really tender subject… helping people explore a potentially very vulnerable topic. My “thin skin” makes me receptive and perceptive to the needs of others… the flipside is I do feel it when people say or do things that cause hurt but I’m also able to experience great joy, peace and connectedness. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

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  7. I also have been told that I have thin skin but only by one person. This person uses this statement as a manipulative tool to mistreat me and I am aware. Time to find a new friend who deserves my big heart, or not! Thank you for the great article!

  8. Yes! I think one of the biggest problems with the world today is that people have become desensitized. I was listening to the radio in the car the other day and a woman from Syria called in to say her family was trying to get out of Syria and into Jordan. Her description of the plight of her family was so moving that I had to pull over for safety reasons. And Sarah Palin can make a callus joke and suggest that Allah take care of the problem? I thought we (the USA and the world) weren’t going to let Rwanda happen again. No, I don’t want thick skin either! I want to feel. Great post!

  9. This is so beautiful Chrissy! I’ve heard the same thing about being introverted. I suppose the oddest thing about this type of criticism is that somehow the world would be a better place if everyone was the same. Why on earth should everybody have the same personality?! Ugh… no thanks!

  10. I love this post! I have been told to “toughen up” my whole life! I just can’t do it. I feel weak because of my emotions all of the time. I try to not take things personally, but it’s just me… I have thin skin. This trait also makes me a very honest person, though. Since I wear my heart on my sleeve, I am completely incapable of lying! LOL
    I will say working in a construction office has helped. The language there forces you to be a little tougher, but one bad comment on my blog and I am a complete wreck!!!

  11. I absolutely agree with you. I, too wear my heart on my sleeve, but I wouldn’t change it for anything. I feel sorry for people that can’t feel as passionately/emotionally as people like us.

  12. I guess some of us “Chrissys” get the thin skin. I am a Chrissie as well and I have constantly been told that I need to grow thicker skin, by peers, parents and even employers. I get tired of hearing that being emotional and in tune with how things effect me and voicing it is seen as a weakness. I could have written this myself. I am so glad you did.

  13. Lets just say DH even carry’s tissues with him. I have coworker’s come to me for Hugs all the time I dont know much about these people other than we work together & a few tidbit they want to share I can tell when they need a hug or a You rock comment.
    I do have a tender heart I take everything to heart . I work Hard to Not let it bring me Down if it does I NEVER EVER SHOW IT.
    Have a good one ann/alba

  14. I have thin skin when it comes to those close to me and my real life friends, but online I tend to put on a ‘medium thickness skin’ :) Depending on the harshness of a comment or the criticism, I may or may not get emotional. But yes, I certainly understand, there are so many mean people in the world, some have nothing better to do than hurt people they do not even know online.

  15. What a great post, Crissy :) And I love the quotes. I’m sensitive to some degree, and I get frustrated when people tell me to grow a thicker skin. I am who I am, ya know?

  16. Oh all the time. I definitely feel like people look down on people that are sensitive and want us to change and “get over things.” — it’s almost degrading in a way — I think that without people like us, there would be a lot more negativity and ugliness (as you said) than we could ever imagine. <3

  17. Thank you for this post! I’ve been told on more than one occasion that I need to develop a thicker skin. That upsets me because it sounds like it’s OK for someone to have such a strong feeling towards me that *they* are allowed to say something about it (whatever “it” is), but *I’m* not allowed to have an opinion about what they say?

    Why does that mean *we* need a thicker skin? Maybe the other person needs to mind their own business and stop caring about us and our business so much. :)

  18. Thin skinned and proud. It is so sad when people mistake your kindness for weakness and feel that it’s o.k. to exploit it. I have learned to compartmentalize people like that. They go in the category of ” I don’t let people like you rent space in my head.” Why would I? Chin up girl, if the world had more thin skinned people it probably would be a more sympathetic and loving world.
    I feel for those who can’t.

  19. It reminds me of “You’ve Got Mail” where the refrain “It’s not personal, it’s business” finally leads Kathleen Kelly to say, “Well, it’s personal to me.” Or in “North and South” the comment that, logically, donating food to striking workers prolongs the strike and their pain, but that there is more than logic to feeding a starving baby. Certainly there is room for both thin and thick skin varieties. Who says logic is better than emotion? We need both.

  20. I believe there are many of us with thin skin..so lets hold our heads up high & just carry on. I don’t think being emotional is a bad thing, but sometimes I do wish I didn’t tear up at the drop of a hat.

  21. Love this post! I have “thin skin” too, and have been told many times to toughen up,. I don’t want to, though. I like that I’m emotional, even though it sometimes makes life hard. I like that I have empathy for others as a result of it. If having a “thick skin” means casting aside the emotions and the personality traits that make me who I am, no thank you. I’ll get along just fine with my thin skin.

  22. I get that ALL the time! My friends and those close to me, my family, they usually see it as a good thing. But sometimes it’s hard to be an open book, wearing my emotions on the outside. I have a thin skin too, and criticism hurts. I rarely dish it out, because I hurt so much when I am criticised! This can be a problem, because I am so non-confrontational, I sometimes don’t stick up for myself when I have every right to. I don’t want to hurt the person who hurt me! For crying out loud! Recently I was criticised by two different parties within a short period of time, and it really shattered my heart. My actions and words had been taken wrong, and when I was trying to help, I was told I was in the wrong. After sharing this with a friend, she told me something that I later saw posted on Facebook, and it seems so true: If someone treats you unkindly, it says a lot more about them than it does about you. Keep being who you are! I love “real” people!

  23. I grew up learning to be tough and thick skinned but there is something to be said for being sensitive and even vulnerable. Although with all the bullying and internet meanies these days it’s hard not to put up defenses!

  24. You should read The Highly Sensitive person. awesome book and has been amazing for me :D

  25. Yes!! Thank you for sharing this. I have thin skin and I am aways told to shake things off or stop being so emotional Thank you for sharing!!! Kate

  26. I don’t have a very thin skin. It’s probably a good thing, since I teach middle school. Still, when something DOES hurt my feelings, it really stings. I try not to let stuff get to me.

  27. Thanks for sharing! I think people have a hard time being honest about their feelings and try to hide them. Emotions are real and that is okay!

  28. I am thin skinned as well, it is just how I am take it or leave it.

  29. I have very thin skin, I’ve very emotional, I cry over EVERYTHING. But I also keep a lot in. I am trying to not let certain belittling people get the best of me, but it’s hard.

  30. YES!!! I know that I do and I get told that all the time. I wear everything on my sleeves. It is not hard to guess what I am thinking. I have always been this way, and I am learning to love myself in spite of it all!

  31. I definitely wear my heart on my sleeve. I trust easily and therefore am hurt easily. I try to be “tough” but I show every emotion. I have cried dozens of times at work. It’s hard to be “that girl”. But I am also the girl who is most loving and open to other people and I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

  32. :) Great quote & Amen! Thin skin here too. Always have been. I also don’t see it as a bad attribute. I wish more people were less cold and closed off. It appears that some of it is driven by social media – it provides a platform for bullies, largely without recourse. But I guess meanness exists everywhere.

  33. Yes! I have been told I’m too emotional at times Usually, ironically enough, these types of negative comments come from my drama friends who always seem to be in the throes of a dilemma. So when I don’t buy into their problem of the moment, or worse call them on over embellishment, I get called hostile and once or twice even worse. It’s tough. Great post!

  34. Yes I get accused of that all the time. I used to get really upset when people would say that I was thin skinned but not anymore. I am proud that I care so much and feel sad for those that are unable to care at all.

  35. Thank you so much for sharing this. I really needed to hear it or rather read it. I am very thin skinned. I often get told to toughen up or to let things just roll off of me, but that’s just not who I am. I know that things bother me because I have such a big heart, but that also means that I get to love more than most. I hope to get to the day when I don’t let things keep me down, and my self-worth does not depend on what others have to say.

  36. I probably have thicker skin than most but I definitely can get gob smacked sometimes from the side. I mean there you are, just doing your thing and then BAHM somebody is all in your business…and you never saw it coming. Those are the things that make me just **Shake my Little Blonde Head**

  37. I love turning a perceived negative on its head and into a positive! It’s so true, perhaps we thinned-skinned folks are actually stronger since we allow our emotions to be felt and experienced!

  38. I also have super thin skin! I was once told (as a teenager) by someone that when I grew up I would toughen up! Well, I am 31 now and still the same sensitive girl and I’m okay with it. I feel and there is nothing wrong with that. Life is full of emotions and I’m okay with feeling ALL of them! It is a part of what makes me me!

    Great post! It’s great to know that there are others like me!!! Here’s to being emotional!!

  39. Sorry sweetie. I agree though. Having a caring heart and thin skin is okay, shows that you’re human and feel. I have a thin skin and I’m okay with that.

  40. I’ve been told to do it too and my thing is feeling is part of living and I like feeling and experiencing – good or bad. It is much more difficult since I choose not to vent on the blog but man, oh man, is it really painful having a thin skin!

  41. So true, I needed to hear this today. Last night at work I had a Manger call me a lair in front of my co-workers. I went off and cried thinking I was a big baby. This morning I went to our head of HR tearfully telling my story and apologizing because I was crying so hard.. He looked at me and siad don’t apologize your feelings were more than just hurt they were stomped on. Then he told go home and relax and let him have the sleepless night dealing with it…i chuckled and said please don’t lose sleep over it….but he made me realize it is OK to have thin skin, and it is not OK for others to use you or your self esteem as their personal door mat.

  42. I have been told to “toughen up” my whole life. I was bullied in school and the teachers never made any attempt to correct the kids that did it, even when it involved physical violence. Many people see those of us who show our feelings as convenient victims, someone to take out their aggression on without fear of repercussions. I decided long ago that although it might be easier to be hateful back to those who hurt me, being who I really am is more important. I would rather have my feelings hurt sometimes than to become a hard and cold person.

  43. I am right there with you! Thank you for writing this!

  44. I must admit I can relate. As a younger girl I was always told you are soooo tender hearted, you need thicker skin. I now still to this day, have that “thin skin” and I’m ok with it! I see it as a gift actually. I love that I can express my emotions. I say to those thick skinned people who think we should change…..maybe a look at the mirror is something you need. Sometimes, people tend to criticize others when they can’t be happy with the person they are.

  45. yes. It was considered a major flaw in corporate America. Didn’t think the bullying by male managers belonged there either. Glad I no longer work there.

  46. I’ve been accused of being emotional many times. I’m just passionate though! I think it’s o.k. to have a thin skin, but sometimes I think people are LOOKING to get offended these days. I consider them two different things though.

  47. Wearing my heart on my sleeve has always been an issue. I’m very sensitive and emotional, and I think I have a right to be. I used to keep everything bottled up inside, and that made me physically sick. So to the people that want us to have thicker skin, tell ya what….how about you learn to feel?! Thank you for sharing this experience with us Crissy, some people are just “ugly” as you said.

  48. I do have to say that when you are being criticized or judged you must be doing it right. With you having so many talents and strengths their are so many wanting to be you. Take heart in that! I am also a wear your heart on your sleeve type of girl so I get the hurt part as well.

  49. I have a very thick skin but too often people say you have to have a thick skin in a situation where the person doing the “attacking” or making hurtful remarks are just plain in the wrong.

    It’s not ok to bash others or make insensitive remarks, we really need to remember that each of us have feelings and are entitled to being treated respectfully. Our insular society encourages us to say what we like…and folks are missing out on common decency!

  50. I so am right with you on this one. I have been sensitive all my life. I have been told of a story when I was little, that my family used to “joke” me trying to get me to toughen up. It didn’t work… I just feel that they were mean.
    To this day, I am sensitive, and have very thin skin. I don’t mind… I am happy with who I am.

    I love that you wrote what I have felt many a time. <3 you and your thin skin!! <3

    • Ginny, my family did the same thing and they still do. They think I need to just “learn to take a joke”, even when I have repeatidly asked them not to joke with me about certain things and that I am just too sensitive and “no fun”. I am actually a ton of fun and love to joke around and I am always making others laugh. It really does hurt when people you love won’t just accept you for who you are, and try to change you instead as if there is something wrong with who you are.

  51. I am told that all the time! My boss likes to poke at me about it. She finds it amusing. I feel I am this way because I love people, and practice the Golden Rule, and when people are mean it breaks my heart. I feel your pain.

  52. I really feel you on this, Crissy! The saying goes “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Well, words DO hurt!

  53. Well said!!

  54. Yes, it has happened a number of times. I take things deep inside and process it all. Nothing is said to me that I don’t reflect on. Though this can be exhausting, it is also an asset for self betterment.

    It can be so challenging as a “thin skin” person to put yourself out there in the world, to be vulnerable and have others attack you. Carry on, stay strong, you are not alone!

  55. I am not typically the one with “thin” skin. My childhood taught me different. But, I am also not the type to see the good in people very often. My inner circle is small. So, perhaps by keeping the walls up I do not have to be as thick skinned. And that doesn’t sound like the solution as well… but it’s what works for me right now.

    BTW… you rock. By many standards you do. Others are jealous… and very well should be. {{HUGS}}

  56. I’m right there with you….thin skinned and proud!

  57. Great quotes, and so true! My Mother used to say this about people who criticize others ‘it says more about them than the people they are talking to/about’ and it’s so true. Thick skin and the knowledge that they are making themselves look to others, like the way they are intending you to feel.

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