More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
The Thick Skinned
By Lybi Ma, Psychology Today

It's not all about you. How becoming less self critical can help boost your confidence.

Here's an important rule for life: It's not all about you. To develop a thick skin you must first remember that you are not the center of the universe. Yes, sorry to say, you are not the fixed point around which the universe turns.

Say someone isn't paying you enough attention. You brood and brood. "Is she mad at me?" "Did I say something wrong?" Your gloomy thoughts intensify, leaving you emotionally crippled and thinking that you have ruined everything.

Yet there may be a good reason for her inattention. Maybe she's having a rough week at work, and she has ten projects to complete by Friday. All of which are putting her in a foul mood. Or think about it in another way. Maybe she is behaving badly and being a jerk. But why are you fussing over it?

If this is how your mind works, you may indeed be overly thin skinned. And some rethinking is in order. You will need to learn a few skills and think outside yourself.

Here are a few tips to developing a thick skin:

  • Don't take things personally. Sometimes you may need to reframe a person's bad behavior by remembering that it's not about you.
  • Don't let others get to you. Refuse to get overly responsive to the negative feelings and provocations of others. Adopt strategies that regulate emotional arousal; otherwise negativity hijacks the thinking brain. Try simple deep breathing or declare time out.
  • Remember that everyone gets rejected sometimes. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and move on. Don't be discouraged if it takes a few times to get it right. Successful people are rejected over and over, but never stop trying.
  • When you're rejected or something doesn't go your way, counterpropose a new solution. Often, the person declining your offer is not rejecting you. He may even want to hear another idea. Successful individuals come back from rejection with new proposals. They're creative at coming up with additional ways of looking at things and solving problems.
  • Don't hesitate to unstick sticky situations. If you're discussing an issue and the conversation is going off track, stop it and restart it on the right track. You could say: "This isn't going productively. Let's reshoot this scene from the beginning" or "Can we take it from the top?"
  • Don't be self-focused. If you do focus on yourself, you'll likely dwell on your shortcomings. Instead, think about your goals and what steps you need to get there.
  • Stop the self-talk. Counter self-defeating self-talk with truth talk: "You can be your own worst enemy, so give yourself a break."
  • Don't worry about looking stupid. If you are asked a question and you don't know the answer, you can simply say, "I need to think about that and get back to you later."
  • Learn to be patient. Don't be impulsive or react to a situation without giving yourself time to cool off.
  • Don't be quick to blame. Recognize that other people have their ups and downs.
  • Think about others. Enter social interactions with this thought of making the experience itself enjoyable. Ask yourself, "What can I do to make you feel more comfortable."
It's been awhile since I've read or posted on the boards, but I must say, this article hits the nail on the head about the way I've been feeling lately.

My best friend and I haven't been speaking as much as we use to, and logically I know it's because he's busy, so am I, but at times I do find myself brooding and getting ****ed off.

I know he's having a "down" period right now, and in my way of thinking, I feel like it's something I've done.

It's hard when you don't know what the problem is, and there are only so many times I can say that I'm there for him.

Yes, I've put myself through gambit of emotions from being angry with him and ready to end the friendship to making peace with the fact that maybe he's got things on his plate.

Then I get angry with myself for thinking this way. long will it be and how much grief will I cause myself until I learn to develop a thicker skin and not take the blame for other people's moods?


I think the trick in doing what the article suggests is knowing when to draw the line. I have the opposite problem in that often, I am very good at coming up with justifications, reasons, and excuses as to why someone's behavior is poor. I used to call it "patience", "tolerance", and even "understanding". But each time I did that, everytime I went against my instinct, I got hurt. The person wasn't really "going through something", or "just needed space"...they were looking for a way to end a relationship or a way to hide something that would hurt/upset me.

So, while the advice in the article is good (though personally I feel it's a bit dismissive and invalidating), it should be used sparingly. Know your boundaries and listen to your gut. And when all fails to give comfort -- ask.
I have to agree with you Lana. I spoke with my friend again, and yes, I understand he's going through something but that doesn't give him the right to treat me that way.

Yes, I can "practice patience and tolerance and even understanding" but as the saying goes "you teach people how to treat you" and I'm so through with people treating me like a second class citizen.

I know I haven't given much background info of what took place, and maybe I'm looking at it through my own perception, but I'm tired of putting my heart out only to have it stomped on.

Thank goodness I don't have much time left, and I have finally realized that happiness or love is something that was never meant for me.


Hi Solitary Man;

I’m sorry that things didn’t go as well as you hoped. Sometimes, one of the hardest things we can do is care for someone who doesn’t care back. This, however, underlines the importance of caring for yourself and not loosing your own needs while taking care of someone elses.

About love and happiness…I grew up with an abusive parent who felt that I was responsible for her love and happiness. I can’t tell you the tremendous pressure that put me under, and the wrath that ensued when she didn’t get what she wanted or needed. Imagine being a child and being responsible for one persons love and happiness. It’s an impossible task, for anyone. It wasn’t until my 36th year and few years of therapy that I was able to tell her that any love and happiness that she wanted were her responsibility, not mine.

Having said that, I think you deserve love and happiness as much as anyone and everyone else. It takes a bit of work, but I’m positive that the bulk of it lies in you. So rather then endure other people’s quirks and the hurt they inflict, spend the time and energy to give that same care and loving to yourself. You’re worth it. :)

What would you tell your friend if they said that the love and happiness wasn’t in the cards for them?
I would tell them, as I've told myself, accept the fact that love and happiness is not meant for everyone, it's all a bunch hooey anyway.

I'd rather be hated than pitied, and when I die, at least it was my decision, and on my own terms.

In a strange way, I'm glad the so called friendship has come and gone. At first, I was hurt and angry, but now I feel freed from the hope that I once had to ever find love or happiness in my life.

The only good thing is, by not having many relations in life, I will not be missed when I'm gone.

Thanks for reading / listening.

That's all I ever wanted.


I found what you said interesting about being free from the hope of finding happiness. I just thought of something a few days ago similar to that. Maybe you can relate. I decide I am going to try to stop wanting things, ideas, situations. I felt relieved because I no longer will need to brace myself for disappointment. Maybe this society has become so spoiled or something. There are too many choices/opportunities, and maybe some people feel pressured to be happy. And if they're not happy, geez something must be wrong with them. I think the truth underneath it all is that many MANY people are not completely happy. Perfect happiness is not attainable in this world. I'm not quite sure how to say it, but I think I mean that "we've" lost a certain simplicity in life. I guess if you surrender the illusion that you must be happy and in love or loved, and stop yearning perhaps you will just be. Isn't that what Bhuddists practice? Living in the present, and living in balance with our surrounding environments? As for you losing your friend, maybe it was meant to be that you would close the door on that relationship, so that you could open up to another relationship.......with someone else or even with yourself. That's what happened to me. I'm now able to be content with my aloneness. I think people have a deep inner knowing of their purpose in their own lifetime, and they live accordingly. You said all you ever wanted was peace. That reminds me of the last verse of the Martin Luther King Jr. song, "Up to the Mountain."...........The peaceful valley just over the mountain, the peaceful valley few come to know, I may never get there ever in this lifetime, but sooner or later it's there I will go. Wishing you peace in every way.

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
I think I mean that "we've" lost a certain simplicity in life. I guess if you surrender the illusion that you must be happy and in love or loved, and stop yearning perhaps you will just be. Isn't that what Bhuddists practice? Living in the present, and living in balance with our surrounding environments?

There's some truth in that, I think.

But it's not about giving up trying to be happier. It's more about recognizing that one cannot force the universe to be the way one wants it to be. Much of the time, we just have to do the best with what we have.

As someone once said, it's not the hand you're dealt; it's what you do with it.


Account Closed
It's more about recognizing that one cannot force the universe to be the way one wants it to be.

Now you tell me. :mrgreen: I have a friend who gently reminds me every now and then not to "push the river".
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