I remember my Grandma Bennett always telling me I had to get thicker skin. On Sunday afternoons at her house, I would recount all the insults and injuries (I call them arrows) from people and situations that had come my way that week in search for her reassurance that I hadn't done anything wrong. She would listen and gasp at appropriate times listening to my stories of "she said this" and "he did that" and always give me the same advice at the end - "Shelley, you have to get thicker skin."
I understood what Grandma was saying, but inside, I disagreed with her and wondered, "How am I supposed to act like this doesn't hurt me?" Having "thick skin" was not in keeping with what I was experiencing and who I was; it was not being honest with myself. Insults did hurt me. My skin was thin. I did certainly manage to "get thick skin" in the way of gaining weight and literally creating for myself a "thick skin" (weight gain is the physical manifestation of the emotional injuries), although that's not what Grandma meant.
I tried to learn from people with "thick-skin" and tried to figure out how they could just let things roll off their shoulders so easily. But no matter how hard I studied or tried, I never acquired the knack. However, I did discover a certain truth about myself. I am not "thick-skinned" and never will be. In fact, quite the opposite, I am extremely thin-skinned, always have been and always will be. This will never change. And actually, now I'm glad.
Let's look at this practically. Your skin is a layer, the first layer. Beneath it lies your heart. If your skin is thin like mine, arrows (insults and injuries) will then penetrate through your skin and hit your heart. Ouch! That's really painful because hearts are soft and they bleed! Your skin is a protective layer. Many people therefore, grow thick skin to protect their heart. Makes sense.
So what happens when your skin is thin and your heart gets hit? Well your heart is a muscle. Like in working out, your muscles grow stronger as a result of the repair work it does to the "injury". As my thin-skinned allowed arrows to penetrate through and hit my heart, every time my heart repaired itself, it got stronger. The greater the injury, the greater the repair work, the greater strength I developed. I now see my heart is strong. I am thin-skinned with a strong heart.
People become "thick-skinned" from their own fear that their heart is not strong enough to handle the hit. Therefore, they must thicken up the first protective layer. Over time, their skin gets thicker and thicker, however, their heart gets no stronger. Listen, arrows are not going to stop coming, they are always going to come, it's just called living life. You don't need to thicken up your skin, you need to have a stronger heart, you need to repair and restore the injuries that hit it.
Restore and repair your heart with love and gratitude. Heal it with truth. The same truth I was looking to get from my grandma.... A simple, "You didn't do anything wrong." A simple removal of blame. Remove the blame, and you can restore your heart. This will make your heart strong.
How does this tie into weight loss? Like this: Work on restoring and repairing your heart, and your emotional injuries won't need a "thick skin" called weight gain. I am figuratively and literally thin-skinned. I love my strong heart. I am grateful for all the injuries that made it strong. Love and gratitude, combined with the truth, healed me. When you become strong-hearted, you can be thin-skinned. Thin-skinned with a strong heart.
Shelley Johnson is the Creator & Founder of The Losing Coach®.
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