Hi there, beauty babes! I’m sorry it’s been a little while since we’ve talked.
Here’s what I’ve been processing lately:
The question of my soul is, can you be sensitive and gritty? You know me and how much I love options, “boths,” and “ands.” So I’ve decided that, yes, we can be both.
I recently was in conversation with a student of mine who is an up and coming athletic training professional. She has encountered some harsh voices, strong feedback, and a toughness in those she works with that makes her question her worthiness or success potential if she doesn’t vibe with this kind of environment. I’ve been there. I’m a softy, sensitive, feeler who loves science, black and white, and clear lines. I received feedback as I was a growing clinical professional that I needed to develop thicker skin, be less sensitive to the harsh words, cold encounters, and derogatory comments because that’s just the way of athletics. I took this feedback and wanted to find a way to be different but not the weirdo-feeler-girl who no one wanted to talk to. Quite the task, but I was determined. So meeting with this student felt like I was looking at my younger self and I had the opportunity to share some perspective with her.
I think these lessons I’ve learned have been helpful specifically in my career path, but they have also helped me process family stuff, friend feels, and even the grouchy non-morning person behind me at the airport who’s all hot and bothered that the flight is delayed (which is exactly zero parts the fault of the airline employee receiving this grump-a-potamus’ rants).
When it comes to dealing with people who rub you the wrong way, having thick skin does not mean you have to have a hard heart. It just means that resultant wounds (whether intended to hurt us or not) stops at the skin level and doesn’t bleed into the soft places of your soul. This doesn’t mean that you are now totally numb to harsh words, it may sting like a scraped knee, but it doesn’t cause a systemic infection. It means you get up, brush off the dirt, stand tall, and keep riding your bike because you love riding bikes. A soft heart does not equal weak. Thick skin does not equal a 5 letter b-word. We do not have to live in the stereotypes of “sensitive” or “harsh.” We do not have to live in one boat or another. And this is not the only combo! Hello! What about those beautiful women who are thick skinned and have sturdy hearts? This doesn’t mean they don’t feel, it just means they feel and experience the world around them different than us softies do. I love women like this. They are so different than me, but they teach me to see the world through a lens that does not come naturally to me.
Ok, back to my scraped knee analogy…
Notice that I said stand tall, not punch the ground and fight back at the cement that scraped your knee. You’re just going to get more hurt in the process. You’ll bust your knuckles open, and maybe even break a bone. You’re giving so much effort to fighting back at the thing (or person) that hurt you that you end up more wounded in the process.
So, stand tall, sole sister. That means, you do not have to crumble and become someone or something different just to fit in or avoid feedback that hurts. The feedback, or input, will come no matter what. It’s more of a matter of how we respond to it. Standing tall has nothing to do with the posture of those around us. Standing up for ourselves implies there is someone or something we are standing up against. This is defensive. We will function out of self-protection, attempt to bite back harsher, or louder, or in a way that really does the other person harm. Standing tall means we respond to painful experiences in an identity of belonging, importance, and meaning. When we feel we belong, we don’t have to prove to anyone we belong. When we believe we have worth because we exist, we do not have to prove to anyone that we are worthy. This is what standing tall looks like. Not standing up for a fight or for ourselves, but just standing on our own sacred two feet.
For those of you fellow softies out there - you’re beautiful. You do not have to feel ashamed of being soft or sensitive. But, soft skin and a soft heart makes it hard for others who are not like that to relate to you because they may be afraid of saying the “wrong thing” or accidentally upsetting you because they are not the same as you (trust me, this is my own process as well). Let’s practice thickening our skin, but leaving our hearts soft.
Love you, mean it,