The importance of being thick-skinned

The importance of being thick-skinned

Being sensitive is often appreciated, encouraged and rewarded. And rightly so.

Here’s how Oxford English dictionary describes the word:

sensitive | ˈsɛnsɪtɪv |
1. quick to detect or respond to slight changes, signals, or influences:
   • easily damaged, injured, or distressed by slight changes
2. having or displaying a quick and delicate appreciation of others' feelings:
   • easily offended or upset

It seems as though there is a ‘main’ meaning that is positive and a ‘sub’ meaning, hidden in the bullet point, that is negative.

Although always used in a negative context, I think there is a case to be made for the opposite word: insensitive

insensitive | ɪnˈsɛnsɪtɪv |
1. showing or feeling no concern for others' feelings
2. not sensitive to a physical sensation.
   • not aware of or able to respond to something

It is obvious that “showing/feeling no concern to others’ feelings” could not be positive in any situation, except one–where it doesn’t involve the others. This small but critical nuance seems to get missed when we learn our pleases, sorries and thank yous, early on in life.

Trying to win people over, please people or be ‘sensitive’ to their opinions is totally inefficient when you are doing something that is new, scary or meaningful to you.

I am learning that this sort of ‘insensitivity’ to others, is not only advantageous but an absolute necessity in order to be doing what you want to do. ‘Others’ includes anyone outside of you and at times you yourself! (most times?)

There is so much merit to having a thick skin. I am certain anyone who has tried to pursue anything that gives them meaning, has needed to develop it.

You need to deliberately tune out.

As liberating as the realisation is, it comes at a price—you cannot want to be liked.

And that is a tough ask.

(I am particularly fond of people who spell ‘insensitive’ as idgaf.)