Wednesday, November 3, 2010

due north.

the internal compass is a funny thing, isn't it?

up until maybe a year and a half ago, mine was pointing due north. i had no question about where my life was going: i had a great job at a magazine, even greater friends, and my life seemed pretty much on track. sure, i had some credit card and school debt, and i occasionally wondered where i'd be in 10 or 15 years (here in florida? somewhere else?), but those questions were few and far between.

then i lost my job, and with it i lost a lot of my surety. the questions were less "where will i be in 10 years?" and more "where will i be in six months?" that old internal compass -- the one that had been so steadfast up until that point -- was in freefall, personally and professionally, and i feel like i've never quite been able to get it back to where it was, in spite of a new job and my wonderful, supportive family and friends.

with this off-kilter compass has come a particularly thin skin. i'm an emotional person who has always placed far too much trust in others; this is a well-known and self-admitted fact. even so, it's also one i value because i feel it lends me a great deal of empathy for others (your best quality is always your worst quality, too, right?). but i feel like my self-doubt has exacerbated these qualities, to the point where i've willfully ignored warning signs and insisted on placing a great deal of trust in people i really shouldn't -- and then felt completely crushed when that misplaced trust circled back around to gnaw at me and my feelings.

i know that sounds very dramatic, and the reality is that the things i'm talking about wouldn't even be a blip on many people's radars. but i don't think that makes them any less important, either. so my question to you, dear readers -- and it goes along with this week's commitment to stand up for myself -- is how do you grow a thicker skin without compromising the best parts of yourself, without becoming totally jaded?


photo by erika svensson


  1. I don't think you can grow a thicker skin if you don't have one. I always feel more wounded by things than most other people. The key for me is to follow reason rather than emotion. If I know I'm doing the right thing that usually offsets the feelings of insecurity.

    Also, I really do prefer people who have angst and self-question so I've started to look on my sensitivity as a positive trait. I couldn't make a living writing without it, for example!

  2. As Jane said, I'm not sure you can grow a thicker skin, and like you said, maybe your worst quality is also your best quality, so would you really want to change? Perhaps you could lean on a friend who has a more objective perspective to help you through situations as they arise. At the very least, recognizing this aspect of yourself should help you deal with the disappointments that may arise.

  3. Some things hurt some people more than others and I don't think there is anything wrong with it. You seem like such a caring, loving shouldn't want to change that. Feeling things deeply is a beautiful thing. But you should make sure that you keep that in mind about yourself when making choices that could end up hurting you. Some times it's worth it, but sometimes it's not.

    I hope that the things that are weighing on you now work themselves out quickly. :) xo

  4. thank you so much for these lovely, thoughtful comments and words of wisdom; reading them makes me feel so much better and less alone.