When you have 'thin skin', how to help build up some resilience

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Have you ever wondered why in some scenarios you feel more vulnerable than others you know do? Or perhaps you regularly misinterpret situations that perhaps others don't? I might have some answers for you tonight.

A psychologist called Britton pioneered the notion of 'thin skin' as way to explain the flow on effects in later life. The notion is that instead of developing a healthy and robust 'skin' which can flex, move and grow with more difficult situations and people, those with 'thin' skin have developed a more brittle shell and feel more vulnerable of being easily being wounded. 

Rosenfeld describes people with 'thin skin' as being quick to feel misunderstood. He connects the theory of 'insecure attachment' in early infancy; whereby those who display 'thin skin' are correlated for being very clingy, yet feel neither secure nor properly trusting of the very person they wish to be connected with. You don't necessarily have to have experience childhood trauma with a capital 'T' to have some thin skin. Smaller hurts and tears that haven't healed, which I call trauma with a lowercase 't' can also place you in the realm of 'thin skin' at different times.

So let's talk about those moment where you feel like your skin is thin. Where you react in ways perhaps you wish you didn't. Where you can feel what you want a situation to be like, and it's not.

Here are my tips for working with your thin skin, and building some resilience

  1. Know that you have thin skin, and accept it for right now. It might be an uncomfortable reality, but when you know this about yourself, you can better support yourself.
  2. Support yourself. There is a tendency to not look after yourself when you tend towards 'thin skin'. It's vitally important for you to build a healthy adult version of yourself that takes care of you and nurtures you in ways that were missing from your childhood. This is noticing situations that trigger you, and working through them in a safe place, such as therapy, or with a trusted advisor.
  3. Become your own detective: When you have thin skin you can react to situations from child like position, rather than a healthy adult. Start to pay deep attention to what the cues are that change your perceptions and have you start interpreting situations that are incorrect.
  4. Recognise that the inner child is at work: Often the perceptions are led by an inner child that hasn't grown up to your current adult age. To bridge the gap between inner child and healthy adult, reassure the inner child that they are safe, and that you are there, as a healthy adult, to look after them.

How do you help yourself when your skin is thin?

ROSENFELD, H. A. (1987). Impasse and Interpretation. London: Routledge