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surviving the world when you are eternally thin-skinned and fragile


HRiddle

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This is not directly related to depression specifically, but I guess there's nowhere else to put it.

I wonder if any of you could relate to it: I'm a terribly thin-skinned & sensitive person, though I'm almost never angry/mad at people. What this means is that a LOT of things hurt me everyday and they all turn into self-criticism. In short, I'm a soft spoken person who is easily hurt...I constantly need people to be gentle with me.

Here's the problem: I know people like me are supposed to grow up and learn to be tough. We are supposed to learn to "get over it" (ha, we've all heard of that haven't we). We are told how the world is not a place for the weak-hearted. We must learn to take meanness and things with a brave heart and a thick skin. It's like the world is full of predators (which is unfortunately true) and we cannot stay like lambs if we want to survive.

But I've tried for many years and it simply doesn't work. When I was a little kid I would cry when people criticize me or say harsh things, and now I'm nearly 30 I still cry when people criticize me or say harsh things--sometimes not even harsh (just bad-tempered or with raised-voice) and sometimes not even to me (just to a group in general). The only difference is that now I cry secretly and don't tell anyone afterward. Sometimes I need to go to the bathroom to cry during work and nobody knows, because they'd think I'm crazy if i try to explain the little things that sets it off. I just dry my tears and go back to work--luckily I'm not one of those people who would stay red-eyed for hours after they shed a tear.

In any case, I just feel bad when people raise their voice or are angry or are offended, which they do all the time. My thin-skinness is not from lack of experience either, because I was raised under a lot of verbal abuse..People at work, people I know...everybody seems so angry and unforgiving these days. Therapy et al. have helped me with many things over the years, but nobody taught me how to grow a thick skin. Even if they did try, I must have failed to learn. All I learned is how to bottle up my feelings and carry on with my work and cry when nobody's looking. Sometimes I still dream of a place where people are not so irritated and angry and offended all the time... But of course, that's just wishful thinking...Sigh. Well I don't  know where I'm going with this anymore. Maybe I just really hope people could be more gentle and forgiving, when possible. But that's asking a lot, because there ARE irritating things and terrible people around. Maybe I'm even one of them. So in the end it seems pretty impossible...

Edited by HRiddle
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Some people just feel things more intensely than others and are emotionally fragile.  I am one.  I know how hard that makes it to get through life.

You can learn to mask it and hide it from others, but I'm not sure any of us can change who we really are.

Edited by One More Red Nightmare
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Hi Riddle, I do relate,

There are two sides of how I see this for me. One is emotional and I am right there with you and fed up with predators and the world. The other is cognitive and as a result of obsessing about this for years and knowing what has helped and what hasnt. 

When it comes to the latter I have now broken down how I was and am into different sections. Some are just who I am and other were either from wounds or from a lack of developing certain things as i was growing. I no longer want to change the parts that are who I am (most of the time) but I have benefited and hope to continue to benefit from working on the other two aspects of this. 

Who I am: highly empathic and intuitive with a high intensity of emotional states. I am basically what they call an empath. I can sometimes know what is happening with people just from walking past them. This isn't something I can change or should want to change (even though I have mixed feelings about it). What I have benefited from is using some of the techniques they recommend for empaths. Making sure I am not open to absorbing random things and feelings of of others. To be in control over what I let in more. That has helped a lot. 

Wounds; I think most sensitive people have grown from a place of emotional neglect or more. A lot of reactions are reactions because of past harm. Dealing with that harm has definitely helped me be more resilient. Things dont ping me back to a cascade of other past stuff as much even though I have a very long way to go with this still. Anger from others is one of those things and as I have worked through the past I can better manage it in other people. As I also work through what is healthy and unhealthy anger and build cognitive acceptance of it too. 

Lack of developing certain developmental things: 

Lots of things fell under this one. I wasnt  taught many things I need to know in order to manage the world properly. 

I wasn't taught how to regulate my emotions and self soothe. That happens when we are soothed and nurture appropriately. My reaction when upset is to bully criticise and hate myself. That means I don't shrug off things because I am able to nurture myself. Instead it just escalates. I had a long history of unhealthy coping methods too as a result and have had to slowly learn how to take care of myself and internalise a healthy parent not a critical bullying and downright abusive one. 

I wasn't taught to be assertive or manage boundaries. I therefore allowed others to step on my feelings and couldn't separate what was others stuff and what was mine. I would feel responsible and was too invested in what others felt or thought. I couldn't find a balance between worrying about others and taking care of myself. 

etc etc

Anyway. I think sensitivity as in intuition and understanding is a strength and one way of being a human being. Not something we can or should change. I think the rest can be about past harm and in my experience my life is very different as I have dealt with these. Its not about toughening up. Its about healing and taking care of ourselves. Part of being a healthy adult when sometimes we werent taught that. 

 

 

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I'm very much the same. I don't cry much anymore but an unpleasant comment from someone who isn't even at all important in my life can really ruin my day, even week. It's annoying when people with thick skins try to give you advice about it. They just don't understand, it's another language to them. And therapists aren't much better, in my experience. It's just a lot of talk about recognising things, and trying to trick your brain into tricking your feelings that you don't actually feel like self-destructing because of what happened/what was said.

I see myself in two sides when it comes to this, too: What I think, and what I feel.

What I think is that the person who made me feel like this is an ass but also that (sometimes) they're not important to me so their opinion isn't either. I think logically about it, I know when I've been a bit sensitive, but it doesn't change that I was suddenly slapped straight into that feeling where you just wanna get drunk and smoke and listen to depressing music and/or whatever other vice you may have.

I do see the positive side of it - empathy. But a balance would be nice. Therapy won't help me find that, but time might.

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I was verbally abused by people who I had to deal with at work this led to me going on Long Term Disability two years ago.

One of my psychiatrist told me I am highly sensitive and insecure that's why I am having so many problems.

I am sitting here early early morning my time and thinking about all the beatings I received from my school teachers for making simple or no mistakes in class. I remember one time I said a sheep is an insect so I receive a whipping for that. Another time I said Peter and Jane are sister and brother.  I received another whipping.  I guess the correct thing to say is Peter and Jane are brother and sister.

Another time I had to sketch a saw and I did it correctly and I received a whipping.  I knew I was correct and yet I was beaten.  These beatings were carried out by three different school teachers.  I am 49 now and these events still haunt me.

These beating happened in Guyana in South America. These people have since immigrated to Canada and are living a happy life.

Edited by duck
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This rings true for me...keep wishing I were tougher especially in a workplace.  My empathy and sensitivity is a skill though, and one that cannot be taught, so I try to keep reminding myself that.  Hard to do when I cry at the slightest hint of criticism!  One thing that really did help me was, ironically, an anger management course.  It's not only for those that are excessively or overtly angry, but for those that are extremely uncomfortable around it too.  So the criticism and other harsh things people say or raised voices that you mention for example, all made/make me uncomfy too and the anger management helped a little too so thought I'd suggest that.  But mostly, you're not alone in this and I'm glad to know I'm not either so thanks for posting! x

Edit: just to add too that I was lucky enough not to be raised in an overtly angry or abusive setting, very caring one in fact - I'm just hugely empathetic.  Used to feel guilty about that (i.e. how can i be so sensitive when I've had a nice upbringing) but I realise that it's usually the depressive symptom of guilt driving that for me.  That said I can only imagine how heightened this must be for someone overly exposed the anger and shouting etc growing up so am sending you healing thoughts!

Edited by mmm365
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On Sunday, April 10, 2016 at 7:59 AM, HRiddle said:

This is not directly related to depression specifically, but I guess there's nowhere else to put it.

I wonder if any of you could relate to it: I'm a terribly thin-skinned & sensitive person, though I'm almost never angry/mad at people. What this means is that a LOT of things hurt me everyday and they all turn into self-criticism. In short, I'm a soft spoken person who is easily hurt...I constantly need people to be gentle with me.

Here's the problem: I know people like me are supposed to grow up and learn to be tough. We are supposed to learn to "get over it" (ha, we've all heard of that haven't we). We are told how the world is not a place for the weak-hearted. We must learn to take meanness and things with a brave heart and a thick skin. It's like the world is full of predators (which is unfortunately true) and we cannot stay like lambs if we want to survive.

But I've tried for many years and it simply doesn't work. When I was a little kid I would cry when people criticize me or say harsh things, and now I'm nearly 30 I still cry when people criticize me or say harsh things--sometimes not even harsh (just bad-tempered or with raised-voice) and sometimes not even to me (just to a group in general). The only difference is that now I cry secretly and don't tell anyone afterward. Sometimes I need to go to the bathroom to cry during work and nobody knows, because they'd think I'm crazy if i try to explain the little things that sets it off. I just dry my tears and go back to work--luckily I'm not one of those people who would stay red-eyed for hours after they shed a tear.

In any case, I just feel bad when people raise their voice or are angry or are offended, which they do all the time. My thin-skinness is not from lack of experience either, because I was raised under a lot of verbal abuse..People at work, people I know...everybody seems so angry and unforgiving these days. Therapy et al. have helped me with many things over the years, but nobody taught me how to grow a thick skin. Even if they did try, I must have failed to learn. All I learned is how to bottle up my feelings and carry on with my work and cry when nobody's looking. Sometimes I still dream of a place where people are not so irritated and angry and offended all the time... But of course, that's just wishful thinking...Sigh. Well I don't  know where I'm going with this anymore. Maybe I just really hope people could be more gentle and forgiving, when possible. But that's asking a lot, because there ARE irritating things and terrible people around. Maybe I'm even one of them. So in the end it seems pretty impossible...

Are you an introvert, by any chance? I read a book called Quiet. The author, Susan Cain, talks about how sensitive introverts can be. (My daughter is extremely sensitive.) In the book is a term called "orchid children". They need to be treated very tenderly. If their environment is appropriate, they blossom beautifully.

Maybe you could find a nurturing work environment....like a Montessori school for young children or a flower shop.

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2 hours ago, duck said:

I was verbally abused by people who I had to deal with at work this led to me going on Long Term Disability two years ago.

One of my psychiatrist told me I am highly sensitive and insecure that's why I am having so many problems.

I am sitting here early early morning my time and thinking about all the beatings I received from my school teachers for making simple or no mistakes in class. I remember one time I said a sheep is an insect so I receive a whipping for that. Another time I said Peter and Jane are sister and brother.  I received another whipping.  I guess the correct thing to say is Peter and Jane are brother and sister.

Another time I had to sketch a saw and I did it correctly and I received a whipping.  I knew I was correct and yet I was beaten.  These beatings were carried out by three different school teachers.  I am 49 now and these events still haunt me.

These beating happened in Guyana in South America. These people have since immigrated to Canada and are living a happy life.

That sounds terrible! Sorry you had to go through that...

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Im very thinined skinned to i can easily feel rejected in the middle of a conversation and feel like crying or I get enraged and super angry.I  have difficulty listening to criticism in my college we have to rate every student's presentation and i dread seeing mine i get so upset and angry.I end up arguing with people and telling them there wrong alot.i cry alot to when im happy I cried tears of happiness over so many things,I cried during the breakfast club when everyone as getting along inn the high school.I want to cry when I hear about bad hings happening to other people or I see people who ignored forgotten and marginalized.I have always been this way  since I was a child i remember mourning the loss of a spider my father killed when I was a kid.ts hard for me to be around unempathtic people,i have trouble making male friends because i find alot of them just try to show they have  as little empathy as possible it doesn,t help I go apees*** when people horse around with or I take banter to far because im angry not because i like doing it,it seems to be how most males communicate with one another.

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Many good points already said in this thread.

I'm pretty much the same. I've always been very sensitive, crying easily (mad, happy or sad, it doesn't matter...), taking any kind of amount of criticism much more deeply already before all of that 10 years of bullying in the school years as a small kid. I guess it's just part of me, but it hasn't been an easy thing to accept... Still often thinking that something is badly wrong with me because being very thin-skinned and crying over small things. Which is absolutely not true... There's nothing wrong with us, the past is what it is and it might have increased our feelings of getting hurt more easily but it's not something to be ashamed about. Still a long journey ahead with it, but it's part of the process. As being emotionally fragile and sensitive is a gift, a beautiful gift to be embraced. 

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