Ladies, please grow some thick skin!

With all the skincare advice females get, this one is the best of all! Why? Because this does not come from dermatologists or beauty experts. This comes from the place we least expect!

Image by Michael Strobel from Pixabay

If growing thick skin is something we can do, sure, why not! Keep feeding us junk and unhealthy nutrients, expose us to UV Ray lights without SPF 100 formula, and we will work on growing thick skin! Some go too far at providing SPF 30 and then claiming, “We got it all covered for you,” and then expose us to xxx amount of radiation, but we cannot complain!

But then we are expected to be friendly and glowing, for which we are pushed to use steroids containing whitening creams, which makes us thin-skinned, literally and figuratively! So, our niceness makes us vulnerable, and we are thin-skinned!

Now let me tell you as a doctor, what is the role of skin:

  • Protection against UV light, mechanical, thermal, and chemical stresses, dehydration, and invasion by microorganisms
  • Sensation via receptors that sense touch, pressure, pain, and temperature

Ample of brainy brag!

Thick Skin Origins: The Oxford Dictionary’s earliest reference for “thick-skinned” in this figurative sense is dated 1602. Beyond stringent biological classification, the term “pachyderm” remains commonly used to describe elephants, rhinoceroses, and hippopotamuses. The perceived calmness of elephants may have led to the word. Interestingly, in German, the term is to this day a warm synonym for elephant: Dickhäuter.

Hey Dukhtar, be a Dickhäuter! Do I see a connection?

Thin Skin:

According to Healthline.com, “thin skin is referred to as skin that tears, bruises, or breaks quickly, sometimes called thinning skin or fragile skin… Thin skin is a common condition in older adults and is most noticeable in the face, arms, and hands, and one can see the capillaries under the skin of their hands and arms. Your skin is made up of the middle layer called the dermis. It contributes 90 percent of your skin’s thickness and provides strength, flexibility, and elasticity to the skin (Resilience?). Thin skin is the result of the thinning of the dermis”

The right amount of Sun Protection Factor (SPF):

SPF means Sun Protection Factor (from Skin911): “Take the time you would naturally burn in the sun without protection; 20 minutes will typically produce redness on a light-skinned individual. Multiply this number by the SPF of your product and that is how many minutes you can stay in the sun without burning.”

Skin thickness at the workplace:

In a Forbes article on 7 Ways To Develop A Thick Skin In the Office, the idea of vanity was brought up as well as how learning to be emotionless at a workplace is a gift. It also asserted that the best thing about developing a thick skin is our newfound calm:

“The thicker your skin, the less stress you will have. Managers love employees who can survive feedback and grow from it… With your new chill factor, you can weather any criticism. Instead of looking at having to redo work as a negative, look at it as an opportunity to expand your creativity and stretch your mind in a new way. The most desirable trait you can have in the workplace is a positive attitude and the ability to adapt to change.”

While the author made these suggestions: overcommunicate; establish the deadline; be your own best judge, I could not stop thinking of all the gaslighting tactics I have seen, experienced, and observed! The gaslighting effect is cumulative and stacks up over time, and some of the maneuvering strategies that cause higher degrees of the gaslighting impact are referred to as using the ‘gaslighting tactic.’ Some of them include:

  • Stonewalling: The abuser acts confused, pretends they do not understand what the victim is telling them, and withhold feelings — more like silent treatment.
  • Countering: The abuser questions the memory and thoughts of the victim, endorses and quotes the past accusations with examples.
  • Blocking/Diverting: The abuser refuses to answer or comment, changes the subject, faults the victim accusing or blaming them for acting the way they did.
  • Trivializing: The abuser makes the thoughts and needs of the victim seem unimportant.
  • Intentional Forgetting or Denial: The abuser denies that things ever happened or denies promises they made to the victim to prevent them from getting a resolution.

In such cases, how can we just grow a thick skin and stay quiet? Can we afford to sit and wait, thinking that the “truth” of what happened will come out eventually and rebuild our credibility or undo the regret of that missed opportunity?

My answer is no! Today’s world does not work that way! In these moments, we must learn to set boundaries. Boundaries do not enter the defensiveness patterning. They are not about proving that we are right, and they are wrong. Instead, they let the person know that we have reached our limit with what they say to us or how they are saying it to us!

Sociologist Arlie Hochschild has coined the idea of feeling rules. Feeling rules are the social norms that dictate what an appropriate feeling or gravity of feeling in each situation and when is and for how long we can feel that way. Hochschild also recognizes a difference between feeling rules and different genders. Women’s rules often tell them to tone down their anger or aggressive responses. In men, these responses are representations of masculinity and are positive.

While it is healthy to learn how to sit with the discomfort of being misunderstood regardless of gender, there are moments when the other person misunderstands you so profoundly, or the misunderstanding is dangerous or harmful to you. You must be proactive in standing up for yourself to build or defend a good work reputation, which will support your career success. It is also essential to know when to stand up for yourself. But would this make me sound being defensive?

Why are you trying to confuse me?”

“You are not making any sense.”

“I have no idea what you want me to say”

“You never remember things correctly.”

“You know I never said that.”

“You have a highly active imagination.”

“Please get your facts straight.”

“I am not going to go through this again.”

“We already talked about this.”

“You are always picking fights.”

“You always have to be right.”

“That is hardly important.”

“Why would you let something so stupid come between us?”

“You are just too sensitive.”

“You always blow things out of proportion.”

“Let it go already or I never did/said that.”

“That never happened.”

“I have never been there before.”

“I don’t remember you telling me that.”

“You are confusing me with someone else.”

“There is nothing wrong with my memory.”

Defensiveness vs. setting boundaries:

Being defensive is about keeping people out and guarding yourself about the information they are giving you. Setting boundaries is about taking the lead in and protecting yourself and potentially saving the relationship from further harm.

“Learning to step away from the need to defend yourself in any given interaction is one of the most potent relational skills you can develop. There are very few scenarios in which we genuinely need to defend our point of view. Instead, we are mostly driven to do so by the desire to be right. In these moments, we are held within the ego’s grips, which acts as a barrier to authentic communication and connection.”

While in a group setting, if someone says you did something that you did not do, standing up for yourself with all the facts and “fighting with them” right there and them is unwise. You can still be respectful and share your surprise by their accusations and that you disagree. Later, take the dispute offline and note that it could be a misunderstanding.

Thick vs. Thin Skin — Dilemma:

Alice H. Eagly, Ph.D., is a psychology professor at Northwestern University and a social psychologist known for her work on gender, feminism, attitudes, prejudice, stereotyping, and leadership. In her recent article: Once more: The rise of female leaders, she highlights prescriptive stereotypes that present an agency paradox to aspiring women:

“On one hand, women, considered as a general social category, are thought to lack the agency required to be an effective leader; on the other hand, a woman’s strong display of agency often brings disapproval. Society prefers that women be nice and kind and not overly harsh or dominating. Such women may be accused of being “nasty” or “bitchy” and not at all nice. This resistance to women’s overt dominance usually does not target their competence but their audacity in seeking or achieving leadership positions, as in the ‘nasty woman’ label, or worse, “Jezebel.”

“People often had to speak up to defend their turf, but when women did so, they were vilified. They were labeled ‘control freaks’; men acting the same way were called ‘passionate.”

There are all sorts of metaphors for women’s leadership paths: glass ceiling, labyrinth, jungle gym, etc. I have added skin to a list of many. If we are expected to support or stay with situations — thick and thin, even if there are problems or difficulties, please stop mansplaining to us the millimeters of our dermis!

Perhaps, wearing a mask is what we should be advising females! It will not protect us, but with the discomfort, people around us will sense when we unconsciously flinch to microaggressions at the workplace! My dermatologist friends can tell more about how thick skin can work as a flexible surface as my histology knowledge is outdated and rusty nowadays.

Originally published at https://obaa.girltable.com on April 5, 2021.

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Dr. Aisha Sanober Chachar

Dr. Aisha Sanober Chachar

Consultant Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist; Co-founder & Director @synapsepk Mental Health Entrepreneur. Recycled Stardust.Balint Group.Psychoanalysis.Grit 🇵🇰