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Stop Telling People With Mental Illness to 'Get a Thicker Skin'

As someone who battles their intense emotions and tries to be stronger than people know, the statement, “get a thicker skin” can be infuriating.

I understand this statement in the workplace where things need to get done, but I don’t agree with this statement at all outside of anything mandatory.

The first issue with this statement is most people who use it naturally don’t consider someone may be struggling with a mental health problem such as borderline personality disorder (BPD), bipolar disorder, depression or what have you.

Instead of telling people to “get a thicker skin” in regards to tactless remarks made by peers, I tell people to learn how to talk to strangers or to learn some respect. Some people say, “Well, this is a cold world and it’s never gonna change, so you need to learn to toughen up.”

To those people, I say: First of all, there are just as many people who can “tough it out” as there are highly sensitive people who struggle with that.

There are thousands of sensitive people on this planet who cannot help they get their feelings hurt easily by even slightly rude remarks, being the butt of a joke or by someone who is having a bad day and taking it out on them.

Instead of telling someone to “get a thicker skin,” how about we try to watch our words and stop being so tactless? What is so hard about apologizing for hurting someone’s feelings? Why can that be such a hard task for us as mankind?

Does anyone ever really need to make a smart remark about someone else’s hair, makeup, body or whatever they either could not help or chose to do? We have all done it as I am no exception to the rule … but I am trying.

We hear growing up, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, stay silent.” To me, the statement “get a thicker skin” seems like a way to avoid responsibility for one’s own reckless speech. What makes matters even worse is, most of the time, we are well aware of what may classify as a rude or mean remark.

It’s much easier not to look at ourselves and acknowledge flaws in this day and age. Apparently, apologizing, self-awareness, kindness and compassion are out of style for some. What makes the statement even more damaging is many people are struggling with mental health issues. I struggle with BPD, which makes me 10 times more sensitive to negative things people say about me.

It is very dangerous to say something rude to an individual with mental health issues, and then tell them to “toughen up.” We never know what could be someone’s last straw, nor do we know if they have been “trying” to toughen up, but can’t help it.

In today’s world, people offer up opinions they know will trigger someone else in a very negative way, without anyone asking. A person can be the center of someone’s brutal roasting session and if they get hurt and desire an apology, they are told to “get a thicker skin.”

We don’t get to tell people when they shouldn’t feel offended if we are offering up unwarranted opinions we know lean on the mean side. The bottom line is much of society seems to lack sincere empathy and can be too darn self-righteous to admit when they may have been wrong. So, this is why I’m attempting to make my voice heard and to point this out right here and right now.

If you are one of those highly sensitive people who fights your BPD every day, don’t allow these people to make you feel weak.

If someone of this nature comes up to you and tells you to, “get a thicker skin” after they picked on you, you can tell them to get some thicker responsibility for their rude behavior, take their heads out of their butt and thicken their empathy level.

Unsplash image by Eye for Ebony