Q: I tend to take people’s verbal slights to heart. How can I learn to stop being so sensitive and take things so personally?
–K. Gray, Providence, Rhode Island
A: The problem isn’t that you’re sensitive–it’s that you’re hypersensitive. That is, your skin is so thin, you’re practically see-through (just kidding). Seriously, though, being supersensitive can work against you in a number of ways.
To start, by allowing yourself to become upset every time someone says something you perceive to be critical or hurtful means you are giving that person power to determine how you feel. Secondly, you’ll be perceived as someone who “can’t handle the truth,” around whom everyone else must walk on eggshells. That scenario will quickly get tired and people will soon be leaving you alone. Then, you’ll really be upset.
You need to take control. Be slave to no emotion, and certainly not to the verbal whims of other people. You need to develop a thicker skin4the result of which is a higher self-esteem.
Look at yourself in the mirror every day and tell yourself that you are stronger than the words of others. Tell yourself that you have endured a lot worse in life, and that you’ve survived. Tell yourself that you can withstand verbal taunts and tirades–real or perceived–and that you’re in control of what goes on inside of you, even when you can’t control what’s going on around you.