Written by: Lily Woi, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
I used to think being thick-skinned was about being shameless.
But really it is about boldness, courage and vulnerability.
It’s funny how such a simple reframing changed the way I approach life, and now I have the confidence to pursue my wants/needs, without worrying about others’ opinions.
I wouldn’t be where I am today without this.
Used in its form, in Cantonese, having “thick skin” is not always perceived to be something good. People around me often use this phrase in the context of ‘how could you be so thick-skinned (shameless)’. So I learnt to never be associated with that word.
That I should always be kind, considerate, hardworking and conform to societal norms. Because...what would others think?!
Not surprisingly, I brought this with me when I started university and eventually into my work and life too.
I always wanted to just fit in and nothing more. Let’s not stand out or be noticed. I don’t like having attention directed to me. I try my best to downplay it or redirect it immediately.
This didn’t serve me well. At all.
It was exhausting. Plus, it’s not like I did great at fitting in. I have quite a big personality...among my close friends.
Most of all, it stopped me from doing the things I wanted to do. All because I was too worried and was trying to control other people’s perceptions of me.
It was silly to think I could control how others thought of me...or that I should care what others thought of me.
The more reliance I had on other people’s expectations, the more dependent I was on them and I was risking being burnt out constantly. At one point, I did burn out, and sadly, it took me a while to even realise I was burnt out.
Deciding to prioritise myself felt freeing...but it was not easy. The fear was real. And I don’t believe people talk enough about it.
By prioritising myself, others who came to expect a certain level of attention/responsiveness from me are no longer getting what they were used to getting. Upsetting that dynamic upset many people.
I had to keep reminding myself to not revert back to old behaviours. I start to befriend my critical voice, turning my attention to what's within my control and STOP SAYING SORRY.
My journey into coaching and becoming a coach has helped me with this — having a person holding the space for me, challenging and supporting me to reframe my worldview was invaluable.
Through this journey, I learnt to share more of myself with others and be vulnerable. Brene Brown was and still is my biggest influence on how to be vulnerable. I admit I did tear up a bit while listening to her narrating her ‘Daring Greatly’ book. This quote from her is something I remind myself of often.
“Daring greatly means the courage to be vulnerable. It means to show up and be seen. To ask for what you need. To talk about how you’re feeling. To have the hard conversations.” — Brené Brown
Most importantly, I started to differentiate feedback from criticism. Feedback is from people who are invested in me and my growth, while criticism is from people who are insecure and are trying to put you down. I learnt how to differentiate those who have my best interest in mind and ignore the rest.
So I encourage you to be more thick-skinned and find the courage to be bold and vulnerable. You might feel exposed at first, but that’s because you’re just not used to it yet.
And find a coach to help you, if you need it. There’s a misconception that coaching is only for the rich and privileged. It’s not. Coaching is for everyone and is accessible at any price range.
Don’t limit yourself and give yourself permission to fly high.
Here’s to you being thick-skinned!
Lily Woi, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Lily Woi is a professionally trained coach and an expert in helping individuals to accelerate their career progression and develop authentic leadership capabilities. She has spent years working in corporate consultancy training and advising clients to deliver multimillion transformation programs before starting her career coaching business (Lily Woi Coaching). She develops current and future leaders to be self-directed, resilient to change, grow their presence and build authentic leadership styles that motivate and inspire others. She is known for her personalized approach, tailoring content to individuals' learning preferences and work experiences to instill real practical change in an enjoyable way.