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Monday, April 14th, 2014

How to Develop a Thicker Skin, by Andi Sharavsky

As social creatures, we human beings are met with constant criticism and ridicule from friends, enemies, relatives, bosses, strangers, vague acquaintances, everyone at the gym, and, most often, ourselves. The common solution offered to combat these daily emotional digs is to “develop a thicker skin.”

While that’s all well and good metaphorically, it’s also, you know, not a real thing that humans can do. Our hands and feet form calluses after enough time and wear, but we are not equipped with a go-go-gadget feelings fortress to build up our resistance and shut the world out. Plus, if watchingPacific Rim while high taught me anything, it's that when science does eventually develop a robo-somatic addition to make people stronger, we'll all just get a lot of nosebleeds and then die fighting sea-aliens. Therefore, I have made it my personal goal to find the perfect material or method for becoming impermeable to the negativity of others forever. Here are my results:

Pizza. Armoring my entire body in pizza seemed like The Best Idea Ever, but in reality it was very messy and then I just ate all the pizza because it was pizza and I was conscious. I am lactose intolerant, so this caused more problems than it solved, but the judgment of others did seem to matter much less while my digestive system was exploding.

Tears. I was really hoping this strategy would be more effective because sobbing is my natural response to most stimuli, and I am very lazy. Unfortunately, drenching myself in a Flashdance-style deluge of my own sadness did not appropriately shield any of my five senses from the cruel world, and I didn’t even look cute or sexy. I just ended up dehydrated and my skin felt like I had swum across a depressed ocean.

Blankets. Swaddling myself like an upset baby caterpillar proved cozy and serene until I realized my comforter was not as soundproof as I wanted it to be. I was still able to hear negative, albeit muffled commentary from others, mostly about how pathetic I looked and should someone maybe call my parents. And then I started thinking about the bedsores guy from Se7en and freaked myself out.

That Soundproof Egg Crate Recording Studio Stuff. This was itchy.

Earplugs and Eye Patches. “Hearing Impaired Pirate” was not my best look, but it did ensure that absolutely no snide remarks or snotty glares reached my awareness. This was blissful until my morning alarm, doorframes, and front steps also did not reach my awareness.

Other People. Having someone else’s body draped over my body was, by far, my favorite method of emotional defense. The constant warm embrace of another person reminded me that maybe I’m not horrible and ugly and cruel and weird, maybe I’m just human. It suddenly didn’t matter what anybody else said or thought about me, because my very existence was validated by a visceral connection with another soul. But then my roommate had to go to work and the guy who came to fix our sink thought I was flirting when I asked if he’d lie on top of me.

An Induced Coma. Okay, I didn’t actually try this one because I don’t think my health insurance covers it and also it’s a terrible, probably unsafe idea. I also don’t want anybody falling in While You Were Sleeping-love over my comatose body.

Well, my results have been inconclusive at best, so I suppose there really is no easy, tangible way to develop a thicker skin. Perhaps we all just need to suck it up and will ourselves to be more courageous and less sensitive in the face of criticism. Perhaps little by little, with great patience and tenacity, we can learn to respectfully ignore the venom of others, instead of letting it poison our confidence.

Ugh, never mind, that sounds exhausting. I’m going to make a personal moat out of ramen instead.

Andi Sharavsky is a Chicago-based writer and performer. Her work has appeared previously in The Humor Section and has been featured in the Chicago Tribune, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, BuzzFeed, Reductress, and Thought Catalog. She tweets here.

The Humor Section features a piece of original humor writing each week. To submit, send an email to Brian Boone.