Thick Skin, Present Nerves

loud-hailer feedbackDo you treasure feedback? I hope you do. Feedback is extremely precious. What would you classify as feedback? Affirmations from others? Brickbats? Criticisms? Accolades for your various and wonderful achievements? Scathing remarks about your work attitude? Do you have what many call “thick skin” for feedback of all categories?

One of our senses is the sense of touch. This is largely sensed via the largest organ in our body – our skin. We are able to sense rough and smooth, hot or cold, pain or pleasure through our skin. We make sense of and form impressions about the world around us partly through the service of nerves in our skin. Our skin also protects us from the external environment. It shields us from excessive exposure to the sun, from dust in the air, from potentially harmful pathogens that could be present in the air or in water.  In short, our skin protects us and acts as a sensor for us.


The way our skin functions is one aspect of how we ought to receive and process feedback. Firstly, we need to be able to sense feedback. That means we ought to be open to all feedback. Next, the protective function of our skin demonstrates how we can protect ourselves from harmful feedback. In fact, if we get feedback about ourselves that is totally untrue, we would not pay any attention to that feedback, agreed? Think carefully before you object. Thirdly, if we feel pain, that signals us that something is wrong. The something that is wrong could be internal or external. In this illustration, let’s focus on the external. When we feel an external pain, it could mean that we have stepped on something sharp. It could mean that we have placed our hands on a very hot surface like a hotplate. The pain causes us to react and take remedial action so that we can continue to function as healthy beings. The pain causes us to investigate if there is a breach in our body’s first line of defence, which is our skin, or if any other damage has been inflicted. Finally, our skin can also receive soothing signals, from a reassuring hug or a pat on the back, a firm, friendly handshake or similar pleasurable contact. That would be a signal for us to relax, to bask in the warm glow of friends and family.

Think of handling all kinds of feedback as though you have a very thick skin, but with working nerves. Not possible? How do you think an elephant picks a peanut up with its trunk? How else does this true monarch of beasts make its way through the jungle without treading on young plants vigorously reaching for the sun’s rays? When we receive feedback, may our “skin” protect us from slanderous and libellous accusations, help us to express appreciation for genuine praise and give us cause for reflection, corrective action and positive movement upwards when we feel pain in the feedback.

So, do yourself a favour with regard to developing a healthy self-image. Develop a very thick skin. But one that has a lot of working nerves. Stay healthy!

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