I began to grow a thick skin as a PA at One Life to Live, so that I could handle people yelling about the show time changing, even though I had estimated it to the best of my ability. That thick skin remained useful when I became an AD and sometimes I couldn't get a camera person to get a tight shot quick enough or guessed at the "wrong" angle for a stunt. It didn't mean I would never go home and cry or scream or replay events in my head, but my thick skin enabled me to be in high-pressure situations without taking too personally the sometimes harsh words that come out in these situations. The thick skin continued to help when I had to roll with constant changes on sitcoms, and it has been useful when my resume, sent all over, has often appeared worthless. A thick skin doesn't mean that nothing affects you. It just keeps you tough enough that not everything batters you.
The tricky thing about a thick skin, however, is that while it can
protect you a little from feeling the everyday blows of life, it can
also allow you to close yourself off from the everyday opportunities of
life. When you use your thick skin to keep people's comments or
criticism from sending you reeling, you run the risk of not learning
from those comments and criticism. When you use your thick skin to make
you tough, you can sometimes forget to be the understanding person who
lives under that thick skin.
I am tremendously grateful for the thick skin I've grown. It has gotten me
through many an intense day in the control room and has kept me (well,
most of the time) from becoming a blithering mess during stretches of
unemployment. I won't be shedding it anytime soon. But perhaps if I
relax it just a little once in a while, I'll feel a few things that
wouldn't get through otherwise. Because having a thick skin should
protect you. It just shouldn't keep you from feeling.