I don’t want thicker skin

Cathy ZielskeCZ Life118 Comments


Last week, I wrote about the experience of returning home after dropping my first-born child off at college.  I felt a little raw while writing it and so many of you shared your personal stories in the comments. Thank you for that.

But I got this one comment on my Facebook page that was kind of a slam, telling me to grow up already.

I was recently a guest on Elise Blaha Cripe’s podcast, Elise Gets Crafty, and we talked about negative feedback, both how we are surprised by it and how we try to handle it. Also, how it’s just part of the territory if you write publicly about your life.

Not everyone is going to like you. Yes, that’s a box I reluctantly checked off when I signed up for this gig.

I used to think that I just needed thicker skin so that the negative comments didn’t feel so much like a sucker punch. As I shared the story on my personal Facebook page, one that I just keep for family and friends, one of my friends, Paul, said this:

As creatives, we do best when we can easily access our emotions in order to use them in our creative endeavours. We need a thin skin. At the same time, creatives need to share and put their stuff out into the world which means you also need a skin thicker than a rhino to deal with feedback. Not too hard to see why anyone with creative talent goes round the bend trying to have both.

I had never thought of having a thin skin as something I need to do what I do. To write. To create. To live.

And I’m kind of tired of going ’round the bend to try and have both.

I don’t want thicker skin.

I want it to be thin. I want it to be porous so I can let life in. So I can let it touch me. So I can soak in experience and learn about others as well as myself.

I’ve talked to my therapist about negative comments and she’s helped me to understand something that I am starting to actually believe: they are not about you. They are about the person who leaves them.

Maybe the person who leaves them is going through something really hard in their lives and a negative comment will help them to feel more in control of the pain.

To pass a judgment and to roll your eyes feels good. It feels good to know everything.

I say this from years of practice.

I could write volumes about trying to control pain via negative behaviors and wanting to feel good all the time.

So here I stand with thin skin.

If you can see my veins and connect to my words, then I’m golden.

And if you don’t, I still have something to gain from it.

Hot damn. I might be growing up after all.






Cathy ZielskeI don’t want thicker skin

118 Comments on “I don’t want thicker skin”

  1. #1

    Whoa…. some heavy sh&t Mama. 🙂 You Go Girl!

    Ya know, I used to be so amazed when you would post layouts with the theme of ‘This is what I know for sure’ …. I would be so envious. I feel like I don’t know much ‘for sure’. Perhaps my skin is thicker, so I’m not so in tune. Thanks again for keeping it real.

  2. #2

    HMM…I agree that negativity is about them not you (or me)
    Putting yourself out means people feel like they can interact without filters, which can be good when all is going swimmingly but not so good when they disagree.
    IT is interesting, I wonder who owns the feed – you or the negative feedbacker? Do you have to actually leave it up or can you just say delete?
    not sure of the answer but worth thinking about?

    1. #2.1
      Cathy Zielske

      The comment in question was something I could have deleted. But usually, I don’t. I wanted to reply, and did for about 10 minutes but then took my comment down.

      If someone wants to engage me in a civil discussion and is truly seeking a dialog for understanding where I’m coming from, I say, let’s do it. You don’t have to agree with me to do that, you know?

      Civility is the key. Remember back when politicians used to refer to each other as ‘my esteemed colleague’? Or they would respectfully disagree?

      I guess I do because I’m getting up there in age. Civility is lacking on the internet. But again, that’s just me making a sweeping statement but from my experience, I can factually back it up.

      Sometimes, I feel like deleting a negative comment gives it more power than it deserves.

      But if it’s truly offensive, I’ll hit delete without a second thought. Telling me to ‘grow up” wasn’t offensive, it was just insensitive and hurt my feelings. Still, other people piped in on that comment and I ain’t gonna lie: that made it sting less.

  3. #3

    This resonates with me so very much. I have been told that I’m “too sensitive” since…well…the beginning of time. I feel things deeply. I’m affected by other people’s energy. I cry when I’m angry, sad, frustrated, tired, etc. I don’t have a bit of thickness in my skin. I’m learning, very slowly, to just sit in witness of all of it…and to take what is useful & leave the rest.

  4. #4

    Completely get the thin/thick skin thing and v good way of thinking about how/why we take criticism/feedback to heart. However I also think there is a branch of commenters on the internet who behave in a way that they would never do face to face – it’s like they’re commenting to the computer rather than to a person – and internet (and its etiquette) is still SO new relatively that there aren’t established mores for comments.

    But there should be and you shouldn’t say something that you wouldn’t be willing to say to someone’s face.

    1. #4.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Louis CK has this really funny bit along those lines. Not about online commenting, but about how people scream at other people in their cars, that they would never do that, say, in an elevator.

      I think you are onto something. Personally, if I had a judgment about something I read, I wouldn’t post something negative on someone else’s site. I might think negative thoughts to myself, and that in and of itself would be something I need to examine as well, you know? I do not know everything. I never will either.

  5. #5

    Be sure that I can see your veins and I connect to yours words…I don’t know how to tell it in english but reading your posts is so “fresh”…in french “frais” that means that we can feel how much sincere you are and that is great ! thank you for being you with a thin skin 🙂

  6. #6
    Annet M

    I remember reading her comment and thinking how awful it was. But to answer another poster above, I think the comment shouldn’t be deleted, because a whole raft of other comments shot her down and built Cathy up and you’d lose the positives that that created.

    I had a friend, who’s living a wealthy, dare I say it obnoxious, expat lifestyle at the moment and posted something about the stress of not yet knowing if she and the kids were upgraded to first class on their flight. I commented “forgot to add #firstworldproblems” – which I still think was a fair comment. She deleted my comment (not her post, only my comment) and then msg’d me about how she lives in a poor country and there is poverty there and they should be able to have something nice. (to which I thought well you do have something nice, a driver, a cook, a fancy apartment, no need for you to work, cheap flights back and forth, internet, private schools for the boys, etc). I found it worse that she edited me and I refused to engage with her in the msg.

    So good for you Cathy for not deleting the comment (even though it probably stings each time). And I agree, thin skin is hard but much more authentic.

    1. #6.1
      Cathy Zielske

      I think your comment was meant to be funny. I mean, that hashtag is always a bit funny and cheeky.

      But her response is interesting. The idea of being able to have something nice is all about entitlement, something I also know about and have been working to unlearn.

      1. #6.1.1
        Annet M

        That’s how I meant my comment to be – that hashtag makes me laugh regularly. Thanks for responding 🙂

  7. #7
    Michelle t

    Like Katrina I too am very sensitive. Oh she says it right when she s a I’d she feels deeply and absorbs other people’s energy. No thick skin here, but I swear sometimes I wish I did. Anyway, like I said before, I really don’t understand how people think they can say whatever they want on someone else’s page in response to a post. It’s just beyond me. I’m still new at reading people’s blogs, but I still wouldn’t assume I had the right to say something like that. Well, I appreciate your sharing, it’s given me great food for thought already, and for that, thanks. Michelle t

  8. #8

    Yes, the truth. In my line of work, too, as a creative type, early in my career, I would be pointed to as “the emotional” one. It was not a compliment. Now, i embrace that moniker. Yes, that is me as I am feeling every moment! When I was younger, I had this uncanny ability to block out- yelling voices, criticism, and well pain. At my wedding, I made the concious decision to be present and feel the experience rather what others wanted me to do. What a wakeup call. I have worked hard to feel and develop my “thin” skin, thank you very much, and live and “feel” in the present. Your therapist is right- it is about them, but being someone that feels, i can empathize with them too. Thank you for telling the truth.

  9. #9

    I operate from the position of just because I have a thought doesn’t mean I have to share it. Negative comments like that would hurt anyone’s feelings.

  10. #10

    My heart walks 10 steps ahead of me — and it’s not easy to have transparent skin – I joke I am like a gecko you can see their hearts beating under their skin. But I am so thankful for the ability to have empathy — for the ability to walk in the world full of feeling and care. I am thankful connect with people, but it can be hard when people don’t understand how easily wounded I am. Snark and snide comments can cut to the bone. I think what is it about their comment that I am reacting to — what does that tell me about myself (is something I value that’s been judged? Is it an old hurt?) and what does it tell me about them?
    Thank you for sharing yourself — thin skin and all — thinned skinned brigade stands here with you.

  11. #12

    As a fellow blogger, I can relate to how you feel. Sometimes the scariest thing is to push that “publish” button. People respond in all kinds of ways, some unpredictable. I thought your posting about your daughter was lovely.

    To paraphrase Oscar Wilde… “There’s one thing worse than people talking about you and that’s people not talking about you.”

    Keep up the good work.

  12. #13
    Missy K

    There is so much wisdom here, in the push and pull of thick and thin.

    In terms of the Internet, I am trying more and more to apply a funny thing I heard Anne Lamott say– the acronym WAIT– for Why Am I Talking. She applied it to being a mother in law, but I think it really applies to the internet. When I read someone’s experience or thoughts and I can either build them up and offer support, OR offer a thoughtful civil and kindly put other viewpoint for the sake of discussion, of making something new, great. If not, why am I talking? The world is not waiting for me to access the closed caption snark or insecurity or judgement running through my head with my keyboard at the moment I’m thinking it.

    Cathy, just so you know, what you have shared over the last few months has helped me so much. Thanks for being thin-skinned enough to be real and funny and sad and life-giving.

  13. #14
    Lisa Russo

    You know, one of the (main) reasons I walked away from my scrapbooking career was because of a cruel comment I read online about Aidan.

    In hindsight now, I can see that it had everything to do with the person who wrote it and not much to do with me…but 10 years later it still stings, obviously.

    1. #14.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Lisa, I remember that. Man, like it was yesterday. And yep, people said some shit about me back in those days.

  14. #15

    I wish people would start teaching and using this thought process again, “I you don’t have something nice to say, then say nothing at all.” The world would be a kinder and more respectful place. Even my own grown children struggle with this thought process.

    1. #15.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Mary, sometimes I think there are a lot of people out there in pain, and the thing is, some of it’s so buried down that coming out with caustic comments (or just asinine ones) is as automatic as breathing because it’s how they’ve learned to live and be and cope with life.

      And that’s sad.

  15. #16

    Bravo!!! Bravo!!! Bravo!!! You have just said what I have been trying to organize in my tangled thoughts. It couldn’t have come at a better time either.


  16. #18

    I’m just going to say it because I know you can under stand where I’m coming from: people are afraid of other people’s shit because it challenges them to look at their own. I didn’t see the comment at the time, but have now. When one sees someone express pain–even if it’s not a pain one has felt or not the same way one felt in the same situation–one’s impulse should not be to find a way to shut the other person up (which is basically what that commenter was doing). But if that impulse is stirred up, it’s because of one’s own shit. And, unfortunately, the internet has become a place where people feel it’s okay to dump their shit in somebody else’s “house” (blog comments, FB page, Twitter feed).

    Here is what is grown up: getting present, acknowledging what you are feeling, and not being afraid to share and/or ask for help. Here is what is destructive and immature: pretending everything is okay, raging internally, acting out rage on others, stuffing down feelings, disconnecting.

    Thank you for being thin and open and sharing a journey with us that few people do. Thank you for acknowledging the grief so that others can feel empowered in feeling and moving through their grief. Sorry that your openness can sometimes be a liability. Just remember that those who don’t get it, we’re never in your tribe to begin with.

  17. #19
    Sue in Grapevine

    Yep, work for the thin skin that lets feeling be expressed, instead of held-in to stew and create potential explosions.
    You love your girl, you miss your girl, you have a new way of living to get used to — sounds like a normal, adult life to me.
    That commenter launched into her own problem w/her kids — in an “Oh, yeah! You’ve got nothing to complain about.” way. The classic case of “hurting people hurt people.”
    If you stop missing your girlie, then I WILL worry about you.
    Peace to your spriit, Cathy!

  18. #20
    Debbie Hodge

    Ha! In our home, it’s known that I’m missing a whole layer of skin. I saw that post last week and it made me cry and so I had to do something else–couldn’t bear to leave a comment because it was too close.

    You’re a wonderful writer and I appreciate all that you share.

  19. #21

    Thank you for sharing this. I’m about to launch a blog of my own and having to deal with negative feedback has been something that had been holding me back on starting one. Your friend Paul’s insight was wonderful and I found this encouraging as I start this new project. You continue to be an inspiration to me, and I love your openess and honesty in what you create and share online 🙂

  20. #22

    “I want it to be thin. I want it to be porous so I can let life in. So I can let it touch me. So I can soak in experience and learn about others as well as myself.”

    This resonates with me on so many levels Cathy.

  21. #24
    Nina F

    I agree with your therapist that the comment was more about her than you. I know when I look back at the times I’ve been obnoxious, it was because I was feeling so overwhelmed and out of control that I lashed out at the minute because I couldn’t lash out at the big picture of it all. I recognize it from my actions. I’ve worked on corralling my thoughts (and reactions) and have learned to be more tolerant of others. But then again, I’m even older than you and Still working on growing up.

    1. #24.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Yep. It’s what I’ve been working to learn too. It’s all about being responsible for my pain in life and not wanting to blame others for it or find some excuse to be reactive.

  22. #25
    Shawni Reynolds

    I’m so glad that you don’t have a thicker skin. I’m so glad that you put it out there for all of us to witness and share. I’m also glad that your therapist said what she did. I feel like I’ve always been a good advice giver, being a Libra and all, and I’m great at seeing both sides. But I learned years ago, and it’s still my mantra today that it ISN’T about you, very rarely when someone lashes out. Whether in comments or in person. Boy has that helped me and any friends seeking my advice. When you’ve viewed all sides honestly and made sure you haven’t crossed a line, sometimes people are just having a bad day and need to lash out. Sad but true. If this is ‘growing up’, I’d rather do that then ‘get over’ my baby going off to college. I’ve said it before, I’M NOT READY. <3

  23. #26

    Thick skin is just a lie. When something happens that you’re capable of caring about, it becomes readily apparent that thick skin is a euphemism for stuffing your emotions. I’m just shooting for resilience. I find I do much better when I acknowledge the feelings and to some extent let them wash over me so I can come to some kind of a hypothesis about them. Beautiful post Cathy.

    1. #26.1
      Dawn McFarland

      I’m with you Kelly, trying to shoot for resilience. And I have my daughter always present to help me along the path, no matter how frustrated it sometimes makes me feel, as she tries her digging deeper questions on me. 🙂

  24. #27

    I’ve never thought about it this way…its somewhat like turning a light on. I took a class from you YEARS ago where I wrote a letter to teenage self. I tapped into a vulnerability then that made me want to hide the project. I remember my mom telling me all the time that the kids that teased me for being fat were really just completely insecure themselves and to ignore it. Your therapist’s guidance made me think of my mom telling me all those years ago that it wasn’t really about me. Somehow when your IN it, you don’t really believe that advice…turns out its totally accurate. I’ve always thought we should have thick skin and deaf ears…especially to the criticisms we make of our selves…but instead I should be looking at them as learning experiences…about others. Guideposts or barometers to how others are doing, rather than how I’m doing.

  25. #28

    Cathy, I don’t know you personally but I gotta say I love ya! I love reading your blogs/posts, they are real…and that is so refreshing. Thanks for being exactly who you are, it gives the rest of us courage to be that as well. You ROCK!

  26. #29
    Stephanie Vetne

    I still get mad when I think about that comment. Absolutely furious if I let myself because your post affected me so much. But you nailed it. It’s about something in her life that has been a struggle, not about you. And just look at how many people your post and your response has affected. You are the brave one putting it out there and I hope you can feel all of the support through that thin skin.

    And just a comment on this really cool world that we live in – this huge online scrapbooking community that was formed years ago has changed my life. I have made some of the best friends I’ve ever had and gained so, so, so much from these friendships. And I would guess that you could say the same. So many of us have struggled with negative comments over the years and they can be so hurtful. But none of us should ever let anything or anyone stop us from communicating the way we all do. It’s a really great thing we have. 🙂


    1. #29.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Truth! I have some of my best friends in life from being online. Yep. There’s a lot of good in it all. Most of it, actually. Nearly all of it.

  27. #30

    I have learned to feel sorry for that person both online and in real life. I know they must be hurting over something to take it out on others that way. It reminds me how blessed I am with all I have in my own life. It lets some of those *things* that have been bothering me slip away because I know that overall I have a good life. Spreading your *pain* around by leaving nasty comments only feels good for about a nano second and then the pain is still there. Spreading your peace, joy, and happiness multiplies it for everyone.

  28. #31

    I write a parenting column and have taken more than my share of personal shots. Fun stuff. No intention of getting thicker skin, just better armor using the truth as my shield.

    For you, lovely you:

  29. #32
    Jaime Benavides

    Thank you for being so open, honest and real with us Cathy. There are always going to be haters that try to bring you down to their level. It actually amazes me how bold one can be when commenting on one’s blog or social media outlet. Because you know nine times out of ten, they wouldn’t have the balls to go up to you and say it to your face. Just sayin’.
    Anyway, you are such an inspiration to many, myself included. Keep doing what you do best! Looking forward to your upcoming class… Have a great week! 😉

    1. #32.1
      Cathy Zielske

      And Jamie, even if those kinds of people think, “WTF? I DO have the balls to tell you to your face”… I’d just run in the other direction. Life is too short to share the same air.

  30. #33

    Hi Cathy,
    I’ve been following your blog for a few years now. At first I fell in love with your design aesthetics (and I still love them), but now I’m seriously loving your writing. Your words are beautiful, and they speak to me, especially these lines:

    “I don’t want thicker skin.

    I want it to be thin. I want it to be porous so I can let life in. So I can let it touch me. So I can soak in experience and learn about others as well as myself.”

    Wow. Brilliant.

    1. #33.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Well, I didn’t always think this way. It’s taken a lot of work, and I have more work to do. 🙂 I used to just want to get angry.

      Now I’m trying to learn from it.

  31. #35
    Dawn McFarland

    Hi Cathy,

    I really love your blog, and your therapist is right on about it being about that person. But even knowing that, it still stings. And while I didn’t have the same feeling when my daughter went to college, because it was in the next town, just a 20 minute drive and she still lived near me. And I didn’t feel that way when she was sent to Iraq mainly because I just put her in Gods hand and I felt calmer. But when it came time for her to move across the state to La Crosse, I felt exactly like that. After having them in your life since the beginning, and suddenly they are grown and moving on, it is not easy to deal with it. Even though you know it is going to happen. You are never truly prepared for when it actually happens. And I think you did the right thing.

    Another thing to remember when commenters say negative or hurtful things is to not give them that power over you. I still have problems with that, but I am working on it every day.

    As Eleanor Roosevelt said: No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. There are way too many days that I give consent, but I am working on it. Ha! In case you couldn’t tell, I am always a work in progress.

  32. #36

    Cathy, your ability to so eloquently express your feelings and your pain, and so bravely share them with others , is what makes your blog so popular and such a good “read”. Your grief at Aidan’s departure came through so clearly, I cried for you. And you are correct, you need a thin skin to feel and express that. Ignore the rude and unfeeling comments – everyone is entitled to their opinion. The rest of us need you, especially those, like me, that don’t have the gift of a thin skin.

  33. #37
    Kim Woods

    It makes me crazy to see negative comments on blogs and social media. Especially celebrities and athletes who are just trying to let their fans see a little bit into their world with a quick pic on Instagram or Twitter. Have you seen Jimmy Kimmel’s mean tweets? OMG it will totally make you feel better about the nasty comments. I hope it puts those haters in their place. http://youtu.be/MPmObvuOMYA?list=PLs4hTtftqnlDhtuDiar5Q0G8rtRlbX3BW

    Have a great day Cathy! You are the bomb!

      1. #37.1.1

        I immediately thought of ‘Mean Tweets’ when I read your post. People are mean and it absolutely says so much more about them than it does about you. I tell my kids over and over to never post or write anything they wouldn’t say to someone’s face. Posting and texting and all of social media is so much easier then actually dealing with one’s issues. Keep your thin skin – it’s beautiful. And keep sharing – I relate to so many of the things you talk about and I appreciate honesty above everything else.

  34. #38

    I don’t understand why people go to websites or read stuff they don’t like and then take the time to comment on it. If you don’t like it, close the page and move on! For what it is worth I love your website and the way you masterfully save memories. I have very small children and it can be hard to keep up with them most days, much less try to savor every moment. You remind me to slow down. Take mental stock of their chubby legs and angelic laughs even if I never get around to actually organizing or documenting the bazillion pictures I have. So thank you for putting it all out there ;). That takes major ta-tas haha

    1. #38.1
      Cathy Zielske

      I think one of the reasons people do it is to feel in control of their lives. If you *know” everything, then nothing can hurt you.

  35. #39


    I’ve always been sensitive … and was always told not to be that way. Why?

    I don’t want thicker skin either. I am who I am… and I’m okay with it.

  36. #40

    One of the lessons I’ve learned by putting myself out there through my blog and business is this: The way someone treats you says nothing about you and everything about them. I still prefer it when I don’t have to remind myself of this fact…but it does help. 🙂

    I’m glad you’re just the way you are Cathy. I love reading your blog and I have so enjoyed reading your posts about Aidan heading off to college. It is helping me mentally prepare for what’s ahead, as well as giving me perspective about today: your kids are at home, cherish the good stuff because it won’t be this way forever.

    It also gives me more compassion for friends who have sent their kids off to college this year. I have a sense, thanks to you, of how they are feeling, what they’re really going through. I can talk to them on a more real level about it, and in turn, be a better friend.

    Thank you, Cathy, for being you and for being brave enough to share yourself with us.

  37. #41

    Well blow me down with a feather boa!!! What a surprise to learn my comment has fanned a flame. First off all, I loved reading this post and your own feelings on the subject. I’ve read/heard before about how negative comments, esp online, are about the other person etc and I agree it absolutely is and my head knows it too. Still, it only takes one snide comment to throw me off kilter for the rest of the day, no matter what my head says.

    Now that my comment has had a part to play in your post, I’ll let you into a secret about where I found this particular pearl of wisdom. And yes, I learnt it from another source. I don’t walk around having fabulous insights all on my little ownsome, as much as I’d love to try and fool people into thinking so.

    It came from an English actress, Maureen Lipman. In one of her books, containing excerpts from her diary, she talks about her reaction to reading reviews of the shows she’s in. She explained that in order to act, she needed to be able to call upon all of her emotions at will. Requiring, as it were, a thin skin. But when the critics wrote up their scathing reviews, she needed, all of a sudden, to grow a thick skin. It was Maureen who then asked of her readers if they could see the conflict?

    It immediately clicked with me that though I’m not an actor, I’m a sensitive creative type who also accesses my emotions to make stuff. And all artists need to share what they do. It’s part and parcel of having that gift. And once I share, 200 odd people could say something very kind and one person absolutely slate it. Do you know what’ll happen when I go to bed that night? I’ll only be thinking about that one criticism. It’s nuts but I’m old enough to laugh at myself when I do this.

    So there you go, all credit to the marvellous Maureen Lipman lol.

    1. #41.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Well I love Maureen Lipman and you!

      It is true. We focus on that negative comment. And God knows I’ve learned DO NOT engage, because you won’t win. There is no winning. So I’m shooting for understanding. Why did the comment hurt? What could the commenter be thinking? What are they in touch with? What are they not in touch with? How can I understand where it might be coming from?

      Believe me Paul, my first reaction is still, “F YOU!” in my lizard brain, but then I calm down and think about it.

      We, meaning I, have grown up being so defensive of criticism. How DARE you say anything about me that doesn’t make me feel good! But now that I’m actually taking responsibility for my behavior in life, for my temper, for all my shit, I can see that I just need to keep on working it. So that my first reaction becomes, “How can I understand this?” and not “F YOU!”

      Sure, the latter feels good in the moment, JUST like leaving a negative comment must feel. But it’s not fulfilling. It teaches me nothing.


      1. #41.1.1

        Aww Thx Cathy 🙂

        I grew up defensive of criticism too. I was such a sensitive child. Then, when I burst out of that dusty closet and threw myself into the club scene of my fabulous sub-culture, I learnt very quickly to grow a thick skin to survive. I was once given a withering put down based solely on the fact that I’d ironed my T shirt inside out and my creases were laughably incorrect. I quickly developed a sense of humour to match that of my beautiful friends lol.

        And yes, my first reaction is still “F You”. Like you, I need to breathe a couple of times before a much wiser one kicks in. x

  38. #42

    Here’s how to have the best of both worlds!

    I DO definitely feel like I have a thin skin and I wouldn’t change it for anything. I don’t want to be numb to life. And when I write, I am straightforward and honest. (At least I hope I am.) So I do that, and I write, and I post on my blog that virtually *no one* reads.

    Amy for the win! 🙂

  39. #43

    Hello from Hawaii! Yay for wanting to keep a thin skin! I love you Cathy Zielske. I remember when I found your other blog years ago and loved it so much I decided to go to the beginning and read it from your very first post, from the beginning, so interested in your journey and then one day you pulled it. It was like someone pulled the rug out from under me. My daily read was gone, what happened next!? I didn’t get to read a lot of the present, trying to catch up from the oh-so-interesting past. I think back then someone left a lame comment and you pulled the plug. I was soooooooo happy when you came back. It’s comforting having you around in the blogsphere along with your other creative outlets! Good post. Your therapist is right. Thank you for existing and sharing your words!

  40. #44
    Amy W

    Your entire experience resonates with me, and my kid won’t even leave for college for another 10 years! Cathy, I love how you put yourself out there. You are absolutely courageous. I am inspired by you and am on the verge of starting my own blog-because of you and all your sh#t. Ha! I have such thin skin that I feel like a window. BUT. If I am so thin-skinned, there are others out there, too. And maybe what I have to say about life might help someone, just like you have helped me all these years.
    Thank you, Cathy, from your practically transparent blog lurker,

  41. #45
    Cheri Andrews

    It’s probably a good thing I missed the negative poster because I would have been raging inside on your behalf. I count myself among the ranks of the thin-skinned. Emotional, easily hurt, absorb the energy of those around me. And it is why I learned to avoid all news stations on the television, newspapers, most magazines and rag-mags as a means of self-preservation, and why I now censor what things I click through on the Internet as well. But YOUR blog is one I have turned to for years. Often my morning chuckle (thank you so much Cathy – I always need those!), sometimes the raw honesty that makes me see things differently, sometimes a nugget of wisdom that is right on target. I love all your classes, but even more I love your writing and I would not want you to change a thing to please the naysayers! I agree with other commenters who have said it is about her (not you) and that if you have nothing nice to say, zip it. Still trying to teach my kids that one… Thank you Cathy for being you, for being real, for being here. You make the world a better place by being in it!

  42. #46
    Deb @ PaperTurtle

    Oh my gosh, Cathy, that is so true – the negative comment is more about the person who leaves it rather than you. I know this has been a really tough time for you, and anyone who reads your blog would know that and be sensitive to it. Shame on that mean ol’ troll!

    Kind of in line with that mean-comment-leaver, I have a coworker who is just as negative. I’m in a really great place in my life – I come to work happy and enthusiastic. Rather than her being happy for me, she makes snide comments (to my face) about how worse off she is than me and justifying her unhappiness in the face of my happiness. She’s actually angry with me for being happy. WTF?!?! I will never, in a million years, understand that mentality. Anyway, her unhappiness, and jealousy of mine, is totally her bag, NOT mine!

    I’m so sorry someone was mean to you, Cathy. Know that there are WAY more readers who share your story and are sensitive to your feelings. Keep on keepin’ on!!! xo

  43. #47

    I didn’t see the comment, and I’m glad I didn’t. I’m far too sensitive. It was so hard when my daughter left for college. I had her when I was 18. When she left for college, I’d already been a mom for over half of my life. I was numb.

    I usually avoid reading a lot of comments because I am just shocked at how mean some people can be to others. It really cracks me up when someone is following a celebrity (you would fall into that category) and they take the time to shout out something negative on social media. Seriously? Why say that? Why say anything at all? Yes. I know it is all about the place they are in life and crap they are dealing with. But I really think that it is a bigger problem than that. I think it is really unraveling the social fabric. Why should someone have to grow a thick skin? Why blame you for being sensitive? It is ridiculous really. I was totally raised with the “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all,” mentality, and I agree it is time to get back to it.

    Someone earlier mentioned the attitude of entitlement. I think that is a huge issue in our society today that no one is really talking about much. When you think about it, it invades all aspects of our lives. It is a multi-layered problem that is almost too complex to solve. It starts out with seemingly small things (that really aren’t that small). People who say mean (or thoughtless) things to each other. Cutting in to a line full of people who have been waiting. Being disrespectful. People who throw trash/litter on the ground or in public venues. But then it gets bigger, goes deeper, and puts us all on a slippery slope. People who drive obnoxiously or recklessly. Bullying and other hateful acts. Abuse. The -isms. Most crimes. Politics. The economy. Animal extinction. The damaged and dwindling environment. War. Genocide. Unfortunately, the list goes on and on.

    So anyway, thank you for sharing your experience and allowing us to be part of that, as well as letting us reflect on what it means for each of us in the grand scheme of things. Civility is important, and it is good to be able to think about it. 🙂

  44. #48

    Hmm, this struck a chord with me.
    In your recent posts about your daughter leaving, a couple of times I’ve rolled my eyes, finding it a bit OTT and *other uncomplimentary things*. But I’m doing this thing where I don’t say mean things online to strangers.

    Reading this, and about what your therapist said about “it says more about them than you”, is spot-on. It’s over 10 years since I started university, but… my parents were, to my face anyway, not in the least bit fussed. Of course, they were proud (although to go to Uni was the “done thing” in my family), but neither every expressed that they would miss me or otherwise notice that I’d left a hole in the family.
    My Mum drove me to university on my first day, for some reason I don’t remember, Dad didn’t come. When we got there, she helped me carry my stuff to my room, and then left. Other parents helped their kid un-pack, make up the bed, etc. Many then went out to dinner with the parents. Mine had just gone.

    And while I know that both my parents love and adore me, and do many, many things for me, mine would never have said any of the wonderful things you say about Aidan, and certainly not publicly.

    I guess I’m trying to say that your outward show of missing her grates with me, because it was something I didn’t experience, that I wish I had.

  45. #49

    I so needed to read this today. Someone said something to me yesterday. It was negitive and felt almost like a personal attack. I hadn’t really done anything but I got blasted anyway.

    When you shared your therapist comment: “a negative comment will help them to feel more in control of the pain”, all of a sudden my situation made sense. Once again you’ve helped put my life into focus through your sharing.

    I’m sorry that you’re getting crap about how you’re feeling regarding your daughter’s move to college. I say, thank goodness for having these feelings. That means you have a strong bond with your child and that you “get” to have these experiences. So many folks miss the good stuff and even if this is painful (I know from the experience of 2 kids going off to college – it’s painful!), it’s a good kind of pain. These are growing pains, and life is all about growing.

    Sending you a hug from one Mom to another. Hang in there – it’s gets better, it takes a while, but it gets better.

  46. #50

    I really needed this today. I do not have a Facebook account but have been shocked in the last few months what people have felt they can say to my face. I know there is no way I could handle Facebook page comments. For the last 4 years I have volunteered on the PTC board at my son’s school. I spent unless hours chairing fundraisers, book fairs, school events and I was the treasurer so all funds and reporting was done by me alone. In May my term was up and I decided to not take another position and now people are saying to me that our board did a lot on our own, I covered for people, that I was tough and I was told that a mom said they didn’t trust me! This has been so hard to hear and I don’t see why I’m being told this now. It hurts because I gave so much time, time I could have spent with my kids and family. Thank you for writing about this!

    And to the person who said that to you, I would ask how your daughter would feel if you weren’t upset she was leaving? This year when my daughter started her second year and I cried as I said goodbye, she said “it’s about time, I was worried you weren’t going to miss me this year!”

  47. #51

    Such a thoughtful post and comment thread. My daughter asked me one time why I was so “fragile,” in response to me crying about a dog food commercial or something. My response was, “I really don’t know, but I don’t know how not to be.” I feel things strongly, and I don’t know how to not feel them strongly. The negative post you experienced (and I’m sure it wasn’t the first, because the internet can be a mean and nasty place sometimes) made me think of a post on Tumblr, or buzzfeed, or somewhere, that asked what people would really say or post if all their words were displayed on their bodies. If other people could see what someone had said to someone else, would people still be so nasty? I try to remember that when I drive in Southern California traffic. 🙂 Keep being you, Cathy. You’re opening up great topics of conversation, and I’m pretty sure Ms. Grow Up has read this, too.

  48. #52

    Oh my gosh Cathy I just had a similar thing happen to me regarding Facebook. This post today really helped me and if ok with you can I share Marks message?
    I posted something negative I found out about a company I applied at for a job…but as usual my thin skin started to feel bad “what if someone reads it that takes offense”. Part of me could give a rats ass but the thin skinned Jane quivers. So….I removed the post.
    I always remember something my husband said years ago to me. He is very thin and has even skinnier legs (damn him) and people make fun of him in shorts. He says “if you don’t like it don’t look at it”. That quote of his can apply to so many things.

  49. #53
    Kim Smith

    Cathy, glad I missed the comment as I would have been pissed the rest of the day…

    I’ve been debating for several months about starting a new blog vs staying in the shadows. Comments like what you experienced are what holds me back. Not just publicly made comments, but those that come privately as well. Why do people feel the need to burn you down just to make themselves look big? I’ll never understand that.

    I’ve commented to you about your bravery many times and it still holds true: you are one of the bravest women I know, even if its only an online relationship :). You give us exactly what we need, seemingly when we need it – you keep it real! Knowing that someone else is sensitive, vulnerable and brave enough to show it to the world helps all of us to be better humans…

    Keep on keeping it real and know that your tribe, clan, family is here to stay and to keep you uplifted above the haters!

    Love you and all of your shit 😀

  50. #54
    Madeline St Onge

    Cathy who ever left that reply on your blog was seeking attention, in my opinion, She can not know how you feel, even if she had been through the same thing, everyody is different. The way I handle a blog post I do not agree with is to just move on, “If you can’t say somthing nice then day NOTHING” I do not know what the poster is feeling so I move on. I commented on your post last week that I guess I was lucky because both of my kids went to local college and stayed at home, so I can only imagine how you feel. Hope it gets just a little bit better for you, Christmas vacation will be here before you know it 😉 (((HUGS)))

  51. #55

    Although I fully agree that everyone is entitled to their own thoughts and opinions, I do not agree with folks expressing their opinions about emotions that don’t mirror their own by stating them on Facebook or whatever form of social media.

    If you don’t like what someone is saying on your news feed get rid of them or keep scrolling!

    You didn’t really ask for feedback and your blog is a place that people who share your vision and admire your work can come and see the magic you create.

    Simply put, if a person wants you to have a thicker skin, they should move on to a different blog!

    Continue doing what you are doing Cathy. . .it’s awesome. Having your oldest head off to college is something that each person deals with in their own way. I’m certain your words have helped more parents out there than you know.

    Thicker skin??I don’t think you need it either!

    Keep creating. . .it is one of the things that makes my day!

  52. #56

    Honestly, if you had a thicker skin, if you held more back, if you sought any solution to this on your end? Well, there would still be mean people on the internet. I think you’re on the right track trying to remain open (and thin-skinned), but it’s so HARD to remember that the negativity is someone else’s problem. A flip side to being thin skinned is that sometimes I leave comments and I agonize over how they will be read and interpreted….because I would hate to sound snarky or rude. Sometimes I still do, though. The point? I agree that we all need a bit more compassion, openness, and understanding. Keep leading the way, CZ. 🙂

  53. #57
    Teresa Mucha

    You are one of my favorites because of your thin skin. I didn’t see what was posted, just one more reason I am not on Facebook. I realize negativity can come from any social media interaction but there is just too much bullying on FB.

    It is about the person that leaves the comment. How they handle what they put out there in the internet is totally in their realm of being. It is sad when they have to bring someone else down with them to make them feel better about themselves.

    You inspire me constantly, especially with how open you are with the world about your life. You keep it real. Please keep on keeping it real!

  54. #59
    Sherry Carr-Smith

    Thin skin is the best skin. Also, I find it bizarre for someone who must otherwise connect with you (I assume since they’re following your professional FB page) to have that kind of reaction. I would posit (I’ve never used that word and now I feel smart but also worried that I didn’t use it correctly but not so worried that I’m going to look it up before I submit the comment) that most of us enjoy your professional work and your stories because of your thin skin, not despite it.

  55. #60

    My friend sent me here. I’m grateful she did. This is who I am, I feel everything. It’s not as ugly as people try to convince me it is. Thank YOU.

  56. #61

    Holy moly you hit a nerve with so many of us that apparently have been sporting thin skin and didn’t know it.

    A couple of weeks ago on a Sunday I stood alone in the middle of my sister’s 70th birthday party and realized that I was letting others’ attitudes effect my mood. My next realization was that their attitude wasn’t about me, it was about them. It wasn’t about the fact that I had pushed and shoved and harassed them to submit their photos and letters to be included in her Shutterfly birthday book. Even though I had threatened them with bodily injury and eternal damnation if they didn’t get me their @#$?!! stuff. All that came together and she had a beautiful book that she has already memorized and looks at every day. So I putzed around the party for awhile thinking their behavior was about my “encouragement” to get this book done and then it hit me that it wasn’t about me at all – they are just generally cranky and enjoy being that way.

    So now I am trying to get to that point that “it’s about them not me” is the FIRST place I go when I am confronted with: cranky e-mail responses; rude people; criticism; snarky comments; feedback that is personal not helpful; and all other genres of attitudes that are thrown my way.

    It’s about them not me. I love my think skin and my exposed heart. It’s my new mantra. And you Cathy Zielske just might be a genius. You give a face and heart to honest and real!

  57. #63

    I’d much rather have thin skin. It means we’re real and we’re kind and we’re thoughtful and we’re in touch with ourselves and our feelings (well, most of the time anyway). My kids have a saying, “Haters gonna hate”. There will always be those who like to be negative and who do their very best to put others down. I agree with your therapist, it’s not about you. It’s most definitely about them. Thin skin and all, you ARE golden!

  58. #64

    “I’ve talked to my therapist about negative comments and she’s helped me to understand something that I am starting to actually believe: they are not about you. They are about the person who leaves them.”

    This ^ x 1000. Jerks are just going to be jerks and unfortunately, the rest of us have to deal with them. ((((Hugs))))

    P.S. Can’t freaking wait for your new class to start!!! 😀

  59. #65
    Joanne Smith

    Great post Cathy! I’m finally realizing things like that are about them… and not a reflection me. What a neat perspective too… about being “thin-skinned” and how that IS needed to be open and to share!!

  60. #66

    Thanks for your honest share. You may have already heard about brene brown, but if not YouTube her talk on it’s not the critic that counts or the UP experience 2009. I think you will relate to here story. Enjoy!

  61. #67

    I have complimented you before with your way with words. I’ve been awed by the love you have shared for your daughter on this blog and of course it was painful letting her move into college. I’ve wished I had your gift.

    I was told by my therapist years ago that I was super-sensitive with an extra set of antenna (if I was a bug – he actually said that!). I may be in touch with my feelings but I don’t have a knack for expressing them.

    I like your skin just the way it is – to misquote Billy Joel. Some people just enjoy being snarky.

  62. #68
    Christine K.

    I love reading about the advice your therapist is giving you. Words to live by. I totally “get” the “first world problem” hash tag from an earlier response. My daughter spent 2 years as a Peace Corps volunteer and uses that statement to remind herself that lots of people in the world don’t have the same daily problems we have.

  63. #69

    Thank you.
    Love your words.
    I have to face some public bashing sometimes, and even when I look like I have a thick skin, it would be false to say it felt like I had a thick skin. You are so honest to share that words are powerful and do touch us deeply. I am so grateful to “know” you.

  64. #70

    I can see your veins and connect to your words. Yes, you are golden. 🙂
    My mother always used to say that you can react two ways to criticism or gossiping. Either they are right, and you should actually do something about it, or they are wrong, and then it really doesn’t matter. Your therapist is right. It really is more about them. Thank you so much for being you. And for being willing to share the good, the bad and the ugly. It just makes you even more beautiful.

  65. #72

    I have to say that you are a better person than I. Some people thrive on drama and stirring the pot. I used to be that person – but its not worth it anymore – we are no longer in high school – we are adults and we should act like it.

    I appreciate that your comments are open – and that you read virtually every single one of them.

    I cheer you on your journey cause I know someday I will be on the same one!

  66. #73
    Deborah P

    Haven’t had a chance to read all the comments, but I agree with you and the ones I saw about the limits seemingly being absent for comments in cyberspace that would normally be in place if talking to someone in person. It’s as if that governor just slips away. I also agree that hurtful comments are about the person making them rather than about you, as hard as it is to remember when I’m the recipient of those comments. It did occur to me as well that we don’t have any idea what the commenter is facing. For example, if she/he or a loved one has a terminal illness, I can see being impatient with things that seem to him/her not to have the same significance. That doesn’t excuse hurtful comments, but it helps me to put them in better perspective. Sorry, Cathy, I’m working some things out for myself about being judgmental at the drop of a hat, so I’m using this space to help me with that issue. Thank you for providing the opportunity! 🙂

  67. #74
    Tammy R.

    As a “thick-skinned” mother who has sent three children off to college in the last three years, I think I can explain your mean-spirited poster. I’ve read your posts about sending off Aidan and I cannot completely relate, but I respect your feelings. However, you seem completely devastated by her leaving and it makes me question my own calmer response. Does this mean I don’t love my children enough when I am not devastated at their leaving? Why am I not more upset? And then I think, “there you go again, comparing yourself to people on the internet you’ve never met.” But it still makes me question my own emotions. So I think you are definitely correct in saying her post is more about herself than you.

    1. #74.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Makes total sense. And truly, I was not devastated, just very raw in the moment. I’m doing just fine now and supporting her from afar. 🙂 Part of the rawness comes from a place of realizing the parent that I was for much of her life and that comes from therapy and other stuff that I’m connecting to.

      There is no judgment in how we all process emotions. Just information. That’s how I look at it. 🙂

  68. #76

    Hey Cathy,
    I can’t say it any better than the ladies before me have, but I just wanted to let you know that I love your blog and your posts (this one especially, really reminds me of Brené Browns “Vulnerability” TED Talk) and the way you’re really trying and making your best effort in everything and sharing the journey with us. Sending you a smile and a hug!

  69. #77
    Brandy Jones

    it’s so friggin weird to me how negative people are when commenting on blogs, instagram, etc! it’s one thing to have an opinion, but to start attacking people… yuck!

    you rock… i’m sure i’ve said that before. thanks for sharing your life and art with us 🙂

  70. #79

    I feel that in a world of social media – that just because you can comment doesn’t not mean that you have to. Remember the saying “if you do not have anything nice to say – then don’t”?

    Online criticism (especially in this realm of creativity) should be constructive – not personal. Treat others as you would like to be treated and we all can get along.

    I have no desire to read the comment – and I am not a personal friend to you, although I feel you are extremely talented and I enjoy that you share your talent with the world. for that I am thankful. I also have 2 children that have left for college, so I can relate to your emotions, and I cant imagine any caring/loving parent watch their child walk away and think – yep – she is gone – move on and not have an ounce of sadness. Wow! wishing you the best!!

  71. #80

    I think anyone who “knows” you knows your passion for parenting your daughter, not sure why they’d feel the need just now to snap at you. I used to find the discussion around high school graduation and going off to college very painful because my mother checked out of the family before that and I didn’t get to do any of the fun stuff or feel very proud at that stage in my life. But now that I have young daughters, I’m so happy I will get to do it with them and look forward to it.

  72. #82

    I am reading “Quiet – the Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain and it talks about these very same characteristics. Just be assured that some of the most influential people have been this way…think Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and Albert Einstein to name a few. I am thin-skinned and an introvert, and I have finally decided that’s okay. So maybe I am growing up too (it only took 40 years).

  73. #83

    I heard Oprah on TV last night talking about her new book *What I know for sure* and her words struck a chord *”There is not one single thing that has ever happened to you that is going to be wasted. Everything that has happened to you has really happened for you to build strength.*

  74. #84

    I do not usually reply, but felt like I want to…as a 60+ woman, I am experiencing the natural aging process. And, I feel like I am smarter, more sensitive, and have more wisdom each and every year….and in reality, one’s skin DOES get thinner as one grows older. It truly does get thinner. This can be a pain, since as one ages, your wrinkles seem to emerge as fast as acne emerged in our teens…but with the wrinkles and the thin skin…I have come to realize that it is a gift to embrace. Our feelings are always ok…and with our thin skin, we have the freedom to choose the amount of “light” that we allow in. Thinking of you and understand that as each year passes, there are still many things to learn and understand and filter. And….always remember, slather on the sunscreen….it helps keep out the bad rays!

  75. #85
    Barb in AK

    Very interesting post, Cathy.
    I used to tell my husband he was ‘way too sensitive.
    He told me there was no such thing as “too sensitive”.
    He said the problem was that there were too many people out there
    who were not sensitive enough.
    The comment sure changed my perspective about a lot of things.

    Keep up the good work!

  76. #86

    Wow. This hit me in a way that only the truth can. It’s so hard to be real and authentic when you have to walk around in a world, especially Facebook, that isn’t. You have to feel the feelings, but you don’t have to feel others’ feelings.

  77. #88

    I know I’m going to come off as insensitive, and this is really up to debate, but can you really liken something like tolerance to emotions with the thickness of your skin? I personally believe this is a rather small problem.
    People usually say things like this because they’re tired of seeing posts about people’s personal lives, and would rather be seeing things about new events and such. If you want to see an example of “Personal Blogging” gone wrong, go visit Google+ for a second…
    Perhaps you already have an account, perhaps you don’t, but just scrolling down the list of posts, you’re going to see at least 10 pictures of the poster asking for a rating or asking the online community if they’re one of the onlookers crushes. I know this is an extreme example, but there are a lot of people who consider posts like “I just had a baby! ♥♥♥” overreactions, and absolutely hate it when they see other people going along with it.
    It’s not about problems in their own lives, either, despite what many quotes set against pictures of sunsets on the internet would tell you. I’ve know people like this, and while they’re not too difficult to get along with, it’s easy to get on their bad side. They have a strong sense of justice and are highly opinionated, going on miniature crusades against things they disapprove of.

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