Sunday, September 25, 2011
Throughout my life I have been told to toughen up, that I'm too thin-skinned. And I'll admit there have been many times that I wished to know how. I've often marvelled at how easy others seem to find it to let insults and mistakes bounce off them, to take life's little difficulties in their stride, and not break down in a blubbering mess whenever someone suggests they are less than perfect. But I never did develop the knack; I am just as easily wounded, just as open and vulnerable as when I was a strange, teased kid in primary school. Somehow, I never developed the defence-mechanisms that seemed to come naturally to everyone else.
But I've learnt that people are not always as they appear. I've discovered that often the people with the thickest hides are the most vulnerable underneath; indeed they've built up such a protective outer-shell because of how easily damaged they feel themselves to be. They have learnt to keep the barbs out. I've never grown even the semblance of a hide, so the slightest jab penetrates; but I've done something different. Others have developed an external protection; I have built up a hard space on the inside.
I suddenly had a vision of myself as a ripe peach - unbelievably soft and bruise-able on the outside, but made of solid flesh, and deep inside, an almost indestructible solid core. It's a vision that is giving me strength, knowing that there is a part of me that is untouchable. Even if I am completely incapable of showing the public the feisty, self-assured, biting character that I imagine myself to be, I know that that person is real. However I may react outwardly to doubts about my brilliance, I know who I am, what I need, and the things that I know are right.
In some ways this makes me a less 'fluffy' character than someone who keeps their defences at the surface. But over-sentimentality, though I spout it regularly, has never appealed to me; a bit of healthy cynicism makes me feel safe. And it is vital to my survival. If I have to keep a hard rock inside my heart, avoid being entirely soft, then it is worth it to retain my sense of self, and for that self to be capable of being completely alone in the world.