On Friday morning, I realized I made a mistake at work and I felt really badly about it. I was worried off and on all weekend about going back to work yesterday, Monday, because I just wanted to fix the whole problem. Although it was my fault, I also understand what I needed to do to fix it and now, I will make sure that it never happens again. That’s all I can do, right? Once I got into the swing of work yesterday and completed what I needed to complete, I felt better. It’s hard to remember that I’m still somewhat new in my position, so I’m more likely to make mistakes. I set such high standards for myself and I know I’m capable of doing great work, but I can’t shake the anxiety I feel sometimes.

Ironically, I came across a short post last night on MSN Living about how people with thick skin are happier people. The article was written by contributors to SELF magazine and it’s about learning to overcome rejection, criticism, and fear to become a better, stronger person in your career and in life. This resonated with me for one big reason: I have always been a people-pleaser, and that usually means that I take criticism (even healthy, constructive criticism) personally. I realized a year or two ago that I can’t live my life this way and I have been trying to change slowly. I’m making progress, but I still have to remind myself every day that I cannot please everyone all the time. That’s life! You can be the nicest, most understanding, hardworking person and you still cannot make everyone happy. And you know what? I know, deep down inside, that that’s okay! So how can I change my attitude for good? How can I give myself permission to be human while also striving to be the best I know I can be?

The only thing I am sure of is that this type of life change takes awhile. I have to give myself the time and the resources to build my confidence in my professional abilities. Everybody makes mistakes and I have to learn to view them as learning experiences, not as catastrophes. I am my biggest critic and I think it has served me well in the past, in that I don’t like to perform below the high standards I set for myself, but I think I’ve been sabotaging myself without knowing it. There is a way to strike a nice balance in which I can feel comfortable with myself and happy with the work I do.

Does anyone else feel this way, especially in their professional life? Do you have strategies to grow a thicker skin?

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