Ducks Don’t Roll Out of Bed Like That: Being Tough Isn’t Always Effortless

a mallard duck swimming in the water, preening its back feathers
Image by Paul VanDerWerf / CC BY

I’ve always envied people who are impervious to criticism, thick-skinned. Tough people. Insults seem to roll off them like water off a duck’s back, as the cliche goes.

The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve realized that having thick skin isn’t always as effortless as it seems. Sure, some people are more naturally inclined that way. Self-contained. And living life on a more secure base than I was able to win in the childhood attachment lotto.

But there are many folks around me who didn’t start out thick-skinned. Who had to work at it. My own personal journey of becoming more secure has been a lot like that. As has been learning to deal with rejection.

Ducks Don’t Roll Out of Bed Like That

And perhaps most encouraging of all? It’s not even natural for the proverbial duck. Water doesn’t just roll off a duck’s back. Yes, they secrete waterproofing oil from an organ called the uropygial gland. But it doesn’t just end up on their feathers.

Ducks, like most birds, spend an awful lot of time just sitting around preening their feathers. And it’s not just for their sense of vanity (although yeah, birds are very concerned with a well-kept plumage; literal chicks dig it); one important thing they’re doing is spreading that oil all over themselves. Kind of like how a person might use hair gel.

Ducks don’t just roll out of bed like that. It takes some work to waterproof themselves. And it’s not just a one-time deal either. They have to maintain that state. Do the work over and over again.

Oftentimes, something that looks natural from far away actually takes concerted effort when you get up close.

The way I see it: If it takes me a little bit of work to have a thicker skin myself, it doesn’t make me any less tough.

And the same goes for you.

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My book is out!

Poly Land: My Brutally Honest Adventures in Polyamory

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