The other afternoon I was listening to a podcast interview with a young actor.
He was talking about his relationship with social media.
He stays far, far away from it, even though so much of life, especially for people his age, now takes place online.
He knows he’s missing out on things and feels some regret about that.
But, he said, his inner self can’t “afford” the sometimes negative influence of the online world.
That’s the word he used: afford—as if the self is something we spend down as we move through the day.
It was in this context that he mentioned a piece of advice an acting coach had given him once: “To be a great artist, you need to have the skin of a rhino and the heart of a child.”
I laughed when I heard that, the way you do not because something is funny, exactly, but because it’s so true.
Perhaps that’s what you need to be a great artist.
But it’s definitely what you need to be a balanced human being! You need strong boundaries that protect a determined inner joy and sense of wonder.
So much of the time we feel it’s our job to take the hardest path.
I notice that I do this to the point where I sometimes seek out extra stress just to get that hit of accomplishment at the end of the day.
I don’t mean to, but it’s like an addiction. It’s as if I need to build a massive to-do list and then check everything off it in order to feel like I’ve earned my time on the planet that day.
To put less on my plate—to engage less—can somehow feel threatening. Will I still count if I’m not “slammed?”
We live in a culture that prizes output over the quality of life. A culture that judges us by how hard we work and what we produce, not by how connected we are to each other or how satisfied we are within our own lives.
If something is extra hard, it’s probably extra good for us, right?! A real character-building experience!
This idea of walking through life with the skin of the rhino and the heart of a child presents a fascinating antidote to that go-go-go philosophy.
It reframes the idea of responsibility and maturity not as getting it all done—not as self-sacrifice—but as self-protection.
What if preserving and protecting your sense of childlike wonder became the biggest obligation, the biggest so-called “stress” in your life?
How would that change the way that you live?
Elizabeth is a journalist who has been writing about health, beauty and wellness for over 20 years. She lives in Northern New Mexico with her two dogs and several hundred trees, shrubs, bushes and succulents.
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