Photo by Jack Anstey
Resilience is being able to remain strong during the toughest of times and darkest of days. Against common misconceptions and misunderstandings, resilience is neither lack of vulnerability nor lack of what are thought to be negative emotions such as sadness and anger. Instead, it is having a good head on your shoulders, or simply put, being mentally strong enough to be able to come out thriving even when the odds are stacked up against you. Another misconception is that resilience is a character trait that one is born with. This is false. Resilience is a skill that one acquires throughout their life as one interacts with different people and encounters various challenges. Just like with any other skill, you can acquire it, build up on it and also lose it.
This is the reason why you may find yourself having fluctuations in terms of how resilient you are in your day-to-day life. The reasons for this could be:
You may not be fully self-aware
Self-awareness is key when it comes to being resilient and maintaining your resilience all through. When one is self-aware, you have full knowledge of how you react to whatever may happen you. You know the things that trigger you, the things that hurt your feelings, the things that stress you out, those that make you anxious and so much more. When you are not self-aware, you will find it hard to feel like you are on stable ground because you never know just how much a given circumstance will impact you. Your responses will surprise you and have the potential to overwhelm you because you won’t be prepared for them.
You may be letting other people’s opinions cloud your judgment
It is often said that the only person whose opinion should be your number one priority is you. For most people, this is easier said than done and it is a leading factor in why their resilience fluctuates a lot. For example, if you have always wanted to start your own business and quit your corporate job and you bring it up to your colleagues but no one is in favor. All of them try putting your dream off but you do not care about their opinion so you do it anyway. However, as more negative feedback from other parts of your life creeps in, you go back to your corporate job and feel furious with yourself for having done it.
You may not be empathetic enough to other people
Having selective empathy means that you only show empathy towards some people and not others. This is why you may have parts of your life that are much more harmonious than others. Not being able to imagine being in other peoples’ shoes, to see the world through their eyes and understand their perspective, introduces a resistance on your side which is easily discerned by the other person. You quickly can get to an unhelpful standoff that will lead to life seeming harder than it has to be.
So, what to do?
When it comes to self-awareness, this is definitely a skill that can be built by both planning ahead and reflecting on events after they happened. In advance of an interaction that could be challenging, brainstorm what could happen and consider how you might feel if it did happen. Afterwards, think about what actually happened and, if it wasn’t ideal, how much of it was influenced by what you felt.
In regards to being influenced by other people’s opinions, again, being prepared can help. Think about where their opinions come from and whether they are the right people to be advising you. There is often a fear of repercussions of not taking someone’s advice. You may worry that they will remind you of it endlessly if things don’t go well. Ask yourself whether that really matters or it’s just a minor discomfort for you. What would you say to a friend who was going through what you are going through?
Empathy is also a skill that can be built, both for ourselves and others. Practice putting yourself fully inside the head of other people. What excites them? What scares them? What don’t they understand about what’s going on in your world? Fill in those information gaps and suddenly everything gets a lot clearer!
25 years experience in helping teams build user centred products and services, now helping digital colleagues learn how to bounce back better than before from the challenges life throws at us from time-to-time.