Resiliency is a very American ideal. We are taught that Thomas Edison tried 1000 times to make a light bulb before success, or that Abraham Lincoln ran for public office multiple times and lost, before becoming President of the United States. The proverb “fall down 7 times, get up 8” swirls in my subconscious.
But do we ever say the word “resilient?” Do we ever offer that word as an ideal to our youth?
According to the American Psychological Association, “Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or even significant sources of stress — such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors. It means bouncing back from difficult experiences.
I am a resilient person. I remember at a young age realizing that something lay beyond my current problem. Sometimes I would get so low and cry for days and yet I couldn’t wait for that particular time period to be over, because I knew as bad as I felt, that it would indeed be over. Things change.
The last time my college boyfriend broke my heart, I decided to get into therapy. I gave the heartbreak two months to grieve. I even remember as the 2 month marker approached how I thought, “Oh good, this is almost over.” And afterwards when I saw the ex, it wasn’t that I was completely okay, but I was better and eventually found someone else better.
The word resilient was never expressed in my family, but my mother was a resilient person, most of the time. She modeled the concept many times. I thought about giving up in my teen-age years, but fortunately for me, I learned how to be resilient.
Yes, resiliency is learned. You are not born with it. You learn it
My example of a lost love might seem on the light side. There are worse things that happen to us than losing a boyfriend. We experience death, extreme loss, money worries, disappointment, betrayal, et al, however, we can still incorporate tools to teach us resiliency, since these experiences are familiar. They are indeed situations of the human experience, which we all have in common.
What are the qualities of a resilient person?
Resilient people hit figurative walls. However, they sense there is something beyond the wall, even though they may not see it. They believe there is some solution or even some crack of light in the wall that will offer a different perspective when they can find it. They avoid seeing crises as insurmountable. They believe that while they are not in control of everything that happens, they are in control of how they respond. They seek support in community for solution and comfort. And if the community they are in does not offer support, resilient people gently let go of those who hold them back.
Resilient people seek opportunities for self-discovery. They keep things in perspective and maintain a positive view by practicing positive self-talk. They are hopeful.
Resilient people move towards their goals and re-evaluate if they are not getting where they want to be. They take action. And they practice, practice, practice.
Other qualities of a resilient person? They have a sense of humor, they exercise and they are connected in some way to their spiritual side-not necessarily religious, but feel there is a connection to something greater than themselves.
What I realized in my research is that while I think of myself as resilient, and I model those qualities for my children, I haven’t talked to them about those qualities, much less talked to them about being “resilient.” And I need to do that, since I believe that being resilient is something that each of us must indeed learn, and learn very well.
What can you do this week to become a more resilient person? The time to practice is when life is less challenging. At the very least, start exercising and speaking positively. With practice you can face those difficult periods with grace.