Those of you who have been following my blog or are in my Facebook group The Rising Oak (come join us – it’s free) will know that this is my first blog in almost a year, well 360 days to be precise. It’s been a busy, emotional, frustrating, exciting and interesting kind of year, one which has been and meant different things to each and every one of us. But now, coming to the end of 2021, I feel the need to get writing again; it’s a cathartic exercise for me, and today I need that in my life. Today I need to talk to you about resilience!
I’ve always loved this photo and I often sit and just look at it and let my thoughts wander. For me it conjures up several words, like ‘rebirth’, ‘growth’, ‘persistence’ and yes, ‘resilience’.
Resilience is generally understood to be the ability to ‘bounce back’ and/or to recover quickly from tough times. An old manager of mine once told me I was like the Andrex puppy in that I always bounce back (that is not to be confused with a Durex puppy, which I once said when recounting that story!!) I think she is right that I am very resilient but I also think the understanding of the word needs to go beyond ‘bounce back’; I think we need to think about resilience differently so that it can become a useful and empowering word, rather than just a buzzword.
Resilience seems to be one of those words and concepts that some love whilst others hate it. Those that hate it have told me that they feel that the definition of resilience is too hard to take on, that to be resilient is to be able to recover or bounce back unaided in some innate superpower like way. Resilient people are generally expected to cope, to be tough and to casually walk through life like a hot knife through butter. We talk about resilience as being our responsibility alone, that we should just ‘toughen up’, ‘pull our socks up’, ‘put our big girl/boy pants on’ and other such toxically positive terms and phrases.
I’ve had this discussion many a time in coaching sessions with people who feel they are not resilient for these reasons. They feel burdened and unmotivated by these definitions of resilience. And I completely understand why!
But, I don’t personally see resilience like that, and I’d like to offer you my perspective, as it’s helped me many a time. In my last blog piece about Toxic Positivity, I gave you an insight in to my early life and why resilience is an important concept to me. I love the word for how I’ve come to understand it and use it in my life.
I think resilience is more a mindset and emotion than a thing to do. It is not gritting our teeth and pushing through. It is not going it alone, being strong and quiet in our pain. It’s not being disempowered in asking for help for fear we’ll be seen as weak or failing. And it is certainly not living a life free of stress, or grief or loss or change that hurts and challenges.
I believe resilience is something that helps us do the do. It is the ‘power’, an energy, and the strength behind being able to acknowledge we need help to get through the trees; to seek out help when we need it; to use that help when it’s offered or given. Resilience is the ability to seek out people and activities that we find joy in or garner strength and support from. And it is the thing that lets us know when to hold on….and when to let go, including of the things and people that are unhealthy for us.
When I shared these ideas in The Rising Oak last week, it definitely did change people’s perspective and opened up a really fruitful and empowering conversation. With permission, I am going to quote some of the thoughts shared.
One person wrote to me after this discussion about resilience as she was reminded of an image I shared in a previous post and blog……
She wrote, ‘I feel resilience comes from adversity. We grow through what we go through. Maybe that’s me reframing my adversity. I definitely have more emotional growth & intelligence through my bounce backs’ and another wrote, ‘Resilience is the ability to keep going even through extreme adversity. I agree it’s not about bouncing back without support; it’s definitely about keeping on. Continuing’.
I love the idea of optimism and resilience being partners. Through this perspective I see resilience as having the desire to bounce back, to recover and to keep moving forward. Changing the direction of our sails when we need to. The desire to carry on to make a life worth living, to keep on keeping on. It is the ability to see through the difficult times to the other side and to keep doing that, and to want to keep doing that. It is continuing in the knowledge that better times are coming because they always do. And it is the ability to then seek ways in which to reach those better times.
During the discussion and agreeing with this, another member commented, ‘I guess resilience is optimism that things change and will improve. Resilience is not a trampoline, where you’re down one moment and up the next. It’s more like climbing a mountain without a trail map. It takes time, strength, and help from people around you, and you’ll likely experience setbacks along the way. But eventually you reach the top and look back at how far you’ve come’.
I agree with these comments but you know what, I also think resilience is about trust. Trust in ourselves…..but also trust in others! In response to this, another group member agreed saying, ‘The idea that resilience is trust in ourselves and in others is the key for me. Personally, mistrust of others is hard-wired into my brain. Education and experience have taught me that you can trust some people. But it’s always hard to ask for help and to be vulnerable’. When she wrote this, it reminded me of Charlie Mackesy‘s now famous pen picture…
Many people do find it hard to ask for help as they take on the understanding of resilience to mean ‘be strong and do it yourself’. But I hope you’ll now agree that that is just such an unhealthy way of looking at resilience. Asking for help does not make us weak or a failing. Asking for help just means you are not alone on your journey (that’s a quote I think). It means you have been strong to acknowledge you need help, strong to ask for it and strong to accept it. It means you have self efficacy in getting your needs met in a healthy way. And it means you trust yourself and invest in yourself.
So, here’s my question to you. Are you resilient? Do you have a desire to keep on keeping on? And do you have the strength to ask for help to do that if you need it? If so, have a look around you and explore what support you need in terms of who, what, how, when. Is it from family, friends, a community provision? If you need counselling, then The counselling directory is a great place to start. And if you would like to explore life coaching, then visit the main pages of this website at www.acornacademycoaching.com where you will find lots of information about coaching, me, and testimonials.
And, as always, take care.