Recognizing and Redefining Resilience

In this age of buzzwords and self-help topics it is often easy to get overwhelmed with all of the recommendations of what we need in order to manage difficulties in our life; one of those very concepts is “resilience.” Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines resilience as: an ability to recover from or adjust easily to adversity or change. 

What if we expand that definition to include the ability of “moving through?” As Eric Greitens explains in his book, “Resilience: hard won wisdom for living a better life,” we can never go back from a trauma or difficulty to who we were before, there is no bouncing back. We change because of it, we move through it.  

Situations of death, loss, work stress, family problems, infidelities, health problems and even academic challenges have the ability to make us feel alone, weak, vulnerable and confused. These are the situations that can, at best test our resolve and at worst shake the foundations of our life. It is our choosing how to deal with them that defines our resilience. 

Part of being able to move through difficulty is having someone by our side, helping us when we feel like we can’t do it anymore.  Resilience requires courage and vulnerability to allow others to support us when we don’t feel strong enough to carry on. Building better resilience is not a solo act; it requires a troupe.

Resiliency involves not only the courage to reach out and connect; it also involves learning from life’s painful experiences.  Learning how to use the experiences to deepen our sense of self and honoring what we have been through. Using painful experiences as an opportunity for self-discovery is an important aspect moving through misfortunes. 

 In order to be able to discover and appreciate who we are in light of our circumstances, we need acceptance and compassion, not comparison. In tough times, it is important to not compare ourselves to how others handle difficult situations.  Nor should we judge ourselves based on how we think we “should” handle a stressful event. By accepting ourselves and where we are in our own journey, we give ourselves permission to “move through” and heal from traumatic events. Compassion and self-acceptance reminds us that resiliency looks different for everyone. 

When tragedy strikes and it takes all our effort to even breathe let alone brush our teeth; we call on our resilience. We breathe, we get up, we persevere. There is no measure for how well we are doing it.  Just keep moving through, keep discovering and keep remembering our darkest times are the alchemy of our soul.

So often we think we aren’t strong enough to handle the problems that life throws at us, we get lost and confused in the details. The truth is we are all resilient; we all have the capacity to overcome, adjust and develop skills to cope with difficulties. We only need to recognize them and develop those tendencies that support us in the “moving through” and growing from challenging times.  

By redefining resilience, we are able to recognize it when we need it.   What we go through, overcome and learn from, are all defining characteristics of who we are.  And who we are is resilient.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary:
https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/resilienc
Eric Greitens, “Resilience  Hard won lessons for living a better life”

Written by: 
Kimberly Fisel
Counsellor
Marriage and Family Therapist



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