Have you ever wondered why some people are defeated by the challenges of life while others seem to bounce back and even find a way to turn a tragedy into a gift? The difference between these two types of people is a matter of resilience.
To be resilient is to be both strong and flexible. You also have to be willing to examine and understand your experience and take the opportunity to learn from it. You learn about your strengths and weaknesses, your illusions, beliefs and values, relationship patterns, what worked and what didn’t work, and you learn about other people and about the world.
Knowledge is power. When you take the opportunity to learn all these things each time you stumble in life, you will naturally develop confidence in yourself and in your ability to deal with similar situations in the future. You begin to know that you are capable of handling the tough stuff; you become humble as you realize that you are not immune to the tragedies of life; you become an expert at seeing the good as well as the bad in any situation. You are likely to feel more cheerful and positive because you have developed a sense of mastery and capability. When you develop faith in yourself, the world is a more manageable and a less scary place.
To be resilient is to possess and demonstrate these qualities:
- The ability to be physically and emotionally independent,
- The ability to take initiative, i.e. you are willing to act and to make things happen, The ability to form healthy and strong relationships,
- The willingness to take the time and effort to learn from your experience and the ability to apply your experience to new situations,
- The ability to develop insight into your own and other’s behaviour, to understand the world, and to figure out how and why things happen,
- The ability to laugh at yourself and the world,
- The ability to be creative and to be able to make something out of nothing,
- The ability to demonstrate moral courage; to be guided by one’s inner self and to do the right thing, even in the face of resistance.
If you don’t already have these qualities, you can become more resilient by embarking on a course of personal growth. For lasting change, I suggest working from the inside to change the outside. You can become psychologically more mature, stronger and healthier by:
· Developing self-awareness,
· Deciding to be a life-long learner, someone who learns from every experience,
· Being patient and forgiving with yourself and giving yourself permission to learn,
· Deciding to have an optimistic view of life and seeing the value in every experience,
· Working through childhood issues,
· Letting go of regrets in the past and worries about the future and living in the present,
· Taking responsibility for yourself and the choices you are making in your life,
· Learning healthy communication, social and relationship skills,
· Being connected to people you love and who love you,
· Facing your fears one step at a time, but always moving forward,
· Working through some of the bigger questions of life in terms of clarifying your priorities, values and beliefs,
· Consciously developing your personal integrity (i.e. consciously working on getting your behaviour to more closely match your values, beliefs, and priorities),
· Deciding that if what you are doing isn’t working, you will do something different.
Resiliency is described in that old song that says, “Just pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again”. When life knocks you down, dig deep and find the courage to stand up again on your own two feet. Be willing to move past your failures, to be humble enough to learn from your experience, to have the faith in yourself to begin again, and the realization that this is your life and only you can live it. It also helps to remember that if we had a life without struggle, there would be little to do and we’d be bored to our death!
Shirley Vandersteen, Ph. D., C. Psych.