You may think you're not very resilient. The word "resilient" might bring to mind all of the struggles and setbacks that have plagued you in your life. You might be thinking about how hard it is to recover from some of the worst ones. You may be thinking "I'm not resilient at all - just look at how often I've struggled to get back up!"
If you're thinking any of this, then you are probably one of the most resilient people. You have suffered, you have struggled, you have waded through a seemingly unstoppable tide of difficulty - and you have survived.
We tend to think of resilient people as those who are unaffected by the challenges of life, who take a setback with a smile and laugh in the face of their obstacles. But this is not resilience.
The person who feels no emotional distress when difficulty arises is not displaying resilience. The person who fails miserably, feels intense negative emotions, and survives to try another day is displaying resilience.
Put simply, resilience is the ability to adapt when faced with difficulty, trauma, or tragedy. We all demonstrate resilience throughout our lives. While some people may be more resilient than others, resilience is not an immutable trait or characteristic that you either have or don't have. resilience is a learned ability, one that can be learned and built and developed by anyone.
If you still don't believe you're very resilient, the good news is that there are some ways to continue building on your resilience. Some of these exercises and activities may help you develop your resilience, and some may make you realize how resilient you already are.
Either way, the outcome is more confidence in your ability to bounce back. "Bounce Back!" is an acronym for some of the foundational principles of resilience, specifically:
B - Bad times don't last, and things get better.
O - Other people can only help if you share with them.
U - Unhelpful thinking only makes you feel worse.
N - Nobody is perfect - not you, not your friends, not your family, not anybody!
C - Concentrate on the good things in life, no matter how small.
E - Everybody suffers, everybody feels pain and experiences setbacks; they are a normal part of life.
B - Blame fairly - negative events are often a combination of things you did, and plain bad luck.
A - Accept what you can't change and try to change what you can.
C - Catastrophizing makes things worse - don't fall prey to believing in the worst interpretation.
K - Keep things in perspective. Even the worst moment is but one moment in life.
Start by thinking about a time in your life that was particularly challenging or demanding, especially on that was emotionally draining or difficult emotionally. Think abut how you handled that situation and eventually came through on the other side.
Next, answer these questions:
1. What was your goal?
2. What was the outcome?
3. What obstacles did you have to overcome?
4. What unpleasant feelings and thoughts do you remember having in the situation?
5. Who, if anyone, did you receive external help and support from?
6. What specific attitudes and skills helped you cope with the situation?
7. How would you rate your resilience in that situation?
8. Why wasn't it 0%?
9. What strengths and personal qualities helped you?
10. If it wasn't 100%, how could your resilience be improved during similar situations in the future?
11. Based on your experience how might you advise someone else to cope with a similar situation in the future?
Aside from the benefits and advantages we know resilience can bring, there is another type of resilience that can greatly enhance quality of life.
The Shame Resilience Theory was developed by author and researcher Brene Brown. Brown noticed that the fear of being vulnerable hindered meaningful connection with others, and one of the many reasons we fear vulnerability is the feeling of shame. Shame is an intense and negative feeling of being hopelessly flawed and unworthy of love and acceptance, and it affects all of us at one point r another, but it can be especially gripping for some people.
Shame resilience is a specific kind of resilience to the intensely negative feeling, and building it can do wonderful things for our self-confidence, empathy, and human connection.
According to Dr. Brown, there are four elements of shame resilience:
1) Recognizing shame and understanding our shame triggers (physical sensations like elevated heart rate of shaking).
2) Practicing critical awareness, of ourselves and of our environment and the way things work.
3) Reaching out to others and sharing ourselves and our stories (building a social support network).
4) Speaking shame to keep it from flying under the radar (Graham, 2015).
When we recognize shame and understanding our triggers, practice critical awareness, share with others, and keep shame out in the open, we lay the groundwork for a type of resilience that will greatly improve our connections with others, our self-esteem, and our overall well-being.