Resilience for Real People
Resilience for real people, including you.
The quality of resilience is a strength you can build.
Being able to re-find your sense of self isn’t something you have to be born with.
Resilience isn’t just for super humans.
Its not something only Wonder Woman can do.
Resilience is a quality, a strength, that real people just like you and me can develop.
The ability to recover from setbacks and be stronger than you were before, to be both tougher and more gentle at the same time, is a skill you can practice and learn, just like yoga or horseback riding.
What is Resilience?
According to the very helpful dictionary on my Mac laptop the word resilience is a noun, defined in one light as: “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness” and in another light takes on the meaning: “the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.” In practice, resilience is the ability to get back up when life knocks you down, and to do so while keeping your innate sense of self intact. Resilience can also be described as having a healthy sense of stubborn determination to keep going, even when it seems like everyone else in the world is giving you their opinion that you are on the wrong path, again. Often resilience is knowing your inner truth despite others trying to impose their ideas of who they think you should be on you.
A Realization About Resilience
It never occurred to me that I was resilient.
That is, until a close friend asked me how in the world I was so resilient.
I was shocked. Truly shocked. Shocked so much my hair might as well have been standing on end as if I had gotten struck by lightening - comic book style. I had never pictured myself as resilient - at all. In fact, I often felt very weak and broken at the time. The idea that I was recovering quickly from setbacks or that my spirit was springing back into shape at all felt - foreign. And not just a little bit. Very, very foreign - and definitely strange!
What in the universe did resilience have to do with me?
At the time my friend asked that question I cried a lot, was angry a lot, and physically hurting all the time. I also slept a lot. Resilience felt very far away.
The conversation started when she quietly asked me how my ongoing recovery was coming along. At the time I was still recovering from the emergency eye surgery I had endured the summer before. I was honest, because she’s a great friend, and was genuinely curious. She said if she had gone through as much as I had that year, she would have curled up under a blanket hiding with the cat and never come out again.
I recall saying I wasn’t handling the recovery well, because I didn't think I was. I was having a lot of difficulty coping with how incredibly challenging everyday tasks had become. Everything was hard. Small and big daily life tasks required constant attention and adjustments from the deceptively simple act of sleeping, to driving - even in low traffic times. Going to the grocery store and looking down the busy bright aisles was very painful. Everyday tasks had become difficult (and still are over five years later).
Then she quietly asked how in the world I kept getting back up and trying and trying and trying. “How are you so resilient? I would be on the floor crying after a just a day of this, let alone a year with no end in sight! How do you keep going and making art despite everything…..?????”, her voice trailed off.
I was stunned. My mind spun off racing and off kilter at the thought of how at odds the idea that I could be resilient was with how I felt. I terribly weak both physically and at heart. Why did I see myself as so weak? Was my friend was pointing out a truth I had not recognized in myself before?
I felt weak because I cried when the pain or frustration got overwhelming - but I didn’t take those feelings out on others or generally begrudge their good fortune to be healthy. I felt weak because I needed so much sleep, yet I needed the sleep to heal, and there is nothing weak about healing. I felt weak because going down a grocery store aisle at all required that I train myself to keep my eyes looking straight ahead, and when I needed to look around the food aisles I learned to use my whole body and neck to do so, that way my eyes didn't have to move. The thing I hadn’t seen was that I had found a way to be independent so I could grocery shop, despite the injury to my eye. And I needed self discipline to create the habit and keep it in place. That's not weak. Not at all.
Most importantly, I hadn’t sat around saying my art career was over. Certainly I questioned if I could still make art, quite a lot, for along time. Yet…bit by bit I created an environment in my art studio that catered to the health of my eyes. I took my time and slowly relearned to draw and paint. It was hard at first. Really hard. I had a lot of doubt if my efforts would pay off, especially since I could lose the eye I had that surgery on at anytime. The eye is very delicate now, and always will be. There is only so much that can be done for certain types of injuries. But I didn't let all that keep me from trying. And trying. And…trying!
Suddenly I realized what resilience is - and why my friend saw me as resilient. I kept trying. I kept trying to find ways to be me. I kept trying to figure out what would make the situation better. Instead of choosing to see nothing but the awful, I choose to see the possibilities, even if I could only manage to see them for a few minutes every day.
I am resilient (and stubborn).
I didn’t give up. I kept trying. I learned how to be resilient because I stubbornly refused to believe that I was “disabled” for life.
I am resilient.
And you can be, too.
Recognizing Resilience In Your Self
What You Need to Start Becoming Resilient
You do not have to be born with resilience. A little stubbornness and a bit of determination help, but are not needed to begin. Stubbornness and determination are strengths you develop right along with resilience. The only thing you need to start becoming more and more resilient is a willingness to try. And try and try. One foot in front of another style. Where we start is different for all of us, for some resilience can begin with being willing to get out of bed and try to walk a few steps, for someone else resilience might begin with just taking the insulin bottle out of the fridge, and for you resilience could begin with taking an hour off from all the never ending must do list to take a warm shower and curl up with a good business blog like Ash Ambirge’s Middle Finger Project.
Acknowledging Your Own Resilience
When you are seeking to become resilient or grow the your inner strength of resilience it helps to talk to a good friend who can be honest in a loving and compassionate way with you. A truly good friend often sees you with a clarity that others lack. Or seek a good counselor or therapist. They are trained to help you be honest with yourself - and that includes acknowledging both when you didn't do so well and more importantly when you choose to bring light into the world when you could have just as easily chosen darkness.
If you are on you own right now, that’s okay. Sometimes being on our own is the best way to get to know ourselves truly quickly. In the case that it’s just you, KNOW that your higher self is right there with you. So even though you are forging ahead on your own, the universe is with you guiding and encouraging you to be the amazing being you are. Finding and choosing to read this blog post is proof of that.
Acknowledging your resilience is looking with honest eyes at what you did just today. There is a big likelihood that your inner resilience was kicking in - even if just for a few minutes. Did you choose to find ways to do something that helped you feel more independent, a bit creative, or sassy? Did you stand up for yourself - even if it was disengaging from a fight because know you have nothing to prove? (My favorite part of the movie Captain Marvel!!! Go see it right now if you like Guardians of the Galaxy or Black Panther or Wonder Woman at all!) Finding your inner resilience begins with seeing those small moments where you have chosen to try, to try again, and to keep going even if only for a minute. Remember, resilience is a strength you can build with practice and a willingness to get up and try again. And again. And again.
The Keys to Building Up Your Resilience
The first key to resilience is consciously choosing to move through life in ways that restore and cultivate your sense of self.
The second key to resilience is to allow yourself to rest and recoup when you need to for awhile, but then take the next step forward towards your dreams, and the next one, and the next one. Even when things spin out of nowhere into your path. You find ways to get over, through, or around like water in a flowing brook. Water doesn’t let the rocks keep it from flowing forward.
The third key to resilience is listening to your feelings and acknowledging their source. Why do you feel that way? Where are those feelings come from? Am I feeling happy? Why? Am I ready to release this sadness? Why or why not? When you listen to your feelings you find out more and more who really are and what you are here to do, which helps you bring your dreams to life.
Now go try and build up those resilience “muscles”. You’ve got this!
If this was helpful for you, use the sign up below for my inbox art letters. I’m currently working on a course about developing your inner strength of resilience. It’s going to be powerfully full of light and art. The wonderful people who are in on the inbox art letters get first dibs.
Don’t miss out on it!