Building Big Muscles
Have you ever been asked to tell a group of people what one of your superpowers is? If not, just know that someday someone will be asking you. So, think about it. If I were to ask you right now, what would you say?
Here are some common superpowers I hear from others: Compassion, Empathy, Connecting, Organizing, Listening, Generosity, Insight, Integrity. All these are great superpowers.
Yup, that’s it. Resilience.
What makes this one so special? Let’s talk a bit about what resilience is. The Oxford Dictionary defines it as “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties, toughness”. I’m not sure how to define quickly in some of the situations I’ve been in, but I’ve definitely recovered and developed a toughness.
Sometimes people ask me how I have overcome all the cards I have been dealt and still come out the other side normal (I know, that is definitely a judgment call). I’m not sure I can answer that, honestly. I do know at times it felt like the only option I had. Put on my big girl panties and take the next right step, as these overused statements say.
“Resilience is accepting your new reality, even if it's less good than the one you had before. You can fight it, you can do nothing but scream about what you've lost, or you can accept that and try to put together something that's good.”
― Elizabeth Edwards
Reflecting on the definition above, I will say I have developed a toughness and I’m not always sure that serves me. I wonder if it’s possible to have resilience without the toughness. Perhaps it’s a matter of knowing my toughness suit keeps me from connecting with others, letting others support me, and even helping me find a little easier way to navigate those difficult situations.
Does everyone possess resilience or is it something that is developed as situations come up? As an educator, I remember the helicopter parents and how these parents would hover, so their child didn’t have to experience any difficulty. Once an adult, do these children struggle more with resiliency, or are they able to build that muscle over time?
Without doing a research project, I will just have to speak from my own experience. I can remember the first trip to the principal’s office for a significant situation I caused. (Little ol’ me did just that for sure.) After that trip to Mr. Rumsey’s (the principal, no relation) office, a few too many lies, and my grandfather picking me up, I began to develop that resiliency muscle.
“Persistence and resilience only come from having been given the chance to work through difficult problems.”
― Gever Tulley
I did some more weightlifting throughout life to really build that same muscle, because of situations that occurred. Almost getting kicked out of college freshman year for a GPA of 1.25, divorce, alcohol, moving, money problems, moving, divorce, and so on. And these are just some of the major experiences. I won’t bore you with the name-calling on the playground, not being elected cheerleader…you get it.
Not sure resilience would be a superpower without all those experiences. If you have any thoughts, I would love for you to drop your thoughts in the comment section.
Let me give you a few skills that stood out for me as I was reading Psychology Today. In the March 2020 issue Katherine King Psy.D points out the following tools:
Skill 1: Build a Belief in Your Ability to Cope
When we are going through knee-deep shit, being overwhelmed can be a result. Validate that feeling or any others you may be having and identify any capacities you can bring to this situation to help you. Remember the NLP Presupposition- Everything you need for dealing with this situation is inside you.
Skill 2: Stay Connected With Sources of Support
This may be where that toughness piece gets in the way. This is the time you should stay in touch with those who can support you even more than ever. As social beings, we were meant to do life together and support each other. This would be the time to make sure that is happening. Accept the meals, offers to run errands, and other’s willingness to listen.
During these crazy times, you may find support in the virtual world. Social media groups, online activities, and conferences as just a few ways to connect.
Skill 3: Talk About What You’re Going Through
We often feel that others don’t need to hear or even want to hear what is going on, and we know that not talking about it can lead to not processing and being able to move on. 12 Step programs are great for this if you are involved in one. Grief support groups can also do the same. Look for groups or even individuals who are willing to support you.
WARNING: Social media is NOT the place to vent or even put vague comments about the situation. The people who respond to venting there are the same people who will keep you stuck in the problem and not help you build that resiliency muscle.
Skill 4: Serve Others
This is one of the traditions of AA. When a situation pops up that is stressful, problematic, or doesn’t feel good: Serve Others. This will help you to get out of yourself and what is going on in your life and focus on something else.
This doesn’t have to be a Mother Theresa act of service. It could be as simple as sweeping the neighbors sidewalk of leaves, taking the grocery carts back, or even walking someone’s dog.
Skill 5: Turn on Positive Emotion
Even though it may seem difficult, find things that make you laugh, and/or bring you joy. Binge watch a humorous sitcom, walk in a flower garden, visit a nearby park. My favorite: Find the gifts that are coming from the situation, because there are many.
We will all have situations that are painful, hurtful, and seem hard to navigate. We can build resilience muscles when we are young are when we are old. We can choose to learn from these situations or to stuff all the feelings that come with them. And we can choose to grow into a happy person who comes at life as being responsible for how life plays out for them or remain a victim of circumstance.
What will you choose?