Grittily persevering in building resilience

I have a lot to thank Chumbawamba for.

You remember it:  “I get knocked down, but I get up again, You are never gonna keep me down …..”   If there was ever a song about resilience, surely that’s it.

I’m not ashamed to say I loved the tub-thumping, toe-tapping chart topper that you just couldn’t get out of your head.  And yes, there were times it did make me feel better. Up, happy, virtuously resilient.  Me too, Chumba, I get back up again. Nothin’s gonna keep me down.

We hear a lot about resilience these days, along with perseverance and, more recently, grit. Aunty Google defines resilience as “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness” and “the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.”  Perseverance is typically applied to mastering or completing a task, while grit has been defined by psychologist Angela Duckworth as a “special combination of passion and persistence”.

I wasn’t taught about resilience when I was growing up.  I was taught to “pull myself up by my boot straps”, which really just meant get on with it; don’t show what you’re feeling, don’t fall apart. Cope.

But things have got me down over the years, and still do.  Being bullied by colleagues at work.  When a horrible boss unfairly chewed me out in front of other managers without reason.  Life changing grief and loss.   And I’ve ended up feeling a failure at times when I haven’t coped – or haven’t coped the way I thought was “right”.

In more recent years, I’ve had a chance to think about resilience – my own in particular– and realised how important this quality is in life.  And having been an EA for a lot of my career, I would say without reservation that resilience is nothing less than a survival skill in this profession!

One of the best things I’ve learned about resilience is that it’s a quality that can be built and developed.  While I can learn about it from reading, courses, and professionals in the field, I can really only develop it by doing it. Having a go at something.  Trying and failing and trying again.

For me, resilience doesn’t mean I have to be superwoman and it certainly doesn’t mean I have to be a door mat.  It means being honest with myself – and others, when appropriate – about how I’m feeling, and doing what I need to do with that: whether its leaning on a friend or loved one for support, giving myself time to heal, or even reaching out for some professional help. It means letting stuff go, not churning over it.  It means not beating myself up for not being perfect.  It can mean “suiting up and fronting up” when I don’t want to, or equally taking time out when it’s the best thing for me.  It means having a go, and if it doesn’t work out, having another go, or trying something else.  Often, it means not taking myself or life so seriously.

I must be on the right track, because someone much wiser than me pretty much thought the same thing:

“Our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising up, every time we fall.” — Confucius

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