Why Resiliency is the Most Important Life Skill
How is it possible that some people can withstand being knocked down time and time again by life, whilst others break after the first big hit. How can someone keep pushing themselves through a horrible situation, whilst someone else quits. There are countless examples of individuals facing things that would destroy your average person, and yet they come out of it stronger. The recent bushfires in Australia were the worst ones seen in decades and took away people’s homes, livelihoods, and even lives in some cases. The trauma was extensive and terrifying. Less than a year later, the land and the people are moving forward and with time we will see them thrive once more. How can people overcome such terrible situations and come out stronger?
The answer is resiliency.
Resilience can be simply put as the ability to effectively adapt when faced with trauma, threat, or adversity. It can be found in every facet of life, from the plant that thrives in a hostile environment to the dog that remains sweet-natured despite abuse. From the child who is caught in a messy divorce to the family working full-time and making just enough to pay the bills. Being alive means facing struggles that must be overcome, and as such all living things need to develop some measure of resilience. The more resilient, the more able you are to be happy and thrive no matter what life throws at you.
So, what does resiliency mean?
Resiliency isn’t the ability to go through strife and difficulty unaffected. It’s not the ability to remain calm in a stressful situation while others panic, even though that is a benefit of resiliency. Individuals who are resilient still feel all the same things as those who are not resilient, they just know how to better direct their emotions into something productive rather than destructive. When a person is resilient, they can transform their experiences and mentality to focus on the future rather than dwell on the past. By doing this, the individual is less likely to develop unhealthy coping strategies that may create further issues down the line. Resiliency is the ability to look past the negatives of the moment and know that there are more positives in the future. Resiliency is the ability to withstand struggles and acknowledge them without being overwhelmed by them.
How can I develop resiliency?
Some people are naturally more resilient than others, but that doesn’t mean you can’t develop it. One of the important aspects of resiliency is the presence of a social network. Even though resilience might seem like an individual characteristic, humans are social creatures and no truly resilient person is a solitary one. We rely on each other for strength and encouragement, for support when times are tough. When thinking back to the bushfires, think of how many people over the world banded together to lend support to those affected. Being resilient doesn’t mean you have to do everything by yourself, it’s okay to ask for and accept help. Communication is very important as we need to accurately be able to express our needs in tough times to both ourselves and others.
To be resilient, you also need to have a comprehensive understanding of yourself, your flaws, and your strengths. This understanding enables you to work on your weaknesses and rely on your strengths in the tough times. When faced with adversity, if we are unaware of our weaknesses it is easy to be blindsided and fall into bad habits. If we are aware, however, then we can emphasise our strengths and work through our shortcomings to reach the other side. It’s also important to be flexible. Life is full of turns and twists, and so it is important to be flexible and adaptable if life takes you on an unexpected journey.
Perhaps the most important aspect of resiliency is self-perception, and not just regarding strengths and weaknesses. A resilient person has positive views of themselves and their abilities and knows that they can handle and overcome difficulties. Additionally, no matter what the circumstance, resilient individuals never see themselves as victims. Doing so assumes a lack of control or ability to handle the situation. Instead, resilient individuals view themselves as fighters; this acknowledges the circumstances but gives power and control to the individual to move forward. Victims live in the past; fighters look to the future. Developing resiliency isn’t something that will happen overnight, it’s the kind of thing that you don’t notice until you look back a year later and realise how much you’ve grown.
What do I do now?
Start small by working on the things you can control, and then slowly you will grow more able to handle the things you can’t. Resiliency is a valuable life skill that is helpful in every aspect of your life, no matter who you are. Whether you’re a teenager trying to make it through school, friendship drama, and figuring out what you want to do with your life, or a working professional trying to balance your career, bills, obligations, and social life, being resilient will enable you to face these challenges head on. Both unexpected disasters and routine life struggles can be better handled if you have some level of resiliency, and you will be happier overall for it.
Horn, S. R., & Feder, A. (2018). Understanding resilience and preventing and treating PTSD. Harvard review of psychiatry, 26(3), 158-174.