the trouble with resilience

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Resilience is like the mother load of all personality traits. It’s one of the best ones. If you’re resilient, it doesn’t matter if you suck – you are likely capable of coping with it, then adapting to better suit your environment, and trying again [ bouncing back ].

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In a world of positive bias, resilience represents strength, confidence, effort and ability – all the things that are good in the world. And we get really excited about it; celebrating resilient kids, or relying on the resilience of the stock market, working our resilience muscles so they are as big as our minds, bodies and souls can contain. We can’t get enough.

But the world is made of balance and everything positive has a limit, where it becomes a vulnerability, or a downfall. And resilience isn’t bullet proof – it has a rarely considered downside as well.

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Resilience can be hella confusing : Resilient people are capable of coping but don’t always feel resilient [ I know – what?! ] :

  • There are moments and days when all efforts at resilience [ coping ] escape you
  • On those days, you may feel weak [ not resilient ]
  • But a resilient person recognizes that not all days will be made of unicorns and sunshine, not all battles will be won, not all emotions are enjoyable to go through
  • So a resilient person will feel the shittiest of shitty days
  • But understands that it’s a part of life, it’s temporary, and this too shall pass
  • And will bounce back when they’re ready
  • [ and repeat ]

Demonstrating resilience may encourage us to overlook a conflict that needs to be resolved : When a weed grows through the cracks in the pavement it demonstrates resilience. That doesn’t mean that we should pour cement over all our green spaces. When nature still exists despite pollution, we are at risk of doing nothing; seeing only the resilience and forgetting about the problem.

Adaptability may look like resilience, but isn’t always : When we are so resilient that we are able to adapt and thrive despite an unhealthy environment, I think this is when our strength stops being resilience. And resilience becomes selfishness instead; only considering whether we can thrive ( forget you endangered species ), or whether we can thrive now ( forget you children-are-our-future ).

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Sometimes what we think is resilience is actually complacency : A positive outlook stops being a strength if something is wrong in your environment [ ahem – global warming ] but you put your blinders on and shut it out. It’s not resilience when you forget how effing rad you are and how you are capable of being part of change. When the status quo is all you’re maintaining, you may want to re-evaluate whether the status quo was good enough.

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I have a confession to make – resilience is one of my favorite things. It makes us humans incredible and it’s one of the traits that we have in common with nature [ and nature is my home girl ].

You build it through caring [ how cool is that ?! ]. Fill up other people’s buckets, and fill up your own. But consider building resilience carefully: paying attention to how you practice resilience and critically thinking about whether your resilience is serving more than just you. Because in an ideal world, resilient people make resilient communities; giving as much as they take and living in balance.



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