I used to pride myself on my ability to bounce back. When something significant happened to me, generally I was able to wake up the next day as a fresh start and put it behind me. People would commend me on it, and it made me feel like I was strong and resilient.
What I was actually doing, on a very deep subconscious level, was not allowing myself to feel things, and in doing so, denying myself the opportunity to process them. I developed a tolerance for things that felt bad by simply becoming numb.
I was living a lie, but not deliberately so, my brain was finding a way to stay safe and protect me from pain. I say was, it still does by the way, I am just getting a little better at calling it out.
A better definition of resilience
Recently I have been blessed to spend some time with Josh Connolly, largely as I invited him to come and work with the Launchpad team on this very subject and to be a guest on my podcast, Pancakes and Peacocks. He has a beautiful take on resilience.
“Resilience is about connecting with my authenticity to understand myself well enough to know exactly what I’m feeling, so that I can get the resources in my life to be able to deal with the way that I feel. That doesn’t mean that I am not allowed to struggle, that doesn’t mean that I am not able to find life difficult.”
He goes further when he talks about honesty with ourselves; when we show up for everyone else around us and what we think they want us to be, we do so at the expense of ourselves. Rather than building relationships based on who we are, we work out who you need and want us to be and give you that person.
In doing so, we deny everyone (us included) the opportunity for authenticity in that moment.
In denying the reality of my emotions to myself, I was also denying the reality of myself to others. When people met the seemingly happy and ‘moving on with things’ me, they weren’t really getting to meet the real me, they were getting the version of me I thought they wanted and needed.
When we deny ourselves the opportunity to feel what is real to us, we deny ourselves access to authenticity. Authenticity starts with our ability to be honest with ourselves first, and continues when we become whole enough within ourselves to be honest with others.
Developing resilience is about developing flexibility
For me that has meant developing a toolkit that enables me to be able to know how to get back to myself, based on whatever comes my way. I highly recommend starting to consider what you might need in yours.
I can’t tell you what you need, that is something that only you can figure out. My toolkit looks a little like this:
Finding the means to connect to my body, for me that means using a gentle breath meditation. I do this every morning for 10-15 minutes. For me, developing a daily practice as been an essential part of enabling my emotional stability, and my ability to cope with the challenges of life.
I need my days to follow a set structure to thrive, before that I operated in chaos. My bedtimes and my wake up times are set, in the mornings I meditate, move and then take the time to do whatever I need before I start my working day. I eat at the same times every day, and sleep hygiene is super important to me. I always have 2 hours between eating and sleeping, and allow myself some screen free time before I attempt to sleep. My journey with rest has been a critical part of my overall mental flexibility.
Letting go of tolerance to allow space for the support and love of others in a very real way. Coming back to Josh on this one: “Resilience is not about being insular, it is not about doing it on our own, accepting the support of other people is an act of resilience”.
I have had to work really hard to accept the love and support of others. I have had to work to let my guard down and learn what I need in terms of the support of others. I now have my team assembled that support me in different ways on different things, and I am always adding new members.
For me that means things like the conversation that I have with myself when no one else is around and the way that I look at myself in the mirror. The way I forgive myself if I get something wrong.
I also love myself by taking care of myself and my environment. I aim to start each day feeling as good as I possibly can be and am always thinking about the future me when it comes to the level of care I take for the things around me.
That’s what works for me my friends, the key is to find what works for you and to play around with it.
Supporting yourself to support others
A big part of the way we are able to develop our collective resilience will come in the way we are able to support one another.
When someone tells you something that is hard to hear, we don’t like the feeling that they are bringing us, so we often give them false positivity, or try to troubleshoot their challenges. I know I have been so guilty of this, the fixer in me just doesn’t want to quit. In reality we need to develop our own ability to withstand someone else’s truth.
We develop the means to withstand emotions and feelings from another person when we have developed enough within ourselves not to be pulled into them. That doesn’t mean the trigger doesn’t happen, it just means that we have developed the muscle that means that we are okay sitting within it when it does.
We experienced this as a team at Launchpad in Josh’s workshop, where we divided into pairs and have a few minutes each sharing a moment where we developed resilience. We listened, we loved, we supported and we held space for one another. It was a beautiful thing indeed.
As Josh puts it; “…rather than seeking to make someone else better, we actually need to help them be better at feeling.” We do that by allowing them the space to do so, with honest enquiry, and from a place of gentle, loving discovery. By listening fully, by caring enough to take the time to understand where they are and by simply just letting them speak.
This was a huge reflection for me in terms of how I have shown up for others in the past, and one I take forward with me in terms of how I will show up in future.