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Nearly everything has a potential risk or shadow side. Even the hazards of predominantly beneficial things like yoga or having a positive attitude (so-called toxic positivity) have made headlines. Knowing the potential dangers can help us view things more wholly - containing both shadow and light. Like Disney's latest film Encanto so beautifully illustrates, any gift can help but then at some point harm us.
1. Resilience can be used dismissively
2. Resilience can carry the expectation of ever bouncing back
3. Resilience can convey self-judgment
4. Resilience can be used to push people harder and harder
A parent who may have difficulty tolerating the discomfort of a child’s distress may use resilience as a broad brush to gloss over the hurts that children endure in an adult world. “Oh, but kids are so resilient” is dismissive at best and could lead to inaction when protection is called for.
Telling someone that they are resilient can highlight a personal strength but could also be misunderstood as “You should be able to handle this. Don’t show us how much you are suffering.”
Resilience is, by definition, bouncing back or returning to a former state. When this is not possible or even probable, we may find ourselves stuck trying to go back in time. For example, if we have suffered a major health setback and are now pushing ourselves to return to how we used to be, we may not move forward fully in the new reality of our situation. Rehabilitation to a “new normal” can be frustrating to people who still want the old normal.
Our expectations of how things should be can blind us to what all of our options are. A more realistic and more hopeful approach may acknowledge how we exist in perpetual change over a lifespan. Acceptance of reality can help us continuously adapt our minds and bodies even if they are not as we ideally envisioned.
A myth of resilience is that if we are not able to adjust and adapt quickly, there is something wrong with us. The expectation that we should be stronger, more resilient, or more anything may not be the supportive self-talk we need to be resilient. A paradox, but one that should not be dismissed.
Perfectionism can sneak in and set our expectations to be ever-resilient, forgetting we are human and may need time to adjust to life’s inevitable changes. If resilience simply becomes another way for us to point out how we have missed the mark, it is no longer helpful.
Teaching health and resilience in the workplace can come with the expectation that if proper support is provided, employees will produce more and improve the bottom line. While this is true, especially for companies who want to keep employees long-term, it can distract from the more important bottom line of supporting people just because they are people with product and productivity coming in second.
Many employees are left feeling frustrated and burnt out after their improved performance led only to ever-increasing productivity expectations.
A healthy relationship with resilience considers that we are by our nature ever-adapting to change, and in this way, resilient. While resilience is something that can be practiced, it’s best not pushed.
In The Lakota Way, Joseph Marshall III writes about the 12 core qualities of the Sicangu Lakota Sioux for living well. The first two of these qualities, perseverance and humility, capture building healthy resilience.
To persevere is to persist and strive despite difficulties. To be humble is to be modest, unpretentious and respectful. Let’s all be healthy resilient: let’s all humbly persist.
You cannot forget [the words people called you] anymore than you cannot feel the wind when it blows. But if you learn to let the wind blow through you, you will take away its power to blow you down. If you let the words pass through you, without letting them catch on your anger or pride, you will not feel them.
Words can hurt, but only if you let them.
They called you bad names. Were you changed into the things they called you?
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