Not to be controversial, but I have a love-hate relationship with the concept of emotional resilience. Often, the idea we have of it is one of unbeatable strength.
One of emotional courage and bravery, an almost herculean capability to stand up after being thrown down by life. I don’t think resilience is as clear-cut and cheerful as that; for me, resilience can sometimes look like a good cry.
I think resilience is the hope it takes to get back up. Resilience is survival. And survival isn’t pretty.
We’re all dealt different cards, for sure, but I won’t be the one to say it’s a necessary deck to be dealt with. There is never a good time for bad things to happen.
So when it does, when adversity strikes, what do emotionally resilient people have in common?
Here are 10 of them:
1) They know their capabilities
There’s nothing arrogant about resiliency, like I said, resilience is survival. And have you met survivors?
Survivors are humble, often weighed down by their experiences, there’s no arrogance in that. It’s wisdom from lived experiences.
And oh boy do they know their capabilities. They know that they are not their circumstances and they are more capable than they first thought.
The unknown is scary—terrifying, in fact—and the uncertainty of it could be paralyzing. Resilient people can comparatively adapt better to uncertainty.
2) They know their limitations
As much as emotionally resilient people know their capabilities, they also know their limits. This isn’t a matter of only knowing what they cannot do, but rather what they WILL NOT do.
Resilient people set and respect their boundaries. They do not do everything. They do not claim to know how to do everything either.
Resilient people ask for help. Resilient people rest.
3) They identify what needs changing
Knowledge is power. Information is power, but also a responsibility in itself. What separates the resilient from the rest of us are the actions that they take after knowing the problem.
Resilient people are proactive, they take initiative in situations that require it. They face problems head-on. They don’t wait for other people to act before they start.
This isn’t to say that fear isn’t present, this is to say that courage is.
4) They accept what they cannot change
Another hot take: There will be things, people, and situations that cannot be changed. Not because of a lack of trying, mind you, but because of the depth and enormity of the problem.
When it’s a losing battle, sometimes it’s hard to accept that, especially when as a society, we are taught to continue trying until we succeed.
When acceptance is more difficult than persistence, the emotionally resilient know when to step back.
Additionally, they know when to let others give it a try.
5) They trust other’s capabilities
Related to the second point of knowing limitations, resilient people also trust others’ capabilities.
“Teamwork makes the dream work. No man is an island. It takes a village.”
These are three statements used for different circumstances, but the bottom line is this: There is strength in numbers.
When I say that one person cannot do everything, this isn’t me minimizing or diminishing people’s ability to overcome whatever may come, this is to say that we all have our expertise.
We bring different things to the table so to speak. And along with these individual skills, resilient people also carry a lot of trust in them.
Trust that a situation will get better, trust that this too shall pass, trust that they have people they can turn to, trust that what needs to be done will get done, etc.
Trust is a deceptively simple concept that so many of us fail to do but resilient people get to manage. That sweet spot between naive and hyper-independent, you know?
6) They are patient
Patience is another deceptively simple concept that many of us will fail to exercise.
Personally, I’m a very impatient person, I cannot wait for things to fall into place and I will anxiously watch paint dry if that’s what it’ll take.
Resilient people are patient, they know that if things turn upside down, it will take time to make it right.
Mind you, I’m not talking about passively waiting, I’m talking about exercising patience after all is said and done.
7) They persevere
Seeing yet how the points are interconnected? Perseverance is also another deceptively simple concept that only some are capable of doing.
The big and encompassing idea here is balance.
The balance of knowing both capabilities and limitations, of being proactive yet patient, of knowing when to persevere and when to accept what cannot be changed. All of these take time to learn.
Resilience is a product of lived experiences.
Some people take lifetimes to learn it and some never do. Some people face hardship and give up, stumble once, and never get back up again.
The resilient fights.
The resilient are stubborn, there is a hunger to survive.
8) They feel the feelings
This seems obvious and even silly to add but emotionally resilient people feel the feelings.
They don’t run away from what they feel, they don’t pretend it isn’t there. No elephants in the room this time, no feelings being swept under the rug.
From acknowledging the enormity and depth of the feeling to accepting that it needs to be processed, whether by themselves or with a professional.
Emotional maturity, you know? Also something that comes from lived experiences rather than just age.
9) They have a sense of humor
I’m not sure if you’re going to agree with this statement but some of the funniest people I’ve met are also some of the most resilient.
You just have to find a way to make light of a bad situation, if only to get out of it in one piece.
You just have to find your laughter again, even if it’s just to make fun of yourself; to not take yourself too seriously.
To believe that you will find a reason to smile again.
10) They ask for help
This is heavily connected to #5 on this list. And I even mentioned it a little bit on #8. Asking for help.
I know, right? Shocker. However, even outside of the topic of resiliency, asking for help is important. It’s a reality that, frankly, a lot of us need to learn more.
To ask for help—whether from our support system or a professional. The load is lighter when shared after all.
I personally need to learn to unburden myself more, and I am very aware that it affects how I process my emotions.
Ways to improve resilience:
Hot take: Resilience is earned.
Resilience isn’t innate and we all could work on ours if we wanted to. Essentially, it’s a skill that could be improved upon.
And so, that’s why, I didn’t want to end this article without at least including a few ways to improve emotional resilience.
This isn’t exhaustive as a list, but it’s a good place to start:
1) Lean into your support system
As I said, there is strength in numbers, so it’s almost a no-brainer to have this point here.
And perhaps asking for help is difficult and feels like an imposition, so why not try accepting help when it is offered first?
Mindful.org defined mindfulness as, “…the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”
Additionally, Mayo Clinic says, “Practicing mindfulness involves breathing methods, guided imagery, and other practices to relax the body and mind and help reduce stress.”
Find one that works for you and your lifestyle!
“You can’t pour from an empty cup,” is one of the most resounding statements I’ve come across in recent memory. I keep repeating it in hopes that it will reach whom it needs to.
Self-care is often associated with activities that are typically seen as indulgent, but that isn’t always the case (although there is nothing wrong with indulging from time to time, too!)
Above all else, treat yourself kindly, give your body the care that it deserves.
Give your emotions the attention it requires, listen to your heart of hearts. Be accountable for the rest you need to be giving yourself—whether that be physically or mentally.
The hustle and bustle of our day-to-day life is so incredibly taxing and unending that it’s understandable that we forget to pause. Being intentional about our care, while also exhausting, is necessary.
4) Practice gratitude
Gratitude. What is it?
Technically, practicing gratitude is considered a mindfulness technique but this point deserves its own paragraph just the same.
There’s this quote that I keep on seeing recently, “You’re in the middle of what you used to dream about, be thankful.” And we often get so lost in our pursuits that it sometimes feels like a rat race.
So pause for a moment and think back on how you got here. The people who stood by you, those who helped you when the going got so tough.
How you got yourself here, all grit and good intentions.
The tiny wins, the losses that turned into lessons. To focus on what you have and have achieved. To not only acknowledge the good, be thankful for it.
You’re in the middle of all of that, friend, I hope you pause to notice.
All the best!