According to the Oxford English Dictionary, resilience is:
- the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.
- the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.
There are many different definitions of resilience. Hence, a common understanding of resilience is it being about the capacity to bounce back from life’s difficulties and hardship. However, being able to ‘bounce back’ does not account for how life moves on or that there is no fixed state on which to bounce back. Therefore, resilience can more helpfully be understood to be a way of being that enables people to recover from life’s adversities and become better.
People’s resilience is evident when confronted by stress, trauma and adversity in their lives. It is hard to assess resilience when things are going well. Everyone is innately resilient.
“We are all self-righting organisms wired for an innate motivational tendency, towards health, healing and growth” Diana Fosha.
Resilience looks different for each person. Nevertheless, some of the common qualities associated with being resilient include:
- acceptance: being able to accept life as it is and not as they would like it to be
- compassion: towards self and towards others
- connectedness: having social support and a sense of belonging
- determination and grit: persevering through discomfort rather than avoiding it or giving up
- forgiveness: putting the past in the past. Resentment is poisonous
- flexibility: not being attached to how things should be
- meaning and purpose: valuing one’s contribution to life.
Common myths about resilience
Dominant sociocultural ideas of resilience being about getting on with it and being thick skinned, can negate the importance of social support and the power of vulnerability.
Some people are inherently more resilient than others because of their individual personalities or characteristics. Resilience is not a tangible phenomenon that people have more, or less of, rather by the very nature of them being living creatures all people are innately resilient. Some people are more aware of and able to access their capacity to be resilient easier than others. This is shaped by their life experiences and their mindset.
Individual and group resilience
Individual resilience is interlinked with the resilience of the group (family, team, organisation, community) in which the person operates. Therefore, while it is important to pay attention to strengthening our own resilience it is also important to contribute to strengthening the resilience of the group(s) in which one works and lives.