Why Is It Important To Be Resilient?
Emma (aged 22, MSc student at the University of Bristol) and Habon (aged 18, currently studying for her A levels) are both peer facilitators at Resilience Lab. Here are some of their thoughts on what resilience is, how it’s helped them & why it’s important for young people.
‘Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better’ – Samuel Beckett
Emma: I have been part of the Resilience Lab since I was 19, and now I stand teetering on the brink of 22. Only two short years, but casting my mind back over the time I think how many changes, good and bad, that have happened in my life. Family changes, the seemingly endless cycle of friendships falling by-the-wayside and then being inexplicably resuscitated, exams, essays and heartbreak, jobs won and jobs abandoned and my own oscillating emotional state which goes up and down with or against these changes. And through this all I am constantly reminded of how important it is to be resilient, because life is not always going to be easy. Sometimes even the best changes can seem scary and impossible at first. Stress in an inevitability – a little bit of which can even be good and push us to do things we otherwise wouldn’t. However, more stress than we can cope with can cause us to become unwell or run ourselves into the ground. Developing our resilience can help us become more able to adapt to the changes, good and bad, in our lives.
Someone once told me that being a teenager is the hardest thing I’ll ever do.
Habon: Like Emma, my time at the Resilience Lab has also been a very personal experience. Over the past year and a half that I have spent with the Lab I have been coping with the pressures of school, the pressures of society and having to make important decisions about my future; throughout all this the Resilience Lab has become a sort of rock for me and I knew that I could cling onto it when everything else started to get on top of me.
Someone once told me that being a teenager is the hardest thing I’ll ever do. It is for this reason that sharing ways to build resilience for other young people is so important for us at Off The Record.
Emma: As Habon has said resilience is especially important for young people to develop. We grow and change so rapidly. We are constantly thrown into situations which are entirely new to us. We make mistakes. But resilience enables us to reflect on these mistakes and learn from them. Instead of getting caught up in a negative automatic thought cycle, which turns an experience into a belief which then dictates how we feel about ourselves and things we choose to do, we bounce back stronger than before. For example, at school you may get a bad grade in a subject and this may cause you to believe you are stupid and it is not worthwhile for you to pursue that or any subject. Some marks I have got during my time at uni have made me seriously consider quitting, until I have stopped, put things into perspective, talked to someone, reflected on why I did badly and what I am still good at? Fears of failure and feelings of inadequacy have become more fleeting thanks the self-acceptance I have gained through developing my resilience.
Habon: When we first introduce resilience to young people perhaps one of the most important messages we aim to impart is that these are learnable skills.
…if I could learn how to overcome adversity why on earth wouldn’t I jump at the opportunity?
This was something that really resonated with me; if I could learn how to overcome adversity why on earth wouldn’t I jump at the opportunity?
Emma: That’s not to say developing your resilience is easy. It can feel counterintuitive or uncomfortable to suddenly start treating yourself with kindness – it might not be something you’re used to. Certainly, culturally we are told at school, in the workplace or in the media to focus on what we are bad at, to magnify our flaws and try to change them.
Habon: I agree, building resilience can be difficult as we’ve been conditioned to be our own worst enemy and yet there’s something wonderfully defiant in challenging your negative thoughts.
Emma: At the Resilience Lab we encourage people to reflect on their strengths and understand how to use them to challenge life’s stresses in their own unique way. And yes, it is a fantastically empowering challenging your own negative thoughts and the mainstream thought of society.
Other important parts of resilience go against the grain of the mainstream too. Society glorifies the busy and frowns upon ‘taking a break’. Part of learning to cope with life’s stresses is to discover and practice relaxation strategies which calm you, even if just for a moment. At the Resilience Lab we encourage people to share their own strategies and we introduce people to ones that they might not be familiar with, such as mindfulness. A lot of it is about experimenting and learning that it’s ok if something is not for you, but to try it anyway.
The most important part of resilience I have developed is vulnerability.
The most important part of resilience I have developed is vulnerability. To be vulnerable is to be open to asking others for help. It is to be flawed. It is to open yourself up to people’s compliments and their criticisms. It is to attempt things you know you might fail at and to go back again for more. It is knowing when to ask for help. Of course, your own vulnerability and that of others, must be handled appropriately and with care. But developing all the parts of resilience, means being vulnerable and pursuing new and exciting things in life is not so scary.
Habon: I know that through building my resilience I’ve been able to better cope with all of the pressures of being a young person in today’s society and I am now a much happier person.
Emma: Yes, I think that’s the hope really – to feel just a bit better or a bit happier than when you started.