Tag Archive | optimism

Resilience and Life’s Hard Knocks—What Keeps Us Growing

“Resilience is that ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever. Rather than letting failure overcome them and drain their resolve, they find a way to rise from the ashes. Psychologists have identified some of the factors that make someone resilient, among them a positive attitude, optimism, the ability to regulate emotions, and the ability to see failure as a form of helpful feedback. Even after a misfortune, blessed with such an outlook, resilient people are able to change course and soldier on.”   ~Psychology Today~

 

Today, resilience has been on my mind.  Why do some people seem to thrive and grow and keep moving forward despite unfortunate life circumstance?  The answer is that they possess a quality called resilience, that springy, bounciness that has them back up on their feet quickly after a fall, dusting themselves, and moving forward stronger than before.  Resilient people are the Timex watches of the world; They take a licking and keep on ticking.  Resilient people are beautiful, and I know a lot of them.  I am a resilient person, too.  They do not turn to anger, and bitterness, and blame of the world, and everyone in it, when life is less than ideal, either by uncontrollable circumstances, or because of their own mistakes and poor choices.  Resilient people do not just take lemons and turn them into lemonade.  No, instead they make a lemon mousse with a blueberry coulis 😉

What constitutes resilience?  In a nutshell, it is the ability to cope with unfortunate life events without getting dragged down to too long.  Resilience comes more easily for some people, both emotional and physical resilience.  Some people are just born more naturally optimistic, positive, and flexible.  Some people learn resilience along the way, as life provides more experiences from which to recover.  Age plays a factor in resilience, as does experience at surviving and thriving.  When we’ve been through a lot, and we’ve kept going, and remained hopeful, and optimistic, and see that behavior works better than blaming or negativity, we develop more traits associated with resilience.

Yes, resilient people have certain traits.  First off, they are aware of their own emotions, and what causes them, and they learn to manage them.  This may take more time for some, especially the managing part.  I was always aware of my emotions, and generally aware of where they were coming from, but learning to manage them took, and still takes, time.  I am a sensitive, and fairly reactive, very expressive person.  However, I am also easy going.  As my sister says, “For a high strung person, you’re incredibly easy going.”  It’s true.  I don’t sweat the small stuff, and the older I get, the more I realize most of it is small stuff.  “It’s not the end of the world,” is a phrase I say out loud many times a day.  Trust me.  It’s really not.

Resilient people persevere.  They do not give up often, or easily.  I often liken myself to one of those blow up clowns with sand in the bottom.  You punch them and punch them but they just pop right back up.  My ability to pop back up time and again is because I never lose hope.  I often say that I am a “Hope springs eternal” kind of gal, and that’s true, too.  Resilient people, no matter how low they go, always have hope that tomorrow is going to be better, so they keep pushing forward towards that tomorrow.

Resilient people are internally focused.  What that means is that, instead of looking out at the world, blaming and shaming finger pointed at anything and everyone who crosses their path, they know inside that they are in control of their lives, their choices, their outcomes.  This isn’t done with perfection, or 100% of the time, and for many their are occasional missteps where the locus moves to the external, at what’s happening to them.  However, the resilient person won’t stay in the external for long.  They will go back inside themselves, examine their role in what’s going on, and begin problem solving.  They will find a solution, often through a change in their own attitude, or behavior.  That is why resilient people grow from mistakes, and poor choices and behaviors, and from life itself.

A resilient person will always find a bright side to any circumstance.  We are positive, optimistic people.  At the same time, perhaps because of this life view, resilient people have good support systems of friends, family, and others who are like minded, and who help shore them up during those experiences in life that we label “bad.”

Resilience is essential to recovery, whether it be from alcoholism and addiction, loss, trauma and abuse.  It’s my belief that everyone is in recovery from something, whether it be a job loss, a bad work evaluation, a divorce, or a stubbed toe, and bad traffic on the way to work.  Resilience allows us accept even undesirable outcomes, forgive, move on, and finally let go, usually coming out better and strong for the experience.  Resilient people are bright, shiny, and sparkling.  The don’t hold grudges, and they do not look back for too long.  They are not trapped by their past, a slave to their present, and they don’t worry a lot about the future.

I don’t know if I emerged from the womb a resilient person.  I think I probably had the traits on the delivery table.  Life’s hard knocks began early, and I learned some pretty crummy coping mechanisms along the way, though they are probably what kept me alive.  I’ve done anger, and blame at points in my life and I HATED how that felt.  I never could hold a grudge 😉 I have always had hope.  I have always known it was going to get better.  I have always kept going even when others thought it impossible, that I’d never make it through alive this time.  I have learned how to be more resilient with each tough experience, and with each tough experience I have become more myself.

Today, I am celebrating resilience, and resilient people.  Without God and resilience, I would not be here today.  If you are a resilient person, celebrate that today, even if you’re in the middle of yet another storm.  If you’re not the most resilient person in the world, you CAN learn resilience!  It will take work, but it will be worth every moment of it!

 

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Idealism and Radical Acceptance: Where the rubber meets the road

I’ve mentioned before that I am a tried and true, dyed n the wool, Meyers-Briggs tested, idealist. This changes being an idealist from what I am to it being who I am. There is a big difference. There are any naturally happy, optimistic, people who try to find the positive is most situations, but these happy-go-lucky folks are not true idealists. They don’t ache to the bones over injustices in the world, and they seem to come to terms with “Life isn’t fair,” pretty easily.

A real idealist, like me, will rail against injustice, and will wage an almost constant internal battle trying to wrap their heads around life not being fair. I know I sure did, and sometimes I still do. I do not innately get mean, unkind, vengeful, and just plain nasty. When I hear it, or see it, it always makes me wince, and causes some deep pain, even if the person hurt isn’t me, or someone I love. I’d greatly prefer not to even know some of these more ugly emotions exist in the people I know, but they do and I somehow manage to love them anyway 😉

 

However, in the last few years, something has changed within me. I am not fighting life anymore, and life has not been a cakewalk in the last few years. What changed? I made some pretty important decisions. I decided that I deserved happiness and love and all good things just as much as anyone else. I decided that I am more than good enough just as I am, and I decided to be me as fully as possible, not allowing others to attempt to recreate me in their own image. At the same time, I decided not to try to change others into something they were not. I decided that I’d had enough of shame, and that my life was too full for mean people, and negative people, and for people who hurt me without a second thought. I decided that life was as good as I made it, and most importantly, I decided that, no matter what, everything was going to be okay.

 

All of these decisions just happened to coincide with my 50th birthday, which was also the day I left my abusive husband with only a child and a dufflebag of clothing. Basically, I decided to be happy, and to take full responsibility for that happiness. That this all happened when I was homeless, facing a prison term, and with my sister’s husband dying seemed to amaze most everyone. My own counselor at the time once said, “I don’t know how you do it. You keep going, and you keep smiling, and you seem happy.” It was true. I was happy. Then she said, “Radical acceptance. That’s what it is. That’s what you’ve got going on.” That was the first time that I had heard the term “radical acceptance,” but yes, wrap all of my decisions into a big ball and that is what you get—radical acceptance, of life, and others, and of circumstances, but most importantly, of myself.

 

I cannot even begin to describe the freedom I feel every day now, and I felt that freedom even when I was in prison. In fact, I believe that one of the reasons that God wanted me in prison was so that I would realize that I had really been in prison all of my life. At first, others built the prison walls, and I just stayed put, and then it became an entrenched way of survival and life long after the initial wall builders were gone. I didn’t put myself into that prison, but it was my job to break myself out, and I did just that, finally freeing that poor, wounded, little girl for good, while I was in an actual concrete and steel prison. There is a certain irony in gaining true freedom while in prison…

 

I love my life and my life is good, but my life is messy as hell. It’s never been neat and tidy and I have no reason to expect that to change, but I don’t care. What I have within that messy life fraught with circumstances that would crush other is love, and joy, and freedom to be me—messy, happy, mostly peaceful me.  I have God and my integrity, and I have found that’s all that I really need.

 

The people in my life, with their neat lives, stand back in wonder and amazement. The people in my life love me dearly, and there are a lot of them. They love me messy, and happy, and real, and me. That’s radical acceptance on their part and it’s pretty darned cool. I think they even learn a little from me.

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Am I still an idealist? You bet I am, but I know how, and where, to channel that energy now. I have big plans for the future, and I know where changes need to be made in the world. I will continue to grow, but now that I am free, and I radically accept me, I am not going back to any form of prison again.