Today’s lesson is brought to you by the letter R, for resilience.
But first, a vocabulary lesson.
Resilience: The capacity to recover quickly from difficulty.
My definition? Recovering, period. To me, a resilient person is someone who recognizes that they’re down, and asks for help in getting back up.
You’re probably sitting there reading this and thinking “No, Leigh. A resilient person is someone who falls and immediately gets up…or better yet, someone who doesn’t fall at all.”
Let’s dive in. Resilience is about recovering, right? Our world and our society are built around making it look like everyone has everything together all the time. Though we’re conscious of the fact that everyone struggles and no one (no one) is perfect, we buy into the message that everyone is more together than us. Therefore, if we make mistakes, we don’t talk about them, and if we do, we brush them off as minor details in a much larger and more glamorous story.
Let’s be honest: There is nothing glamorous about falling flat on your face….sometimes, it’s even less glamorous to get back up after a hard fall.
I have a confession to make. I have a terrible resilience meter. It needs work. Like, major work. Tear it down and set up a construction zone, this puppy needs a makeover. It’s so bad, that I didn’t even know how to spell it properly until I started working on this article. I don’t rise well (or sometimes, I don’t rise at all). When I get knocked down, it is so excruciatingly painful that I often melt into weakness and stay on the ground and refuse to get back up again.
Why is that? Part of it is because I’ve fed into the belief that I don’t make mistakes, and that I am capable of cruising through life without ever coming across a roadblock. I’ve also been knocked down so many times that now I believe the world owes me something.
Want to know why we struggle with resilience? Because we gloss over what it takes to get to the point where you start to make your way up. Because in order to be resilient and recover, you have to fall, and you have to admit it.
Mistakes are inevitable but we like to avoid them anyway. If we make them, we pretend that they didn’t happen, or we brush them off as no big deal.
When you’re on you way down, your instinct will be to put your hands out to break the fall, or your knees will buckle and you’ll get scraped up, right? Both are painful and can be slightly embarrassing. So, you learn to protect yourself with shin guards and helmets (or as Brene Brown says it, you armor up). But soon enough, those prove to be not enough, so you add a full body brace, a face mask, finger guards, the works. It does the trick for a while, but your mobility starts to take a plunge.
Enter bubble wrap, my personal favorite when it comes to self protection. It’s light and fun and it makes a great sound when you pop it. It’ll protect you all right…that is, until you fall down.
Have you ever tried falling over in endless amounts of bubble wrap? The way down is protected and cushioned, but the way up is horrible. There’s no wiggle room to get up! You’ve managed to successfully break your fall, but that’s about it. Now you’re a bubble-wrapped rolly polly hanging out on the floor for all eternity.
There must be instructions for getting back up and getting back in the game that we’re missing. Obviously this chillin’ on the floor completely protected from life will only go so far.
We’re so afraid to fall that we never stop to consider what the fall could lead to. Leaning into trust that you will be okay and that falling will eventually set you in the right direction.
Listen, I know failing and failing can be painful I know how humiliating and earth shattering they can be. But, do we really want to spend our lives wrapped up and “secure”?
(Sometimes, the answer to that question is a resounding YES, but often times, it’s a whimpering no, because we recognize that there are greater things waiting for us when we remain open and uncovered.)
A man once requested a private audience with the Rebbe to discuss a matter of business. As soon as they were alone together, the man burst out crying, sharing woes of how a business venture which he had poured thousands of dollars into was failing. The Rebbe listened attentively, then smiled and offered the following advice: “If things were going smoothly, I would be worried. A bumpy road means things are occurring as they should.”
There’s a common humanity in failure, and it’s a beautiful one. Out of failure comes strength, understanding, and opportunity.
Resilience comes in part from recognizing where you’ve come from and where you’re trying to go. And in order to do that, you have to fail.
Sometimes, resilience looks like Rocky getting back in the ring after getting his face punched out…and sometimes, resilience is the flicker of a flame lighting up a darkened room. It doesn’t have to be big and life changing, it just has to be.
I for one am going to stop by unwrapping the six layers of bubble-wrap I wear, and get rid of the stock I keep on hand for emergencies.
A bubble-wrap-less existence. How about that.