As a woman entrepreneur, business owner, or executive, you are likely to be very familiar with the term “resilience.” Resilience is a term that is bantered around in our personal and professional circle that is meant to convey strength, perseverance, tenacity, and the ability to overcome obstacles. A good thing, right? It's often exalted with a badge of honour.
What if I told you that resilience is not all it’s cracked up to be? What if I told you that the expectation of resilience can do more harm than good? In this blog post, I explore the myth of resilience and why we need to rethink our expectations of ourselves and others. Resilience is also known as "grit", a particularly harmful characterization of superhuman performance and perfection.
The first thing to understand about resilience is that the overall concept is often used as a way to judge and compare our capability and capacity leading to justifying unhealthy behaviours and unrealistic expectations. In many cases, women are expected to be “super women” who can juggle everything with ease and grace regardless of the circumstances.
This expectation can cause us to neglect our individual needs for physical, mental, and emotional health in response to meeting the demands placed upon us. We push ourselves to the limit and sacrifice our needs at the expense of our well-being.
Kryptonite - Our Limitation and Vulnerabilities
The reality is that no one can be perfectly resilient all the time. We all have limitations and vulnerabilities, and it’s okay to admit to ourselves that we need help or support from time to time. The problem with the myth of resilience is that it creates a culture in which vulnerability and asking for help are viewed as weaknesses. In reality, acknowledging our limitations and seeking support when we need it is a sign of strength, not weakness, and is necessary for healthy self-regard.
The expectation of resilience can lead to a disconnect between our public persona and our private reality. We feel pressure to present ourselves as strong, capable, and possessed with superhuman capacity even when we’re struggling on the inside. The expectation to be resilient can lead to low self-regard and low self-trust as we believe that we are less than the perfect woman. This can escalate to isolation and loneliness as we believe no one else could understand what we are going through. We need to remember that we are human. We all experience moments of vulnerability and periods of reduced capability and capacity. It's okay to show up as vulnerable human beings and to ask for help when we need it.
Fuel for Burnout and Chronic Stress
Another issue with the myth of resilience is that it can lead to and fuel burnout and chronic stress. When we are constantly pushing ourselves to the limit, we are more likely to experience physical and emotional exhaustion. This can lead to a range of negative health outcomes including depression, anxiety, and chronic illness. Ironically, when we are suffering from burnout, chronic stress, or even chronic illness, we are still encouraged and expected to engage our resilience when our reserves are already compromised.
We need to acknowledge that prioritizing good quality self-care which includes taking breaks and setting boundaries is not a sign of weakness or a selfish behaviour. On the contrary, self-care is honouring ourselves and is a necessary part of maintaining our health and wellbeing.
The good news is that ironically, we develop healthy resilience as part of our self-care.
Superpower for Developing Healthy Resilience
Developing healthy resilience can be likened to building a healthy body, which involves alternating periods of stress and challenges with sufficient rest and recovery. This means engaging in activities that promote "quality" self-care, such as getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and taking breaks to recharge. By prioritizing our physical, mental, and emotional health, we can enhance our ability to bounce forward from adversity and be better equipped to handle future challenges.
In conclusion, we need to examine the myth of resilience and acknowledge when resilience becomes a dangerous expectation leading to unhealthy behaviors and outcomes. Let's rethink our expectations of ourselves and others and recognize that vulnerability and asking for help are signs of strength, not weakness. We need to recognize and acknowledge our limitations and vulnerabilities, and give ourselves permission to ask for support.
By prioritizing self-care, setting boundaries, and recognizing our humanity, we can create a culture that values self-trust, authenticity, and well-being over superwoman performance and perfectionism. The next time someone tells you to “just be resilient,” or wields resilience and grit as a badge of honour, remember that it’s okay to trust yourself and do what's best for you as a human being. You don’t have to be a superwoman to be a worthy and successful woman.
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