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Appreciating Resilience

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Resilience. What does the word bring up for you?

I’m thinking about bending without breaking. Going with, rather than away from. Enveloping and integrating. Finding power in perseverance. Knowing – and behaving like – it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

We women are hardwired for resilience. Think about any period of social change and recall that while men were fighting on the ground, women were carrying the weight of the family and the survival of the community on their backs. Literally.

Women are survivors; we have to be. We get dealt ferocious blows, we suffer heartbreaking setbacks … and in the morning we make breakfast for the kids and go about the day. We’re responsible for more than winning a battle (or running a capital campaign, or teaching our students, or serving our clients). We’re the future generation, incarnate.

So there’s that.

All of us, men and women alike, call on our feminine power of resilience in times of challenge, in order to reach the finish line; however long or circuitous our route. We know that when we’re able to access our resilience – able to fight battles we may very well lose, able to rise again and again and again, able to take it in stride and move on – that we’ve tapped into the power that’ll see us through. We have the fuel we need to make it to the finish.

But I wonder, how comfortable are you with calling up resilience when you’re in the thick of a challenging situation? Because sometimes being resilient means not doing what feels urgent and compelling right now. And sometimes it feels flat out weak or soft to be resilient, when the alternative is to be fierce and courageous, bold and bright.

I see it in my own life. I have some exciting new work opportunities in front of me, chances for me to show up in different venues where I’m invited to share my gifts in new ways. I’ve done the leg work and these are right-fit sorts of gigs. I’m thrilled. Yet the trajectory isn’t as linear as I want it to be, and the dates are further out on the calendar than I want. I’m tempted to get on the phone and negotiate a new starting point.

But when I push back and think about the bigger picture, I realize that I’m walking firmly in the direction I chose for myself, and I like what I see here. I’m reminded that I’m in it for the long haul, and that my urgency is self-created. Getting in there sooner won’t mean a better experience for my clients, or for me.   And so I exhale, reset and appreciate the spaciousness I have.

Resilience gets a bad rap. We’re encouraged to push through at high-speed, to avoid a more careful indirect route. We get applauded for our drive, and rarely praised for how well we dealt with the aftermath of a failed attempt.

To be in our full-blown gorgeous power is to know that resilience is an alternative to fierceness. There’s a time to be audacious and a time to be flexible. And each challenge gives us an opportunity to provide what is called for.

Some examples of resilience are:

  • Taking a side gig while you build your business.
  • Saying No, thank you to that not-quite-right invitation.
  • Licking your wounds after a disappointment, and spending time remembering why you cared about it in the first place.
  • Taking one for the team.
  • Counting the many many blessings of the present.

There’s a subtle backlash against the feminine side of our power. We may be scorned for demonstrating resilience. Our authority may be called into question. There’s fear of what might happen when we bring our feminine to the table. And yet confronting challenges without a healthy dose of resilience is a recipe for disaster.

So next time you experience the squirming discomfort of squaring off with what’s in your face, take a breath. Ask yourself what you want to lead with, your fierceness or your resilience. Both are necessary and useful. Only one is the right tool for the job at hand. Know which one to pull out of your toolkit.

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