Growing

Meet my new friend: Resilience

A lovely strong peak, somewhere in Colorado

What is strength? For those who have been hurt in the past, strength means invulnerability. It means being impervious to harm, protected and safe.  Physical safety is important, particularly for those who have been unsafe in the past. But emotional safety? It’s another word for isolation.

I have spent many years being strong, after

Sometimes, I felt like this unakite dodo bird symbolized my life

those vulnerable, painful years in which I felt physically and emotional victimized. Once I extricated myself from a victimized lifestyle, I didn’t want to go back. So I worked hard to be independent and strong. But being strong meant being alone, because opening myself to a relationship, to a new job, or to anything, really, meant taking a risk. Taking a risk meant being vulnerable.

Just the word made me anxious. I thought that being vulnerable meant that someone would take advantage of me, hurt me, or damage what I’d worked so hard to develop. Vulnerability was something I worked hard to avoid. But if I ever wanted to take a risk, it would result in being vulnerable. Without risk, though, life is devoid of learning, relationships, or stepping forward into anything. Any kind of progress means opening myself to the potential of failure, ridicule, and/or criticism. I’ve had plenty of that, thank you, and I actually wanted to minimize the amount of time I experienced those feelings again. But without taking the risk, I won’t grow.

This creedite mineral seems a better mascot these days. Although strong, like a rock, it looks like it’s resilient to me!

So, I’m working on a different way of being strong. I’m developing skills in resilience. It is a trait to help me bounce back from “defeat” with new insights and ideas. It’s here to help me learn from my mistakes and understand that no matter what happens, I’ll survive. More important than invulnerability, it allows me strength of will without keeping me confined to a place of safety. I can encounter vulnerability and be strong enough to grow with it and enjoy it. I’ve reluctantly had to concede that a resilient attitude is more constructive and more helpful than holding old hurts, reliving my failures, and avoiding those who’ve hurt me. In the end, those attitudes have caused me more suffering than was necessary.

This bird embodies creativity of a sort. I’m not flashy like him, but can still be creative, fostering my ability to be resilient.

It’s taken me a long time to understand the necessity of being resilient. It has buddies, like creativity, adaptability, and creative-problem solving, which is okay — they’re friends of mine.

17 replies »

  1. I’m touched by this post and relate to it so much. You’ve been able to accomplish what I still find it very difficult to do–trust that I won’t be hurt by making myself vulnerable. It takes great courage sometimes. This blogging community and the openness of other bloggers, like you, have been a great inspiration to me. Good for you, and best wishes for your continued growth and happiness..

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    • Thank you. I’m embarrassed to admit how long it has taken me to be willing to be vulnerable. It makes risk-taking less scary, to be sure. Thank you for your well-wishes. You’ve shown yourself to be very resilient in the past — you can do it again! I hope that this new year brings you happiness.

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  2. Pain made me want to isolate and be independent, too.
    It’s taken a long journey of discovery to realize feeling safe can sometimes also mean feeling lonely. Being vulnerable is risky business, but I’ve discovered I’m willing to (cautiously) take the risks now.

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  3. Sounds like you’ve come a long way. I have not experienced what you have but have experienced the death of 2 men, both very long term relationships. I understand the feeling that one wants to prevent that type of hurt again and isolating oneself seems to be an option. I am extremely proud of you for taking these steps forward and wish you all the success and good fortune you now deserve. I know it’s a long road but at least you have begun your journey now.

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    • Thanks. It’s a journey I’ve been on for awhile, but just now realized that resilience was the perfect companion! I’m glad that I’ve not had to endure the loss of a partner to death. It sounds like you’ve been down a hard row.

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    • I’m glad to offer a helpful thought. You’ve got a lot of change going on in your life right now, but you’ve also got a lot of great tools to deal with things. Good luck!

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