“I am resilient” is a phrase I want to stop using for myself or others. Does that sound crazy? Isn’t that something we are supposed to want? Isn’t a good thing to be able to say, “I am resilient?” Maybe not, in my opinion.
Recently, and I mean within the last few weeks, I have started questioning why we are “supposed” to aim to be resilient. My views on resilience started shifting when I made a post on social media and a sweet, beautiful soul responded with a meme that said, “You are resilient.”
My automatic response to the meme was “I love this.” As soon as I hit “post,” something started stirring within me. I ignored it because society has taught me to think that I am resilient. After a few days, I still had a little voice telling me that I’m not sure that’s something in which I should be proud.
So, if I was going to say “I am resilient” or encourage others to be resilient, then maybe I needed to spend a little more time thinking about what that means for me. According to Merriam-Webster’s definition, resilient means “capable of withstanding shock without permanent deformation or rupture” or “tending to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.”
Now, read those definitions again. Can you still say that you’re resilient? I know that I can’t. Not only that, but I don’t want to be able to say, “I am resilient.”
If I don’t want to be resilient, then what do I want? Also, as a psychotherapist, what do I want for my patients if I don’t want them to be resilient?
Table of Contents
I am resilient…not
For myself, I want to know how to feel my feelings in a healthy way when I am experiencing difficult times. I want to allow myself to acknowledge my trauma and times when life explodes in my face.
What I don’t want is to pretend that hard things don’t permanently change me. I also don’t want to pretend that change is easy for me. Big changes are not easy and guess what? That is okay AND I can allow myself to acknowledge that when big changes come, it will disrupt my life significantly.
As for my patients, nothing changes. The healing I do and want for myself is the same thing that I want for my patients. I want you to learn how to feel your feelings, instead of pretending they aren’t there.
I want you to be able to acknowledge that you are not okay or unchanged by things that shake you to your core. We are not supposed to bounce back from trauma.
Our brains never have and never will work like that, but you’ve probably convinced yourself that you should, which creates shame when you don’t. In terms of changes, those just aren’t supposed to be easy because it means that something in our lives is no longer the same and now, we have to do something different.
Before I start explaining how to feel your feelings when struggling with life, let’s look at what not doing that has done to all the generations before you. Think about your parents and grandparents.
They probably spent their entire lives carrying unhealed trauma. They passed that unhealed trauma on to you. If that strikes a nerve in you for your family, I want you to read my post Family Generational Curses Cause Dysfunctional Relationships Full of Guilt and Shame.
Thinking about the ways my parents differed in their responses to their unhealed trauma brings me a little peace and pride in myself because I chose to do things in a healthier way, thus doing things in a healthier way for my child.
Both of my parents had unhealed trauma. My mother pretended to be resilient. She acted as if nothing affected her, which resulted in my believing she was cold-hearted for the majority of my life.
My father, on the other hand, did the exact opposite. He never pretended to be okay with his unhealed trauma. If he were alive today, he would never say, “I am resilient.”
His unhealed trauma led to severe depression and alcoholism that resulted in his death at age sixty-five. Neither of my parents were resilient and they weren’t supposed to be because they both endured many difficult things that changed them.
How to Feel Your Feelings
Experiencing the different ways my parents handled their unhealed trauma in my childhood, left me very confused as a little girl. Nobody taught me how to feel your feelings in a healthy way. I spent my childhood vacillating between the ways my mom and dad handled their unhealed trauma.
I didn’t know how to feel. If I showed how I felt or that I was struggling like my dad often showed, then my mother would tell me to get over it or that I was being dramatic. If I acted like my mother and pretended everything was okay when I had experienced hugely traumatic events, then my father would tell me that I was just like my mother.
Wait. Aren’t children supposed to be resilient? That’s what we’ve been told, but I vehemently disagree. If you want to know why I disagree with that, you need to read this.
Stop and think about what your parents taught you with the ways they handled their unhealed trauma. What did you learn about how to feel your feelings or if you were even supposed to feel anything at all when you experienced difficult times?
My guess is that whatever you were taught about how to feel your feelings was not healthy, and you are probably still doing whatever it was that you were taught. Even if you have worked on your unhealed trauma, I’m willing to be that are still fighting what you were taught and shown as a child.
If that’s the case, then you get to start teaching yourself how to feel your feelings if you choose. No matter how old you are, it is not and never will be too late.
4 Steps on How to Feel Your Feelings:
- Acknowledge that your experiences were difficult and would be difficult for most people if they were being honest with themselves.
- Identify the feeling you are having or that you had about your difficult experiences.
- Allow yourself to sit in those feelings no matter how “big” they may be.
- Give yourself compassion and be proud of yourself for not pretending to be resilient.
Learning how to feel your feelings is no easy task, nor is it a quick process. The reason I say the first step in doing it is to acknowledge that your experiences were difficult is that you have probably spent years telling yourself you should get over it.
If you’ve ever been guilty of that, I want you to try a quick little exercise. Think about one of the experiences that you have struggled with that has significantly impacted your life.
Now, think about a child. Whatever age comes to your mind is the age you need to use for this exercise. Get a good visual of that child in your mind.
Imagine that child telling you that he or she experienced something like that. Would you tell the child that he or she should just get over it. Would you have thoughts that this child should be able to handle it better than he or she was handling it?
If you answered “yes” to either of those, then I can’t help you because nobody should ever treat a child like that! If you answered “no,” then we can move on.
Stifled Feelings from Childhood
If you wouldn’t say it, think it, or do it to a child, then you shouldn’t do it to yourself. Treating yourself like that is actually treating the inner child in you like that. If a child doesn’t deserve it, neither do you.
The next step in learning how to feel your feelings is to identify the true feelings you have about an experience. That may seem simple, but it is not unless you have spent a lot of time learning how to do it.
I wrote a blog post on how to do this for children, but it applies to us as adults. Please know that if you didn’t learn how to do this as a child, then you are stunted at the age when you needed to learn it. It’s never too late to learn how to feel your feelings, click here to begin that process.
The third step can be the scariest for most people. When I tell my patients that they need to allow themselves to sit in their emotions, they often get scared or confused.
The reason they get scared is that they know how big those feelings are and it truly is scary to think about lifting the lid on the box they put them in. Yes, that is scary but so is living the rest of your life waiting for that lid to burst.
Trust me, that lid WILL burst at some point, and it will not be pretty. Not only that, but it will be much harder to manage at that point. So, start allowing yourself to lift that lid a little bit at a time and at a pace in which you can manage in a healthy way.
How to Feel When You Weren’t Taught How
The reason my patients get confused when I tell them to sit in their feelings is that they have typically never done that. They have spent years pretending they didn’t have feelings.
Guess what? They were all probably taught that the goal in life was to be resilient. If they allow themselves to not be resilient, then they are weak.
Oh, how wrong that is! Strength is actually learning how to feel your feelings and doing things to heal from the difficulties you have experienced.
That leads me to the fourth step of giving yourself compassion and being proud of yourself. If you are still reading this, then I know that you lacked compassion in your childhood.
You needed somebody to acknowledge the truth. The truth was that your experiences were difficult. You didn’t get that from the people you needed it from.
Now, as an adult when you go through difficult times you are doing to yourself what was done to you as a child. You are convincing yourself that you should be able to say, “I am resilient.”
What if you were able to tell yourself that you are going through something that is truly difficult AND it is changing you and your life? Not only that, but it is OKAY that it is changing you and your life. That’s what difficult things do!
They change you. Also, they give you an opportunity to heal and grow even when we can’t see that when we’re in the midst of it.
Give yourself the compassion that you deserve AND be proud of yourself for not saying, “I am resilient!” You shouldn’t want to be resilient because too many people for too many years pretended they were and look where that got our world!
Struggling with Life
Struggling with life is okay. There is no person in the world who can honestly say that he or she has never had a time when he or she was struggling with life.
Life is not easy. We are constantly thrown things that knock us down or bring us back to our unhealed trauma. That’s okay too.
What is not okay is beating yourself up when you are struggling with life. It’s also not okay, in my opinion, to chase society’s goal for you to be able say “I am resilient.”
I am NOT resilient, and I don’t want to be. I allow myself to acknowledge my trauma, feel my feelings, ask for support when I need it, and to be okay with being changed from difficult things I experience.
If you have any thoughts or questions about this post or even if you disagree with my beliefs about people saying “I am resilient” please comment below. I really want to know what you think!
This site is only intended for people who are truly willing to look at themselves with an open mind and have the ability to truly be vulnerable with themselves and others. Please understand that this site is in NO WAY THERAPEUTIC ADVICE. However, this site can be very beneficial in learning the causes of your Not Good Enough Stuff. This site is not intended to provide or replace medical or psychiatric treatment. Mary Beth HIGHLY RECOMMENDS finding a licensed therapist to help you process the information from this site and all that you learn about yourself. Visit Psychology Today to find a licensed therapist in your area.