In our achievement-driven society, we put immense pressure on ourselves to bounce back quickly after disappointment. Sure, we’re crestfallen by the initial defeat, but we’re even less forgiving of ourselves when recovery isn’t microwavable.
Lose a job? Better replace it, fast. Had a baby? Better reach your pre-I-just-created-and-carried-a-human-for-nine-months body by next summer. Opened a new business? Better make a profit in your first year, or you don’t stand a chance. Still devastated about the pandemic? Better snap out of it because nobody likes a sourpuss.
Resilience isn’t like a toy vending machine where you stick in a coin, and resilience pops out. It’s a long-haul game with multiple factors, and speed or unbreakability are not required. It’s the power to accept that your original shape is gone and embrace the new growth.
Our idea of “strong” has become a problem, and it’s time we dismount the toughen-up soapbox. This week, I’ll explain why resilience isn’t about keeping it together — it’s about falling apart, forward.
What You’ll Learn in this Episode:
- Canceling the Marlboro Man
- Why we don’t shame wobbly toddlers
- Bring your worst self to coaching sessions
- The beauty in breaking down into pieces
- Falling apart in “safe” containers
Listen to the Full Episode
Featured on the Show:
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Catch These Podcasts:
- EP204: The Great Depletion
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Full Episode Transcript:
Hello. It is 7:00 am in New York, 2:00 pm in Johannesburg, and 7:00 pm in Bangkok. Welcome to the Expat Happy Hour. This is Sundae Schneider-Bean from www.sundaebean.com. I am a solution-orientated coach and intercultural strategist for individuals and organizations. I am on a mission to help you adapt and succeed when living abroad and get you through any life transition.
I picked up a reputable book on resilience strategies and I opened the front page. And it said: “50 Techniques You Need To Be Strong.”
Strong. Are you kidding me. I am so sick of “strong” right now. And today’s podcast is filled with what I’ll call, “My Resilience Rants,” because there is so much out there on resilience that is very legitimate, but if we reach out to it now, it can be unhelpful or even harmful to you. So I got a couple things on my mind that I want to share with you.
Now, this is legit right when we talk about being resilient, we want to be strong. But right now and you know what I’m doing right now with my fingertips? I’m like, with my two hands in a kind of cup like fashion and I’m touching my fingertips on top of them. I’m so serious right now. Like a school teacher who’s like gonna put you in detention.
Right now strong is not the solution. Strong is actually the problem. If you’ve been following me on Expat Happy Hour the last few episodes you’ll remember from Episode 204 about, The Great Depletion. People are exhausted right now. And our goal right now is replenishment not strength. That is down the road.
I have clients who come to me at the brink of burnout because they’ve been trying incessantly to be so damn strong all the time, right? We do not need anyone right now telling you how to finger quote be strong or get through it.
The other rant that I have is when we talk about resilience and they say it’s about bouncing back. Bouncing back like to your original shape? Are you serious? So there’s no learning or no growth from that. We just go back and pretend like nothing happened? I hate that definition. I am okay with the idea of being resilient in the terms of “bending without breaking,” right? It is about building skills to keep going.
Don’t even get me started on the camp of let’s not survive but thrive people. This is not the time to move someone from survival and then pressure them to be thriving, right? There are a few steps in between and if you don’t talk about those steps people end up shaming themselves for not being there.
You can’t skip these steps.
And so if you are and you’re not in the place where you think you should be, you’re going to feel like crap, right? So for many of us right now, it isn’t about strong. It’s about functioning. It’s about at best sustaining. Okay.
So I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Sundae. Wait a minute. I’m kind of confused. Is this message coming from you because you’re all about making the most of a situation,” right? And there are some of you who are listening who are totally crushing it and that is amazing and I’m so happy for you. But this episode is maybe then not for you or not for you now, but it will be probably for the future.
This is for the 85% of the people out there who feel like 2020 kicked them in the teeth. If you’re listening to all the people around you talking about building resilience, you might not even know what that means. Right? So we need again the same page about resilience. Resilience often feels for people, especially now, so far away. You don’t feel resilient, you feel depleted.
And you know your number one goal right now should be replenishment not thriving. Not strength, not yet. Right? We got one step at a time. It’s not like we tell toddlers to run. We want them to get up and not fall in their bum every five minutes. We want them to take their first step. We want them to walk 10 steps not shame them for not running.
Right, so we need to get on the same page about resilience and hopefully by the end of this episode you’ll have another way of looking at it.
The first thing, I think it’s important to think about with resilience, resilience isn’t a personality trait and it’s certainly not a state of being, right? Like “I’m not resilient, I want to be resilient” because if that’s what you think you should be then you feel like crap even more because you’re not that.
Resilience is a practice. And that practice exists in a system, right? So this is a long-haul game with multiple factors. And if you’re thinking about that, you’re like, “I don’t even know. How do I get there when I’m way over here?”
The first thing you can do is drop this Marlboro Man myth, right. So for those of you who grew up with TV in the 70s or 80s and you were exposed to cigarette commercials, it’s not even legal anymore, there was this Western figure, the Marlboro Man. Very rugged, you know, wrinkly skin, valued for his independence and self-sufficiency, right? And we put ourselves under pressure to be like the Marlboro Man. We have to go it on our own, do it alone. And that’s not true. It’s not even actually helpful in terms of building your resilience. If you want to know more about it, I wrote about it in 2014 called: The Three Myths of Resilience. I’ll put in the show notes. But we need to stop thinking tough or rugged. Go away from that idea that “I’ve gotta toughen up.”
Okay, so to be full transparent, the first step I see with my clients when they want to begin the practice of resilience is: Anything but rugged.
The trick to really going on a journey where you are practicing resilience might surprise you. It’s not about keeping it together. But rather falling apart.
You got it, falling apart. Some of my most resilient clients have courageously shown up and learned when and how to fall apart. And that is what created a growth cycle and new practices that served their lives.
And there’s beauty in falling apart. I love this idea of falling apart. I imagine falling to pieces. And when you do that, it enables you to see the unique pieces individually and watch how they operate to drive how we face challenges, right? What led us there? We’re examining these fallen pieces to see what sparkles and what’s beautiful when we put it up to the light.
It’s also like this process when you build muscle mass. I don’t know. I don’t know if this is the right science. But from what I’ve heard is that you actually break down some of your muscles so that it can build up when you workout you do repetition. Right? It’s the process of doing so, is what makes it happen.
So it is truly about stopping this pressure to keep it together all the time and give yourself permission to fall apart. And I know what you’re thinking some of you are like, “Perfect! I’m amazing at falling apart.”
But wait not so fast. You have to fall apart in a very specific way. In fact, I actually call it, “Falling forward.”
All right. Falling forward is when you fall apart in a safe container where learning is inevitable. And I want to have a big caveat here. When I talk about falling apart, I’m talking about dropping your guard, allowing your emotions, sharing what’s not working. I don’t mean like maybe the way a psychotherapist would say they fell apart. I don’t mean that extreme. I’m talking about our everyday use of the language, “I fell apart,” right?
Maybe I cried. Maybe I had a moment where I just let all my emotions come out in one go. Or I finally stopped trying to pretend that everything was okay, right?
So if you want to do this differently, to fall forward, you need a safe container and learning should be inevitable.
So what is a safe container where learning is inevitable? You get to decide. It depends on you.
For some of you it might be a guided journal with prompts that you share with a friend. Or a spiritual practice that you do in a community. Or a weekend away with your best friend. Or maybe seeing a therapist. Could also be joining a personal development group that meets regularly that you share your challenges in, right?
For my clients that means showing up with their whole selves to the coaching process. I tell them, “Bring your worst selves to coaching.” And I ask them how they’re doing and I want to know how they’re really doing. And that could even mean maybe crying during a session.
It’s okay. What’s important here is that you embrace this idea that resilience is a practice and it’s not a solo act. Resilience is actually built in community. And that’s the second part that we mentioned, resilience is a practice and a system. So make sure that community is part of the system.
And we’re living in a time right now, December 2020 were we’re feeling isolated because people are not going out in the community face-to-face.
So have you isolated yourself so much that you’re even rejecting the community that you do have at your fingertips? Is it time to reach out and find community?
What else is important about practicing resilience in this system. Look at your work and your home system.
Where do you need new boundaries to be put in place so that you can build resilience as a practice? Do you need to renegotiate the time that you support your kids for homeschool? Do you need to tell your boss that you’re going to be taking a 45 minute lunch instead of 30, right? What has to happen for you to renegotiate boundaries so that you can truly rejuvenate? So that you’re not on the road of burnout.
I know this is a big topic and I have so much more to say about it. But today I needed to get this rant out. I really am sick of these messages which are saying, “We have to be strong and tough and buck up,” right?
What about vulnerability? What about feeling broken and allowing herself the space to just acknowledge that? What about feeling depleted? I think these are things we need to do first.
And strength is coming. Trust me. It’s coming. But we need to start where we are.
Listen, if you know that you want to do 2021 differently, I’ve got a little inside scoop for you. Because you are amazing listeners of Expat Happy Hour, I wanted you to be the first to know that I’m working on something new in the new year and it involves community.
That means you and me and others just like you who are working towards building up their resilience, battling depletion, embracing replenishment and then living on purpose and making steps forward in their life to the things that mean the most to them, then get on our: First to Know List.
It’s going to be exciting! Something I’ve never done before. So hop on the list and I promise you’ll be the first to know. You can find it in the show notes.
So I promise you I will give you more resources, episodes and articles on resilience in the show notes. Keep in mind the ones that are from before or written in a time that was pre-COVID. So listen carefully to the suggestions there and see if they match your now.
Right. And for those of you who are still worried about not being strong. Let me tell you this. This process of falling apart or would I mean specifically about falling forward, is a huge sign of courage.
There is nothing more courageous than being witnessed and supported as you look at yourself and your life in the mirror, instead of looking away. And that is what I call strength.
So there you have it. These are my resilient rants. You remember the first one, this idea about the pressure for strong, and how unhelpful that is right now. We need to start where we are.
That bouncing back is not the right goal because it totally misses the growth and learning aspect.
We need to stop thinking about our resilience like a quality or even a personality trait that’s assigned to us because it’s actually a practice and part of a system.
And four, we develop resilience not alone, but in community. And it starts by falling forward.
And number five, the courage and vulnerability in that process is what really is strength.
You’ve been listening to Expat Happy Hour with Sundae Schneider-Bean. Thank you for listening. I’ll leave you with one of my favorite Anonymous quotes: “It’s okay if you fall apart sometimes. Tacos fall apart and we still love them.”