Everything is upside down right now. Fear and lacking are absolutely everywhere – from the eyes of masked strangers in the street to the infinite scroll of social media. Encouraging outrage I see lots of, encouraging resilience? Sadly, not so much. But how to be resilient? Is it worth the pain or is it just another overused buzz word that does well as an Instagram hashtag? What exactly does it mean to be resilient?
Resilience is all about being able to pick ourselves up when we fall down (literally or metaphorically). Truly resilient people are not affected by everything that others say and do. Now, I’m not suggesting for a second that we should ever turn a blind eye to genuinely bad behaviour, this must *always* be called out. Preferably in a way that impacts the other person so they think twice about doing it again and encourage their networks to change their wicked ways. I’m barely seeing this happen, though, and it’s driving more wedges in our already polarised society.
2020 has changed the shape of the world and I doubt anything will be the same as it was even as recent as six months ago. Lots needed to change, in fairness, I just hope it all starts bringing society together because from I’m standing, we’ve never been more divided. People seem to have lost the ability to talk reasonably with each other, unless they are in complete agreement with everything the other person is saying. Discourse is only encouraged if you’re singing from the hymn sheet of the prescribed narrative. Woe betide anyone who strays – just look at JK Rowling.
Here’s the thing that seems to be getting lost amid the who-can-shout-the-loudest-contests. Understanding people must include taking the time to get to know how they became who they are. Lived history has to be taken into account, because it’s different for everyone and always, always provides the biggest insights into their personality. My favourite people are the ones who have been-through-shit and still manage to come out smiling. Kindred souls who aren’t afraid to admit they don’t know everything and are a constant work in progress.
My lived history, in a nutshell
For those who are familiar with my background, feel free to skip to the next heading <insert wink emoji>. Otherwise read on. You can learn more from my book Become the Best You, which is currently FREE on kindle unlimited.
Although my day to day right now is 100% what you’d call privileged – warm home, endless supply of food, unconditional love from at least four other humans – it hasn’t always been this way. Silver spoons did not go hand in hand with my upbringing. Emerging into adulthood at fifteen, education-less, penniless and broken, my start to real life couldn’t have looked more different to the one I live now.
Ten years after the day I left home – which started with a slap round the face so hard my nose was almost broken – and I still wasn’t what you’d coin “winning” at life. Don’t get me wrong, I had certainly learnt to hustle in that decade. Managed to blag my way into decent jobs and obtained some rock solid friends. Travelled the world and found my future husband. Fun was never in short supply. But by the age of twenty five, I had also disowned my entire family and found my rage. I was angry. About everything.
Which I’ve since learnt is a form of grief. And I had much to grieve over: the abuse I went through as a kid, the lies, the let down. My rock bottom (or as Brené Brown has coined it: spiritual awakening) in November 2006 put me on the path of truth seeking and I’ve been on one hell of a mission ever since. It doesn’t always make me popular and it sure as shit is not fun sitting with discomfort but if there is one thing I know for sure, it’s that there is magic to be found in those feelings. Allowing them to engulf us without pretending they don’t exist or numbing them away.
Almost fifteen years after that breakdown, I know without a shadow of a doubt, that my dysfunctional childhood provided me with the greatest gift of all: resilience
Above all else, from a very early age, I had the profound knowledge that I would grow up and lead a better life. That I would not, under any circumstances, bring children into this world unless I was in a loving relationship. And I would do whatever it took to break the cycle of dysfunction. No, it didn’t come easily – in fact, there were many sliding doors moments in those early days where it looked like I was doomed and destined to repeat family history.
My first few years after leaving home at fifteen were brutal. Believe me, the type of people who routinely employ underage girls for less than minimum wage, aren’t very nice. Exploitation was the name of their game and THANK FUCK I was already well versed at keeping unwanted hands out of my knickers. Did I question it back then? Nope. Why? Because I was part of the “other”. I grew up watching all the women in my family being treated abhorrently – beaten, raped, emotionally abused – and I had zero idea what a good man (or even good woman, in fairness) looked like.
Another area I was illiterate was financial wellness, which meant I was getting myself into debt from the moment I could. Declaring bankruptcy in 2008 was my only option. But now, twelve years on, I see that as one of my major blessings. Then, of course, there was the booze and drugs – which were just part of every day life for me. I got myself into tons of trouble during that era. But the harder I fell, the bigger lessons I learnt. Which meant making the very most of even the mere sniff of an opportunity that came my way.
Yes, the game is rigged but we have to find a way to play it
No-one could ever deny the brutality of even fairly recent history and f course it can leave a legacy behind. But do we really want to live in the past blaming everyone else for our current situation? Or worse, blaming people for the things their ancestors might have done? Seems bonkers to me and totally unhelpful. Should I blame every single German I ever encounter for World War Two (my grandparents were Jewish)? No, of course not, that would be madness. Should I go through my life playing the victim card for the injustices of my childhood? Ashamedly, I did spend part of my young adulthood doing this. Did it serve me well? Was it good for my mental health? Absolutely not – it held me back and made me miserable.
Unfair doesn’t even begin to describe our ruling elite but we have to find ways of succeeding even when the odds are stacked against us. We all have choices and how rigged the game becomes depends more on the decisions we make right now than our past. Every truly inspiring, prominent person in the public domain, will tell you this. Note the word inspiring: because anyone can be famous. Anyone can be an influencer or podcaster or blogger. Are they truly inspirational? Mostly, not so much. In fact, I’d go as far as saying that most of the aforementioned usually lead greatly privileged lives and their version of #inspo is pretty uninspiring.
Life is complex and messy and nuanced
Remember the good old days, when diversity of thought was considered progress? Now it’ll bring you a character assassination, get you shadow-banned on social media and sometimes fired from your job. Definitely not my version of progress. When we’re obsessed about what everyone else is doing and saying it makes us miserable. And, as I’ve said many times before, no good ever comes from trashing others.
Have you filled a bucket today? is a brilliant children’s book all about kindness. How it makes everyone feel good when we boost other people’s confidence, rather than tear them down. It’s well worth a read, regardless of your age.
How about this for a (not so) novel idea? Rather than focussing on the past or being consumed with envy because others are living the life we feel we deserve, we all simply concentrate on ourselves. Dropping the ego is essential if we are to live a wholehearted life, so we can be a great role model for our kids and those around us.
More overtly than any other social platform, there is an awful lot of rage on Twitter. I often sign out of my profile and pop in so I can check what’s trending. Because while I’d love to be as naive as I used to be and say that everyday people aren’t even on Twitter (so who cares?) the sad fact is that it does matter. Not only is it a yardstick of what’s going on in the world, Twitter gets referenced much more in the media than other platforms. Real life decisions are being made – right now – because of conversations happening on there. Of course it’s *nothing* to do with the number of retweets those conversations get or how often they trend. Such is the level playing field these days <insert eye roll emoji>.
How to be resilient and why everyone should be putting resilience at the top of their todo list
Navigating this minefield know as the 2020 shitshow is no mean feat. If you’ve made it to the end of this piece, then you’re in the minority of people willing to read a full article. You’ll see I’ve peppered it with YouTube videos. With the exception of the one above, they are all short clips. I urge you to watch them all because I feel there is much to learn from these people. As for the one directly above, it was possibly the best podcast I’ve listened to all year.
When people talk about privilege, I look at my children. Who are absolutely privileged – but not because of their skin tone. They are privileged because they have parents who have been – and still are – hellbent on facing their own demons and recognising their short comings. Not being victims, ever. And perhaps most important of all, are always willing to put their egos aside and listen to what others have to say. Not just for the sake of themselves but for their kids. In the hope that they’ll grow up to be good people. Which is all any of us can hope for really.