I recently had the honor of speaking to a group of parents at my high school alma mater on one of our favorite topics at HTFG: Raising Resilient Girls. Put simply, resilience is the ability to “bounce back” after a failure, disappointment, or shaming event. The wonderful thing about resilience is it is a skill that can be taught. The more you practice, the easier it gets!
Resilient girls (and boys):
- are resourceful and have developed problem-solving skills
- hold the belief that they can do something that will help them to manage their feelings
- are more likely to ask for help
- have social support available
- have connection with others, including at least one adult.*
Research has found that success in many different arenas is associated with grit, which is characterized by passion and perseverance in pursuit of very long-term goals and a willingness to fail. Whenever I think of grit, I always think of Dory in Finding Nemo: “Just keep swimming.” However, research also tells us that grit is either unrelated or inversely related to measures of talent (as talent increases, grit decreases).
** Basically, talent can prevent you from failing often enough to develop the vital skills necessary for bouncing back. What the research further shows is the “reliable presence of at least one supportive relationship and multiple opportunities for developing effective coping skills are the essential building blocks” for resilience.
Part of what made this talk so special to me was the opportunity it gave me to look back at the role of resilience in my own life. The incident that first came to mind was the rather disastrous beginning to my career showing horses. At my first show at age 11, I completely lost control of my horse and the judge was compelled to ask me to leave the arena. It was a devastating experience and I was sure everyone who had witnessed it would judge me and conclude I had no business ever showing horses again, but instead an interesting thing occurred. A number of people approached me after the class and said, “Hey, that’s really tough, and we want you to know that’s happened to us before, too.” Suddenly, I was not alone in my failure. The empathy and support I was shown allowed me to see that not only was it possible to come back from this start, but also that failure was a part of the process. In retrospect, my inauspicious beginning was one of the key elements in what turned out to be a successful 10-year career showing horses.
*Brown, B. (2010). The gifts of imperfection: Let go of who you think you’re supposed to be and embrace who you are.
**Duckworth, A. (2013, April). Grit: the power of passion and perseverance [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/angela_lee_duckworth_grit_the_power_of_passion_and_perseverance.
***Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University (2015). Supportive Relationships and Active Skill-Building Strengthen the Foundations of Resilience: Working Paper No. 13. Retrieved from www.developingchild.harvard.edu.