Tracy Richardson is a Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner at Inclusion Thurrock and a recent guest on episode two of the MSE Moments That Matter podcast.
The podcast explores what resilience really means, what it can look like, how we can build it and even apply it in the workplace.
In this blog Tracy digs a little deeper and explains how self compassion and boundaries can help build our resilience.
Resilience is a word that we often hear in everyday language – but what is it and how do we get it?
If we look to the scientific study of resilience, it is defined as “good outcomes in spite of serious threat to adaptation or development” (Masten, 2001). Masten goes on to describe resilience as being “ordinary magic”.
Just pause for a moment, consider how many difficult circumstances, situations and challenges that you have faced in your lifetime…and yet here you are today…that’s resilience in action!
By this she means that resilience has the capacity to enable us to get through the most difficult of circumstances, and yet rather than being a rare superpower, it is common to us all as human beings and something that we can develop.
If we assume that we have evolved with the survival mechanism of negative perceptual bias, it isn’t surprising that we fail to notice our own resilience and instead we hone in on how we didn’t sail through a difficult situation in exactly the way that we would have chosen.
We cannot force ourselves to be resilient, in fact the more we try to force it, the more likely we are to overload ourselves and burn out.
Instead, we must provide the environment most conducive to cultivating resilience.
This environment is one where we prioritise our wellbeing, get adequate rest, have a balanced diet, move our bodies, connect with people, engage ourselves in activities that are meaningful to us and ensure that we top up our tank of positive emotions on a daily basis. In addition to this we need two further factors in our cultivation of resilience: self-compassion and strong boundaries.
Self-compassion is the idea of giving ourselves the same support and understanding that we would afford someone that we care about. Dr. Kristin Neff’s work is a great place to start if you want to know more about self-compassion (Neff, n.d.). Harnessing self-compassion allows us to set fair and firm boundaries that allow for healthy adaptation within difficult circumstances – in other words, we provide ourselves with what we need to get through a challenge.
The call for workforces to be more resilient has all-too-often and for too long been used as stick to try to beat workers into doing more and pushing through despite exhaustion. An organisation employing this approach is likely to end up with a depleted, despondent and burnt out workforce. For an organisation to be resilient it needs to create the environment for each individual to be able to cultivate their resilience.
Resilient organisations are likely to embrace a compassionate leadership approach, see their people as their biggest asset and treat them as such, provide space for reflection, for rest and digest, and to make it safe for individuals to define their boundaries.
The benefits of respecting boundaries can be immensely powerful. “Boundaries are the distance at which I can love you and me simultaneously” (Prentis Hemphill, n.d.). Imagine how loyal, productive, effective and resilient a workforce would be if each individual has the space to love their work and give themselves the care and time they need to be at their best.
In summary, resilience is not a strength to demand, it is one to cultivate through providing the right environment. We all have a part to play in providing and making space for the necessary conditions: the individual, the family, groups, organisations and society.
- Masten, A. S. (2001). Ordinary magic: Resilience processes in development. American Psychologist, 56(3), 227–238.
- Neff, K. (n.d.). Self-Compassion. Retrieved July 27, 2022
- Prentis Hemphill. (n.d.). Retrieved July 27, 2022