Dangers of Resilience

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I was running frantically up and down the hallways of my job one Monday morning listening to my boss lecture me about my recent huge, yet fixable mistake. I was the coordinator for our annual trainer-the-trainer session that brought in 20 experts from across the country to learn about adoption competency. It was a big deal for our organization, and I took pride in making sure this week went on without a hitch. Unfortunately, I was already off to a lousy start that morning as the facilitator marched into my office with her lips pressed tightly as to not let on to how upset she was. It turns out I printed hundreds and hundreds of documents she needed for the week-long program incorrectly.

We shared an exchange that ultimately ended in her making me feel like I had no idea what I was doing. I was the lead coordinator for this event for the past 3 years. It was one of those projects I dreaded once it came around, and yet I got a strong sense of fulfillment after accomplishing it and making it better every year. Naturally, her words stung me and shook my confidence and sense of awareness. Of course, I knew what I was doing. I had done this training many times, and yet I couldn’t shake the embarrassment I felt.

I was scurrying around trying to right my wrongs as one of the newer facilitators gave me a genuine nudge of encouragement, so she thought. She stopped me dead in my tracks and said, “I admire your resilience.” Her well-meaning words hit me like a sudden overpowering wind. Her words, intended for kindness and empowerment only made me want to retreat to my office and let out a roar.

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It’s been more than two years since this incident, and yet I still carry it with me. It’s made me chant the word “resilience” in my subconscious like a mantra, piercing me every time I think of it. I have been called resilient many times before, but in the heat of my frustration it offended me and felt like a purgatory of sorts. After years of watching this event replay in the back of my head, I finally discovered what was so triggering about it.

I’ve had enough of being resilient and being in a constant cycle of pain.

As young women of color, our strengths are often measured by how much pain we can endure. This ultimately means we are consistently put to the test, whether purposefully or not, and it is a tough societal norm to challenge. We are constantly reminded to hold our heads high in the face of disappointment.

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“Don’t you dare cry in front of a crowd. You can only express defeat in the comfort of your loved ones with whom you can show your vulnerability to. Your femininity. You must be both strong and feminine. You must be all things”, is what we are reminded.

The reality is your resilience can be dangerous. Just think about the time you promptly reported to work, with your hair neatly pressed, rocking your favorite lipstick all while your body is screaming at you. Or maybe you walk around with a “ride or die chick” sticker covering your heavy chest and broken heart. Society has applauded you for sticking through it. Society has “admired your resilience.”

I commend and understand the struggle of a woman pushing through a life with glass ceilings. I have been in their shoes countless times, but it is important to make changes so that our resilience isn’t the end of us.

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It Is Ok To Cry

Think of your tears as a means to cleanse yourself from hurt. Don’t keep sorrow stored in your body but rather transfer it all out in a way that allows you to feel free. You can even scream if you need to.

Learn When to Say No

Refuse to do things that aren’t fulfilling even if it means saying “no” to people. At first, it will be hard, but eventually you’ll notice by saying “no” to others you’re saying “yes” to yourself. We stretch ourselves too thin. Establish boundaries so you’re not constantly overwhelmed. 

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Listen to Your Body

Please listen to your body. Be present every single day so that you will notice when your body becomes ill. Strive to achieve optimal mental and physical wellness. How can you be healthy for anyone else if you are barely hanging on to yourself?

One of the major takeaways I learned from this experience is that I only have one body and one mind. As much as I’d like to think my body is a time traveling machine with an extended service plan, it is simply not true. I can only be in one place at one time, and if I am sick or my mental health is shaken I have to make time for myself to heal. Learning the boundaries to your resilience is self-love.

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