We Are More Resilient Than We Think We Are

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I was reading Option B by Sheryl Sandberg a couple of weeks ago. A book about resilience and it made me think. It made me really wonder if resilience is something within us, like a reservoir ready to be tapped into when required? And I realised that most of the times the answer to that question is yes. It is. The truth is we are indeed much more resilient than we think we are. Well, at most times. The fact surprised me, honestly, though it shouldn’t have.


Throughout history, we have seen how during the most trying of times ordinary people have risen up to the occasion to face adversities head on. Why I have been reading about the second world war so extensively in the recent past myself and every story that I touched upon has been about resilience. Take for example the resistance in France or the fight to survive in concentration camps. Or, the lives of the hidden children during the war. All have common themes of survival and fighting back against all odds.


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The will to endure and fight even if it was to live one day at a time or just one extra day. Note the difference for it speaks volumes of resilience.


Human beings are extraordinary when the time calls for it. The extraordinary courage to save someone going against all logic or even risking yourself. Listening to the heart and being true to humanity. All of it speaks of the vast reserves of resilience that we just need to reach for. Easier said than done, I know but I have seen it comes naturally when there’s no other way forward.


Closer home, the fight for Independence from the British Raj. It wasn’t an easy fight but the freedom we enjoy today is a gift from those freedom fighters who had so many strengths one of which was resilience. It has to be. The sheer will to stand up each time they were beaten both literally and figuratively is worthy of a million accolades. If that doesn’t speak of the strength of character while facing obstacles then what does?


I think it was Nehru who had written a letter to Indira Gandhi on her 17th birthday which contained these lines.


“Ordinary men and women are not usually heroic. They think of their bread and butter, of their children, of their household worries and the like. But a time comes when a whole people become interested in a great cause. Then history helps even simple, ordinary men and women to become heroes.”


It doesn’t always have to be a cause that defines the course of the history of a nation. It can be something that you do as an individual. It can be something which might seem trivial but is not. It can be facing that difficult client at work every single day. Or, maybe holding on to your individuality while immersed in all the different roles you play. Facing misfortune or difficult times and coming out of it. Just taking one step at a time, that’s the resilience in everyday life and I see so many of us doing it all the time.


A couple of years back when both my parents had to undergo scary medical procedures, I didn’t know what to do. While in front of them I did put up a brave face, I was shaken and possibly even broken within. Depressed too probably. Some mornings I remember sitting in the hospital lobby crying. But in spite of that I faced it, we faced it as a family. We were resilient.


Facing misfortune or difficult times and coming out of it. Just taking one step at a time, that’s the resilience in everyday life and I see so many of us doing it all the time.


I wish that no one has to go through a low phase in life or be in situations that are far from pleasant. But the fact of life is that nothing is permanent. It’s a cycle, day after night and then again night after day. It goes on. And it’s the same with joy and adversity. But whatever be the challenge we somehow seem to summon the strength. That’s the beauty and the wonder of the human spirit.


As Sheryl Sandberg says, “Resilience comes from deep within us and from support outside us. It comes from gratitude for what’s good in our lives and from leaning into the suck. It comes from analysing how we process grief and from simply accepting that grief. Sometimes we have less control than we think. Other times we have more. I learned that when life pulls you under, you can kick against the bottom, break the surface, and breathe again.” 


Here’s to doing that whenever needed. Here’s to kicking against the bottom, breaking the surface and breathing again.


Tell me, when do you think you were at your resilient best?





Linking to #mg hosted by Mackenzie Glanville


20 thoughts on “We Are More Resilient Than We Think We Are

  1. My resilient best? When my mother died (I was 12)? As a teenager, as my neighborhood rapidly turned into a dangerous slum and I had to escape? Four years ago, when we became long distance family caregivers for my mother in law during her cancer treatment? I can certainly think of a lot of moments. And you are right – terrible times make ordinary people into heroes – you never know what is inside of you until “the time comes”.
    Alana recently posted…Walter BeckerMy Profile

  2. Yes, resilience comes from within. Sometimes we surprise ourselves by showing strength that we were not even aware of. These are the situations that build our character. I actually don’t know when I was at my best… I guess I have little incidents here and there where I showed resilience. Hope your parents are better now.
    Rajlakshmi recently posted…7 Fascinating Things I came across recentlyMy Profile

  3. Surely agree with you, Naba.
    I think we, as humans, are resilient everyday, without realising it.
    We fight everyday battles, inner demons, guilt and what not. We think we can’t take it anymore, but then tomorrow is another another day and another set of challenges.

  4. Oh yes, we all are resilient, much more than we care to give credit for. I wrote a post,’Hero’, last week that dealt with the same subject. We all fail to realise that there’s a hero within us who gives us the strength when we need it and helps us overcome our problems, fight our battles.
    Beautifully expressed, Nabanita!
    Shilpa Gupte recently posted…Ganpati Bappa Morya!My Profile

  5. I completely concur with you on this, Naba. I have seen it in my own life how getting circumstances made me chin up and face things. So many instances – – mum ‘s passing away, when Sid was sick with head injury etc.

  6. True, we are more resilient than we think. And we surprise ourselves each time we think we can’t. Realized this after every health and family calamity. Loved this one Nabanita.

  7. We all have it within us to be resilient. And time and time again when we are faced with tough challenges we rise to the occasion. I have always been able to overcome any problem but as you said, apart from the internal strength it is the support and encouragement of others that really helps us find the resilience within.
    Bellybytes recently posted…Where is Miss Manners?#MondayMusingsMy Profile

  8. I have been resilient but I know I can be more. You are right that it’s a power we need to tap when we need it. Sometimes when I think of things that could go wrong I worry if I will be able to hold myself. I worry about what ifs but I know that when the time comes, I will be able to resilient. It’s a quality and we all have it. Great piece of writing, Naba!
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  9. Nabhanita, the inner strength we summon at times when there is no other option is resilience. We all have this hero within, as Shilpa puts it, who helps us conquer. To go on living when you lose a loved one to death is another form of resilience. Not giving up and moving on with life after facing hardships is resilience. We all strong, sometimes we don’t know it. A beautiful post, Nabhanita!

  10. Resilience is necessary in life. It throws so many curve balls at you, if you were without resilience then you wouldn’t get very far. Brilliant read #mg

  11. Resilience is a thing you don’t know you have until you need it. When it kicks in that first time, every time, it is surprising, yet expected. In my 57 years, there have been a number of instances where resilience has had to show to the party.

  12. Resilience definitely comes from within. I’ve been a pretty strong person all my time but this March when my mom had to undergo brain surgery, I found myself breaking. I was staying far away from the hospital she was in and since I couldn’t take breaks from work for a long time I was pushing myself to work, go to the hospital and come back and do the chores at home. Everything and everybody around me was crumbling, but somehow I held on. I knew I had to stay strong for my broken father. I had to put up a brave face and tell people that everything will be alright. Of-course I believed it myself too. Three brain surgeries within a week and mom came out with flying colors. I know my belief and resilience has a lot to contribute to this as well.
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  13. I found I had resilience when I lost my only pregnancies and then couldn’t have any more. Even when I was exercising resilience, I didn’t feel resilient. But when I looked back, and saw what helped me live and cope and keep going, I realised I was unknowingly being resilient.

    And to me, resilience isn’t being strong and ignoring our problems. It’s facing them, accepting them, and moving forward.

    I 100% agree with you that we don’t know it’s there, till we need it.

  14. Resilience is the key for success in life…. In All aspects it’s need is paramount.
    We keep getting upset but still have to keep working on our goals.
    Inderpreet recently posted…The Untold StoryMy Profile

  15. This is truly an amazing post, very thought provoking too. I believe until we are faced with adversity we have no idea just how resilient we truly are, we doubt ourselves, but in the end we get through. #mg

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