The importance of failure to build resilience

The importance of failure to build resilience

As a therapist, part of my work is witnessing how people respond to stress and what my clients perceive how they have failed in their lives.

No-one can avoid everything negative that could happen to them over a lifetime, and it’s not the experience of failure itself that is crippling, but what we tell ourselves about these experiences that can be very damaging.

Ideally, failures and small defeats happen during childhood so that children grow up having developed confidence in how they can build resilience from life’s challenges within the safety of a supportive family.

Build resilience and bounce back

This is how to build resilience or the ability to bounce back from defeat is created. It is essential to think of resilience as an emotional muscle that you can strengthen through use so that it is there when you need it most.

However, everyone’s experience of childhood is unique, and this healthy balance of trial and error is not available to everyone as they grow up.

One of the reasons that children are not experiencing the opportunities to build resilience in childhood is a by-product of their parent’s anxiety. It can show up by parents tightening their control of their off-spring through helicopter parenting or by micro-managing their children’s exposure to the real world beyond home, school and family.

Adult levels of anxiety are currently high for a number of factors. For instance, I see adult clients who are struggling in the workplace with job insecurity and unreasonable targets implemented by often poorly trained managers. What was once a professional arena where people could excel and build self-esteem is now for many a cold, dog-eat-dog, head-down, highly pressured environment.

Adult anxiety affects their family too

Some of these adults who experience increasing levels of stress and insecurity project their impression of the world as big and bad onto their children.  Add in feelings of overwhelm with Brexit-Trauma and social media’s role as the purveyor of all things shocking and disturbing in modern society the world over, and it makes for a heady mix of paranoia and fear.

The unprecedented rise in mental ill-health amongst undergraduate students is a result of young people not being allowed to experience a failure while growing up and therefore not being able to build resilience and faith in themselves that they can overcome adversity and thrive.

They have never been allowed to learn that it is okay to metaphorically fall down as an opportunity to experience getting-back-up again, dusting yourself off and getting on with one’s life.

The challenging mix of leaving home, managing a budget while studying can become overwhelming for those who have been infantilised all their lives by overly anxious and controlling parents.

Luckily there are active steps everyone can take during and after a crisis to speed emotional recovery and the ability to bounce back. These can be learnt at all ages, so no-one is condemned to living a life without resilience.

Want to read more about how to build resilience?

My third book ‘The Getting of Resilience from the Inside Out’ from Hammersmith Books, London is scheduled for publication late 2019.

If you struggle with feelings of overwhelm and you are finding it challenging to bounce back from adversity and tough times, then you can reach out via the contact button on this page for an obligation free discovery call.

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