Resilience is the most important human condition

“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 in to the suck. 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.”
— Sheryl Sandberg, Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy

The past few months haven’t been easy on any of us. It would be unfair of me to think I was especially affected, and the truth of the matter is, I’ve been one of the lucky ones. I wasn’t furloughed, I wasn’t in the position where I didn’t know if I could make rent, and none of my family and close friends have tested positive for COVID-19. In fact, I even managed to find another job.

However, it also hasn’t been easy — and my troubles started long before the pandemic did.

Throughout most of 2019, I suffered professionally, and personally. I spent a majority of the year deeply burnt out, which eventually resulted in a type of depression that I hadn’t felt since 2014-2015.

Every part of my life felt like it was spiraling out of control and once I came to that realization, I gave up and that’s when it got really ugly:

  • I stopped working out — I went from a person who worked out 4-5x/week to not having enough energy to even pack my gym bag.
  • I stopped making dinner and eating well — I used to be a steadfast meal planner and over the course of a couple of months, I would walk into my kitchen and immediately walk out only to order something from UberEats or Skip the Dishes.
  • My only form of productivity was going to work — I literally had just enough energy to drive to work, do what I had planned for the day, and go home. There were days where the only reason I was able to get out of bed was because I had to go to work.

There are more indicators, of course, but you get the point.

Now, it would be too easy to point the finger at depression or anxiety and say, “Well, what else did I expect? I’m just going through a rough time.”

But I’d been listening to a lot of podcasts recently and as I started digging deeper (ironically, during the quarantine), I finally understood why I felt the way I had. The answer was simple — resilience.

Specifically, it was a lack of resilience from my part — especially for the things that mattered.

The more I dug deeper in my own brain, the more I realized that I lacked the capability to bounce back after I surpassed a certain threshold.

Knock me down once or twice and I’ll probably get back up to fight.

Knock me down to the point where I lack control of almost everything around me and I’ll find it easier to just lay down and take the punches.

All of this self-realization did lead me to a very important conclusion — resilience is probably the most important human condition.

Without resilience, the next time we suffer through a global pandemic, we’ll do just that — suffer. We won’t know how to wake up in the morning. We won’t know how to put a smile on our face as we log onto a video conference call during a lockdown. Most importantly, we won’t be able to support our loved ones through their times of need.

And I get it — developing resilience isn’t easy. I’ve heard more times than I can count that developing resilience is like developing muscle. You don’t wake up one day after years of having a shitty diet and not training to have the core strength of a gymnast.

In the same way, we can’t expect to wake up one day and simply decide we’re going to be more resilient.

However, we will get to decide that we will start on our journey to resilience. We will get to decide that it’s time to finally take that first step.

For me, my first step is to start therapy and take ownership of what I have to make right.

What’s your first step?