Having the ability to laugh at life and yourself will keep you alive. The fact that we’re all here, living this crazy experiment called civilization, and same-day shipping butt plugs to our doorsteps – it’s absolutely absurd. People who recognize this fundamental ridiculousness have lighter spirits, even in the darkest of times. They giggle at their minds and fuck ups, and how funny life can be.
All of these qualities don’t come naturally to everyone. Some lucky people absorbed them from great mentors, or healthy, high functioning parents. Other people happened to cultivate them the hard way while battling their own demons in the trenches of life.
But it doesn’t have to be luck or trial by fire. If you’re looking to upgrade your emotional resilience, there are specific things you can do to build those muscles, and without having to enter full-on crisis mode.
Here are six ways that you can increase your emotional resilience
1. Regularly try challenging things
Low self-esteem will run from challenges, whereas high self-esteem faces into them. Some people engineer their entire lives to insulate themselves against discomfort. All this does is set you up to be utterly crippled when reality violently intrudes and bursts the bubble of your illusionary safety.
So, how does challenging yourself help?
It boosts your self-esteem. It makes your spirit, or will, more strong and rugged. Intentionally stepping into moments and scenarios that activate your sympathetic nervous system create familiarity and comfort with tackling adversity head-on. Then, when you see that you’re perfectly fine at the moment, you walk away feeling expanded and exhilarated.
This is how you start to form the belief “I can handle anything.” Successfully navigating stressful moments is what builds self-confidence and makes you feel unfuckwithable.
Challenging yourself doesn’t have to mean getting dropped naked into the jungle with only a pocket knife. You can find challenges in taking a cold shower at home, or smiling and saying hello to people you pass on the street, or leaving the house without makeup on, or doing a 5-minute set at an amateur comedy open mic. Whatever that thing is for you that arouses a bit of fear.
If you pay attention, you will find opportunities every single day to challenge yourself. Watch your mind and body as you move through the world.
When do you shrink and move away from people, situations, or taking certain actions? When do you avoid eye contact with others? Where do you become overly concerned with how you look to other people? Where do you negotiate and bargain with yourself to break your word, or procrastinate and put things off until next week?
Everyone has different set points for their own emotional resilience, as well as things they consider “challenging”. But no matter where you are, you can start paying attention to those feelings of avoidance and discomfort. Once you have sharpened this awareness, you will discover an endless supply of customized challenges waiting to be tackled.
(Key point: it isn’t just that self-esteem and resilience come from trying difficult things and winning/coming out victorious. Merely the act of attempting difficult things builds self-esteem because it trains your identity to believe that you are someone who is capable of tackling hard things. Winning is secondary. Attempting/leaning into the hard things is its own reward.)
2. Invest in your relationships and support systems
The more community you have, and are genuinely, deeply connected to, the better you will perform when times of struggle come your way. When you’re overwhelmed and going through a hard time, your external support system effectively lends you their collective emotional resilience.
They fill your cup when it’s empty. They help you think in healthier ways and brainstorm solutions. They remind you of your strength and capacity. They believe in you when you can’t believe in yourself. They listen and hold space when you need it. They have your back and help you keep your shit together.
No matter how wickedly strong and self-sufficient you become, at some point, we will all need other people in order to get by. While you work on building your internal resources, be sure to build up your outer resources as well.
Investing in these relationships looks like actively prioritizing quality time with people, and setting dates for group get-togethers. When you’re in each other’s presence, you’re taking the conversation to more intimate and emotionally vulnerable places. You share your full truths, or ask for and offer support where it’s needed.
It’s fine to bullshit and laugh sometimes. But sadly, that’s the extent of many people’s friendships. When shit hits the fan, they feel like they have no one to turn to, even though they have a network of people they hang out with regularly.
What makes it easy for you and other people to reach out during hard times is already knowing that it’s safe to do so. How you interact now is setting a precedent. Through demonstration, let those around you know that radically honest, dark, and ugly conversations are welcome, honored, and appreciated. Having friends that expect each other to lean on them, and get lovingly frustrated when they don’t, is more precious than gold.
3. Be the dominant creator of positive change in your life
Alongside facing challenging moments, this point is another huge contributor to strengthening beliefs like “I CAN. I am capable, valuable, and I can get through anything.”
The heart of it can be summed up into three words: Start taking charge.
Life doesn’t just throw success and positive change at you. Yes, sometimes great things, people, or opportunities will come your way. But very few things will stick or take root if you’re not already off your ass and actively engaged in living.
If you’re unsatisfied with something, no one is going to come along and save you, or clean up your mess, or put in the work.