We’re eager to share the raw reflections of a subset of our team members in hopes that readers find inspiration or meaning in them. But, before we fully dive in, we’d like to take a minute to make clear our intent: our aim is to reclaim the concept of resilience by embracing the consideration of all its nuances. Specifically, for some of us, resilience has a flavor of pain and trauma which is linked deeply to identity and privilege and the systemic origins of the need to build and demonstrate resilience in the first place. The concept led us to consider deeply: who is most often described as resilient? And how is that designation used? Is it with grace and kindness, compassion and love (for self and others)? And/or, is it weaponized, such that vulnerability and emotion aren’t welcome but, rather, resilience is wielded as a request to summon “grit” and forge our way through harm and pain? We hear this latter version in conversations about “bootstrapping,” in which resilience carries oppressive assumptions coupled with an expectation that some should find a way to overcome without a fair shot at the outset or help from others along the way.
We’ve seen these many sides of resilience play out in the education sector over time. As Cornelius Lee, Associate Partner at Promise54, summarized, “a central tenet of the education reform movement is centered around kids of color being ‘resilient’ versus acknowledging the real challenges and institutional barriers Black and Brown communities face. Acknowledging the challenges is the equity piece that is oftentimes missing from the resilience conversation. Resilience, in and of itself, plays into the myth of meritocracy– i.e., If you can be resilient, you can be successful.”
So, with that context in mind, we’re sharing what came up, unfiltered, for some of our colleagues in hopes that it inspires you to consider the multifaceted aspects of resilience: what’s meaningful to you, your team, your family, or your organization about resilience? And how does your perspective on resilience influence the ways in which you show up?
Our associations with the concept of resilience
Resilience for me is belief that there’s something better after moving through. It’s believing that I can and will care for myself and others through immense challenge and pain. It’s redefining resilience as embracing emotion rather than repressing it. I’ve learned that repressing emotion limits my resilience because it leaves some festering pain behind that eventually comes to the surface. It’s also having humility in knowing that resilience looks different across life experiences and identity. ~ Dawn Albert
The meaning I have made of it is that it’s wearing a mask to make others comfortable and with the hope that maybe doing so will make you feel what you’re faking. Resilience is a “look.” I learned this after my father died when, in order to avoid pity and prevent people from being worried about me, I acted “fine.” I guess maybe I’ve failed at resilience… and that my way of manifesting resilience didn’t serve me then, and it doesn’t serve me now. I’ve gained 10 pounds since March, likely associated with eating instead of feeling. ~ Anonymous
When I think about resilience, there’s an image of triumph and strength and accomplishment that comes to mind. But the most vivid picture I see is someone wading through muddy waters – an idea of pushing through, persisting when your environment is keeping you in place or pulling you down. When I think of resilience, I think of coping strategies I’ve learned along the way, tools I’ve picked up in therapy, ways to self-soothe. To be resilient is a strength, but I’m not sure if it’s necessarily healthy. I’m still working through that. ~ Danielle Ceribo
Much of my understanding of resilience is captured in a poem. It’s a poem I saw posted prominently in the two spaces inhabited most fully by my mother as I grew up: her home office, and her work office. For a long time I didn’t notice it. She never spoke about it, or made me read it; it just blended vaguely into other items attached via tacks to her bulletin boards, like my school pictures and “ERA” stickers*, and it wasn’t until I became an adult with an adult-sized appreciation for all the resilience that her adult life had required that I developed a sense for what it means. And then it kinda took my breath away. And the truth is, largely because of her resilience, I haven’t to develop as much of it. ~ Monisha Lozier
*Initially, in this description, I used “spirit animal” to describe the plethora of owl pictures which also populated my mom’s work space. I am aware that this term is culturally appropriative for non-indigenous people to use and I sincerely apologize for this oversight.
My conception of resilience has definitely been challenged this year, particularly in moving toward long-term, whole resilience from short-term, emotionally-muted resilience. In my life, resilience has so often meant merely weathering harm as opposed to cultivating community to sustain hardship. I’m trying to unlearn how individualism informs my relationship to resilience as well as how ‘one right way’ influences what forms of resilience are “allowed.” ~ Andrew Greenia
Contact Danielle: email@example.com
Monisha is: a proud midwesterner, the wife of a submariner-turned-data geek/amateur bluegrass musician, a flawed-but-awed mother, a lucky daughter, a passionate coach, a fired-up feminist, an obsessive connector, and a work in progress. Monisha’s 25+ years of executive search and career coaching experience include roles as: a Co-Founder & Partner of Bellwether Education Partners, Managing Consultant in the education practice of AT Kearney Executive Search, and as a Client Partner in Korn/Ferry International’s education practice. Monisha holds a BA from Connecticut College and an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.
Contact Monisha: firstname.lastname@example.org