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Redefine Resilience & Stop-Over Functioning

Redefine Resilience & Stop-Over Functioning
Redefine Resilience & Stop-Over Functioning

Co-authored by Guest Contributor Michele Calderigi and Christine Grimm.

A boss once complimented me by saying, "Michele, you can do anything with nothing." I knew being resourceful and plowing down any obstacle would please him, so I accepted every challenge, no matter how many extra hours and extra effort, being the taskmaster to my employees and peers. I didn't feel I could ask for help because I was worried that I would look weak. I was stressed out of my mind, but every time, I did whatever it took to ensure the CEO was pleased. I thought I was tough, in control, and resilient. I believed that resiliency meant surviving daily exhaustion and being gritty. Yet, I knew this approach needed to be more sustainable. It eventually led to burnout and serious disconnects in my most cherished relationships.

A few weeks ago, Chris posted a blog challenging us to consider unlearning our defaults, like over-functioning and people-pleasing, to magnetize the relationships we want. This was intriguing to me. Dropping our go-to behaviors takes work and often can be overwhelming. And, if many of us wear a badge of honor for taking on stress to prove we can always come back for more, how can we redefine resilience so that our ego comes along and allows our life to change?

Resilience means more than recovery; it also asks us to be flexible and adaptable. This version of resilience welcomes pliability and endurance that unfolds at an even pace (versus attempting to sprint for 26 miles!), preserving your energy so that you can return to your relationships and the things you enjoy once the workday is done.

Think about it this way: the big strong, sturdy oak tree will get uprooted in a strong wind, but willowy trees with deep roots bend, sway, and survive in that same wind. This new expanded definition embraces the naturally occurring feminine characteristics that we all are born with. If you are like me, you learned to deprioritize the more adaptable, collaborative, and flowing parts of yourself to be successful in highly masculine, action-oriented environments.

Here are four steps to take you from the rigid, hard-charging, brittle definition of resilience to the more pliable and sustainable endurance approach:

1. Observe

Before you try to change anything, give yourself a period of observation. Witness your patterns. Be curious. Notice when and with whom you naturally go into over-drive, lean in, take control, etc.

2. Replace Old Ways with New

To adopt new ways of doing, you will have to stop doing things. The first step is identifying what might need to stop or what you do need to do less often. And before you make that change, have an alternative mode of operation at the ready.

Here is a real-life example:

  • You decide to stop taking and distributing meeting notes for your team since it is not technically your job.

  • Because the team has probably gotten used to you doing it each week, you'll need to let them know you will not be providing this service any longer.

  • If they want someone to take on this role, someone will step up.

  • If they don't think the notes are important, no one will volunteer.

  • You need to exercise personal discipline and not default back to your old habits, even if you feel triggered or guilty.

3. Sit in Your Discomfort

When you stop doing what you have always done, at first, you will feel discomfort. You may also feel a "void" if someone or something doesn't immediately fill that space. In addition, when you establish new boundaries or ask other people to step up, and they resist, it could trigger your control and people-pleasing instincts. This is GOOD; learning to sit with, and not react to, your discomfort and the triggered emotions is the goal. The more practiced you are at allowing whatever happens to happen without doing anything, you move from being the oak tree to being the willow.

4. Allow Other People to Show Up

If you are like me, your instinct is to over-function when other people aren't doing what they should be doing. When this is the norm, you push people away and are inadvertently telling them they don't have to step up and do the thing. This is a very common pattern for women; we train people to be helpless, unaccountable, and lazy. This creates resentfulness, and your image of yourself is distorted with beliefs such as, "If I don't do it, it won't get done." The alternative is to stop doing so much and invite the people around you to participate.

When you are ready to give up being exhausted and overworked, your internal shift and redefinition of resilience will open the door to other people showing up in ways you can't currently imagine.


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