Emotional resilience is something we should strive to instil in our children but it’s hard work. Being able to not only handle stressful situations and change, but bounce back from them isn’t easy and can take a lot of conscious effort. Modelling behaviours is, in my opinion, the best way we can teach our children anything but what happens when the behaviour we want to teach isn’t one that comes naturally to us?
If I’m honest, I’ve spent a lot of time in the past being a crazy person and I think it’s important to say that. There have been plenty of evenings where I have cried myself to sleep, plenty of days when I’ve felt so angry or distracted that I wasn’t a very good parent and plenty of times when I’ve allowed my circumstances to overwhelm me and totally lost my shit. I was in a bad place, stuck in a rut of anger and sadness due to so many things and it wore me down. It was exhausting and in that time I did some things I’m not proud of. If you read this and wonder how on earth I’ve managed to get it all together then please don’t worry because your moment will come. And remember that every time you see someone who has it all together, there was always a time when they didn’t.
Over the past few years I’ve dealt with some things that have been challenging and it would be so easy to be bitter about them. To feel anger and resentment at the world, at the people who caused the hurt, at the people who had it all when I had nothing. Whenever we face something difficult anger seems like a very easy emotion to feel. It’s a perfectly valid one, but its not one that can help you move forward. It makes us focus on the who’s and the why’s. It’s almost a gut reaction to immediately have those feelings of “it’s not fair”, “I don’t deserve this”, “it’s someone else’s fault”. And let’s be clear, often life isn’t fair. Often you get dealt a hand you don’t deserve and often that is down to someone else’s actions. Often your ex boyfriend is a dickhead or your husband is thoughtless or your mother in law can’t keep her opinions to herself. But those are all things you have no control over, and going over it in your head will only drive you crazy. The more time we spend getting angry and upset over other people’s actions the more frustrated we become. Emotional resilience is being able to handle this stress, these changes, the disappointment, and adapt accordingly with no lasting difficulties. It’s about being able to bounce back from something negative, reducing the impact stress has on your life.
A skill I’ve been trying hard to develop over the past 6 months or so is really letting go of things I can’t control and honestly it has been quite life changing. When faced with something stressful or unpleasant you have two options – you can be angry and upset at the situation you’re now in, or you can accept the situation for what it is and move forward. You can moan about the cause or you can let go of everything you have no control over and focus your energy on the things you can change. Allow yourself time to feel anger, upset, disappointment and rage because those emotions are valid and healthy – scream, shout and cry if you need to, but then pick yourself up and move forward.
I cannot control how someone treats me. I cannot control their choice of actions. I can’t control if they lie to me, or if they do something I’ve asked them not to do. All of that is totally out of my hands. What I can control is my response to it. I can choose not to let the way someone treats me effect my mood for the rest of the day. I can choose not to let my self worth be determined by someone else’s actions. I can choose to learn from these experiences, take away what I need to from it but then I can choose to let go of the anger and the resentment and all the other negative feelings. It’s actually liberating when you take away the control other people have over you. Their actions don’t dictate your feelings and your emotions any more, you can choose that. It’s hard, really hard, but once you manage it it’s worth it.
This is one of those things that’s way, way harder than it sounds but stick with me. Lately I’ve made a real conscious effort to be nice to everyone, even if they haven’t earned it. Because, although I can’t control how others treat me, I absolutely can control how I treat them. There are plenty of people in our lives who have done wrong to us, but if we can look at ourselves at the end of the day and say we did what we believe was right, regardless of whether or not they deserved it, that’s what counts. If we can do that then we can be sure we are good people and that’s what matters. When times are difficult this can really be a huge comfort, at least for me any way; knowing that you’ve been true to your values regardless of whether anyone else has upheld their own is so important. And beyond that, being able to look at our children and know we’ve done the best for them, despite our own personal feelings, well that’s everything. That’s what it’s all about, that’s being a great parent and that’s something I want to be able to say I was capable of.
I’m not writing this to pretend I’ve got it all figured out because I haven’t. I still lose my shit from time to time. But I’ve come out the other side of a really difficult period and I’m in a place now I never ever thought I would be. I’ve managed to rebuild relationships that I thought were damaged beyond repair for the sake of my child and I’m so glad that I have. It hasn’t been an easy road. This is how I survived, this is how I’ve made it to where I am now and these are the lessons I’ve learnt. These are the skills and the qualities I want to pass on to my children and I can only do that by modelling them every day, as best I can. By improving my emotional resilience I will hopefully be able to better instil that in them. And the next time I’m feeling weighed under by negative feelings I’m going to come back and read this, and remind myself that we are all capable of rising above it. I’m proof of that.
Photography by Mr. Adam Robertson
Gorgeous wooden bi-plane available to purchase from Jones and Parker Toys