Coming from a very male-driven world, I had to learn that women are innately strong. I had to start focusing and observing women, to realise this.
When I grew up, as a generation X, in a very rational family, studying engineering with more than 80% men, I wasn’t really getting a sense of women and the beauty they add to the world. I learned that men are tough, strong, and powerful; they are the leaders and the financial caretakers, and women are the child and household caretakers. They are intelligent, but give up their careers when they get babies, and I had the idea, they were growing unhappy and unfulfilled in their lives. It took me many years, before I realised how innately strong women are. Though at that time, with the lack of knowledge, I knew one thing: I would grow to be a strong and independent woman.
Growing older, I watched my friends navigate the difficulties of having children - including hormonal changes, sleepless nights, illness, fertility struggles, physical recovery, postnatal depression, and more - I realised the strength, power, and resilience of women. They endure so much, often with little support, and keep going despite the hardships. I was in awe of their ability to cope with these challenges and take care of their families while often neglecting taking care of themselves.
I wondered how they were doing it all. They barely complained, they would ‘toughen up’ and kept going. So I wondered why did they not give up? And I realised it’s resilience, women grow up to be resilient, to endure all that comes on their path, to keep going and to show up.
According to researchers, women exhibit a higher level of resilience compared to men. They attribute this difference to potential genetic and hormonal factors, as previous research has demonstrated that estrogen can enhance the immune system's ability to fight off illness. A team of scientists at Duke University recently conducted a study to assess the effect of factors such as famine, disease, and other adversities on the mortality rate among human populations over the past 250 years.
So what does resilience mean?
It refers to one’s capability of dealing with life’s hardships, overcoming obstacles, and recovering from adversities. It is a trait that can be developed and improved over time.
Women, in my opinion, are resilient because they harness their inner strengths and can bounce back from setbacks such as changes, illness, trauma, or death. While going through tough times, she can self-soothe and care for others.
Studies show we can become resilient by using positive emotions to rebound and find meaning in stressful encounters.
One can build resilience through five pillars: Self Awareness, Mindfulness, Self-Care, Positive Relationships and Purpose.
If you feel you could benefit from some more resilience right now, here are a couple of ways to boost yourself at that moment when you can do with a bit of extra power.
- Show up.
- Embracing change can be intimidating; however, by viewing it as an opportunity for growth rather than a source of fear, you can uncover its potential benefits.
- We can get caught up in the details; it might sound blasé, but looking at the bigger picture and listing what you are grateful for will boost you. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, even when you can’t see it in the moment.
- Reach out to the people who make you feel better, who can in-juice you with positive energy, or simply a hug and a smile.
- You can do this. You have gotten this far. Believe in yourself.
- Visualize your desired future, close your eyes, and go there momentarily, making it real.
- Treat yourself well; give yourself what you enjoy and deserve.
- Determine the lessons you can gain from the situation and how it can benefit your future.
- Keeping a growth mindset helps with building your resilience.
- Let go of the winning and proving mindset.
Remember that building resilience takes time and effort. Be patient with yourself and keep practicing these skills, and you will become more resilient over time.
Also, something to keep in mind is that as a woman, we have a monthly cycle that changes how we feel. Some parts of the month we are by nature less risk taking, less outgoing and other moments during our cycle, we feel we can carry the world. Make sure to track your cycle and know when it’s a better time to me more introspective and when it’s time to pick up new things.
If you are going through tough times, remember you are innately powerful and strong to do everything and keep believing in yourself. Treat yourself well, and never assume that you can’t do it. You are innately strong and make sure to treat yourself with respect and empathy. And sometimes, it is ok to not ‘toughen up’, to simply let all be and cry it all out or take time for yourself. Let the world pass by for a while and step back until you feel ready to rock it all. It’s your life and all is good.
Veroniek Vermeulen, founder Silatha.
Silatha is on a mission to create an equitable workplace for all.