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Resilience - The Midster's Super Power?

07/09/2017 15:51

Picture this scenario in your head. You've just done a presentation at work. It's taken weeks of preparation, you've been sick with nerves about it for days but you think you've got the business you were pitching for.

You're looking forward to celebratory drinks with your colleagues later and maybe even a pat on the back from your boss.

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credit: Photo by Jimmy Bay for Unsplash

You're in the ladies afterward and two women walk in - one of who is the CEO of the company you just pitched. "It was ok - well researched", one says. "Yes", agrees the other, "but I'm still set on the other team. I can see she knows her stuff, I just feel more comfortable with someone younger and fresher being in charge." You didn't get the account.

How do you feel? Angry? Resentful? Like marching out there and demanding they stop being so ageist?

What do you do though? Your professional reputation is at stake, so giving 'em what for isn't really an option. Cry maybe? Rage to your friends?

You might beat yourself up a bit and worry your boss will also be concerned about your age. These thoughts spiral in your head, leaving you fearful for the future.

If you're a person with lower self-esteem - perhaps because you feel you're lacking experience or the CEO's statement reinforces negative beliefs you hold about yourself, then you might take this so personally, it effects you for a long time. You might give up on your career, or yourself.

If you're someone with more self-belief, you'll handle the situation very differently.

Firstly, you'll know, deep down, that the CEO's choice had nothing to do with you and everything to do with her own prejudice. You'll focus on your great track record and know that your boss believes in you completely. You might still go home and have a few drinks, or a good cry, but you'll get up the next day and you'll try again.

That's resilience. It's the topic of a lot of studies and talks - researchers and scientists in the field of human behaviour focus on its importance in helping us manage the negative chatter in our minds.

Tim Ferris, who created the TED talk 'Why you should define your fears instead of your goals' refers to this as stoicism; the ability to keep going and hold fast when everything in your life is going wrong.

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credit: image Option B

Much of the work in building resilience is aimed at young adults, but, as identified by Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg in her new book 'Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy', it's older people who need this skill and very often it's older women who already have it.

I'd go so far as to say it's our secret superpower. The passing of time exposes us all to challenges, be they financial, relationship or career.

Most us don't have the luxury of giving up through these times; instead, we find the inner resources that we may not have been aware we even had.

I discovered my own resilience muscle when I was at the mercy of a boardroom coup. I was left feeling totally beaten and bruised, emotionally annihilated and completely helpless.

I had to dig deep and find the strength within me to pick myself up; to start again. It's hard and takes work. Every day I'm mindful that what has gone is in the past, wounds heal, and your energy is best used creating a future.

It's about moving forward. I didn't always feel positive or confident, but I learned how to replace the negative chatter and fear with positive affirmations.

That led to my new beauty range being born and this time it's my brand, my company. Most importantly it's aligned with my passion to redefine beauty for women as they age.

Another UK resilience expert, Angela Smith, encourages us to take responsibility as part of the process of resilience. We can't change circumstances but we always have a choice; the choice of how we react to it.

It's advice I shared with a colleague who was being undermined and treated poorly by one of her clients. She felt fragile and worried it was going to 'crush her confidence'. But that's where choice comes in; to find resilience or not. A choice to have a positive mindset to the situation and to not take the comments personally.

Dr. Dennis Charney, a resilience researcher and Dean of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, believes 'rewriting your own story' can help with situations like this. His own traumatic experience taught him that one of the most powerful things we can do is reframe our experiences to see what we can learn from them.

As older women, we know that the labels society puts on us may be big but they're rarely true. We've learned to value each other and ourselves by what we do over an extended period - not how we appear at any given moment.

Most of all we know that life is very, very fleeting. What seems devastating now, can be a golden ticket tomorrow - don't waste even a moment on things you can't change anymore - simply 'move on and move up'.

In every moment of our lives, we all have choices and can change how we feel about any given situation.

I made the decision that day to change my outlook, to have a positive mindset, and I've never looked back.

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