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Photo by Jessica Lach

Weekly Wellbeing: Resilience vs Resistance

Ms J Lach —

When it comes to facing challenges, we have a choice on how to move forward.

We often hear the word ‘resilience’ and the usual thought is that it means how well we bounce back after a challenge. We think someone with resilience does not allow themselves to feel down or upset about the issue for very long. Sometimes, we may think that someone who is resilient doesn’t feel stress as much as others or that they aren’t worried about things.

But this is not the case.

Resilience is about leaning towards challenges and then learning from them. In other words, resilience is the opposite of resistance.

So what does resilience look like? Well, let’s pretend there are two friends, Friend A and Friend B, and they are BOTH worried about an upcoming test. They are BOTH nervous about not passing and what their parents and teachers might say if they fail.

Friend A decides to take her notes home and create a study plan. She makes flashcards, attends tutorials, and asks questions in class. She takes the test, and does not get a passing grade. She realises that, next time, it would be better to keep up to date with work and to be more organised ahead of time. She makes a goal for herself to keep up with her study timetable to improve her understanding and even sets reminders on her phone.

Friend B decides that it’s too much to deal with. She spends an hour after school staring at her class notes, but nothing is really making sense. She is quiet during class time, often checking emails instead of trying to figure out how to work out the problem. She decides she isn’t clever enough to pass. Friend B takes the test, and does not get a passing grade. She realises she was right all along - that she’s not smart enough to get high marks in the subject.

Friend A shows resilience. She was able to take steps towards addressing the issue, and while she may have still failed, she learned from the experience and set new goals. Friend B shows resistance. She avoided trying new study techniques or avoided work altogether, and when she failed, she used that as evidence that she was not good enough instead of thinking how to improve her approach. Friend B has let failure define who they are. Friend A used failure as a learning experience.

Life is full of challenges, and we are certain to make mistakes and even fail along the way. We can choose to resist those difficulties and let failure define us, or we can choose to learn and grow and develop new skills and approaches to expand our capabilities.

So next time you’re faced with a challenge, think about whether you approach with resistance or resilience.