• Corey Smith

Changing the Way We Look at Resilience

Three months – that is how premature I was when I was born. I was a tiny (but mighty) 2.3

pounds. It wasn’t too long before my parents noticed something was wrong, I wasn’t meeting developmental milestones in a normative manner. The reason? Cerebral Palsy.


From that point forward, especially during my childhood and adolescent years, my life consisted of a lot of doctors, surgeries, shots, braces, physical and occupational therapy, tests, and more. I specifically remember people would alter their behavior towards me—most times, not in a good way. I remember (and still get) the stares, unsolicited touching, unabashed pitiful looks, feelings of isolation and anger, and so much more.


People would tell me all the time, “You have SO MUCH RESILIENCY.” I began to get tired

of hearing that “R” word. In fact, I pretty much hated it. For the longest time, I defined resiliency as most people do: something to be endured, just “taking the punches”…surviving and getting to the other side. I felt like that is all I had ever done, and hearing someone say the word “resiliency” reminded me of that, and that’s why I despised it.


But, after having a major surgery when I was 15, which resulted in me having to relearn how to walk, I felt like it was the first time in my life I was confronted by resiliency. This led to a major change in the way I look at resiliency. I had this catharsis, “What if resilience isn’t meant to be endured but enjoyed? What if it isn’t meant to be suffered through, but appreciated? What if it isn’t supposed to be a journey of chaos but a journey of solace?”


With this newfound perspective about resilience, I began to make my way down this long,

winding path to what resilience is about for me, not what the world says it should be. With that in mind, I think we all need to form our own journey and definition about what resilience is for each one of us. That is the Changing the Way We Look at Resilience piece that I am talking about. It’s not a “one-size-fits-all” kind of thing, but I think there are a few baseline elements we can incorporate to begin to change the way we look at resiliency. Take a look at them below:


As I alluded to above, the concept of resilience is well known, but not well understood. I think one step that can be taken is to not view resiliency through a lens of recovery, but rather through rebuilding. Isn’t that what we do as humans? Learn and grow and rebuild from it? Resiliency doesn’t always have to be conceptualized as a “fall and rise”; it can also be a part of our natural growth process.


We as humans also tend to want to move quickly through resilience as if it’s a race. Why

though? What if it’s more of a marathon? Why not give resiliency the attention it deserves?

Allowing yourself the permission to navigate the experiences associated with challenge, change, and complexity, to sort through the pain, to engage in the full magnitude of the difficulty, to really feel those feelings.


Lastly, it seems that we as a society have bought into the idea that resilience involves grit (and in some cases, it does) but what if it’s more about vulnerability? I think it’s through vulnerability that we are molded and shaped by our experience instead of remaining gritty and rigid.


I am a big aviation enthusiast, so I like to think of one’s journey with resiliency in the following terms: You are flying in a plane from one place to another. To get there, you make a small series of adjustments to navigate through different things that may come up in your “flightpath.”


Navigating those elements can be scary, but you will land. But the most important thing to

remember is you can’t land if you don’t get in the plane to begin with.

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