What We Get Wrong About Resilience

True resilience isn’t about toughening up, it’s about mental suppleness, flexibility, and raw vulnerability, writes editor Anne Alexander.

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I used to think resilience was a kind of toughening up, a leathering or weathering of our inner and outer resources that hardened our weaknesses and made us less vulnerable to the slings and arrows in life. Hemingway’s phrase about being “strong in all the broken places” seemed to poetically capture what I’d considered resilience.

But I don’t subscribe to that theory any longer. 

No, I’ve come to see that resilience is the opposite. It requires mental suppleness, flexibility, and a raw vulnerability that allow us to dive deeply into our psyche—especially the broken places—and see ourselves, our thoughts and feelings, our beauty and longings, hurts and wounds, shadows, worst delusions and misdeeds, and to hold all of that with compassion, curiosity, and loving care. 

And when we become more tender with ourselves, we can see a path to becoming more tender with others, too. 

As we see our full humanity with loving eyes—all of it, the good, bad, and ugly—and learn to pause so we can bind up our own wounds, see our illusions, recognize our dreams, blow on the embers of our essence, and chart our own way forward, we can also see that fullness in…