Building Resilience

My daughter is finishing up her first year of elementary school.  Over the course of the year, I’ve anxiously asked her what she has to work hard to understand and she tells me school fun and easy.

Now as the first year comes to an end, I can see her self-confidence.  We all know that early experiences help shape our view of the world for much of our lives to come.  I had hoped that my daughter would learn that she is capable both socially and academically in early school experiences.

Some people are not so lucky as to have positive first experiences.  Whether it’s school, making friends or managing emotions, bad outcomes early on can result in a lack of self confidence.

People who have experienced good outcomes tend to see themselves as effective.  With each good outcome, their confidence in themselves builds.  These are often the people who you might consider resilient.  If they experience a failure, their confidence in their abilities motivates them to continue to try until they succeed.  Very often they do succeed and over a lifetime become proficient in many areas.

On the other hand, doubt in oneself often leads to resignation after unsuccessful first efforts.  Those who view themselves as competent and capable also often experience initial failure.  The difference is that they maintain a commitment to their goal, even in the face of obstacles.  A sense of competence produces continual effort, while feelings of incapability lead to capitulation.

In order strengthen your commitment to any undertaking:

  • Do a pros and cons.  Do one pros and cons of sticking to your goal and one for giving up.
  • Ask yourself “what’s the worst that could happen?”  Usually it’s lost time and energy and the sting of lost pride if you fail.
  • Create your own cheer leading squad.  Find people who believe in you and will cheer you on when your motivation lags.
  • Make a commitment to just a small step towards your goal.
  • Give yourself incentives to achieve those small steps.
  • Think about why you originally set the goal.
  • Practice, practice, practice.  We can’t learn to drive, master an instrument or lead a meeting without practicing.  Don’t forget: it’s best to practice when the stakes aren’t so high.  You wouldn’t want to try a new song at a concert.  The same is true for learning other skills.

Resilience is not necessarily a quality that you are either born with our not.  Nor is there any one “right” way to get from here to there.  The willingness to get up once you have fallen and try again, is often the difference between success and defeat.

You can find more strategies to improve how you feel in my new book, The Stress Response and by clicking here to sign up for more of my tips and podcasts using DBT strategies to improve how you feel.

Building Resilience

Christy Matta, MA

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APA Reference
Matta, C. (2012). Building Resilience. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 30, 2020, from


Last updated: 16 Apr 2012
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