Build Resilience by Knowing Who You Actually Are


Build Resilience by Knowing Who You Actually Are

How well do you know yourself?

Do you know what triggers you to fight, to run away or to collapse?

Do you know your strengths?

The more you know yourself, the more you can build your resilience.

I was married at twenty-six – a good age to get married, I thought at the time. I’d met my then husband on the ski fields in Austria when we were both working for a season. Bad idea. Just because he was a good skier and downed a beer with the best of them didn’t make him a good husband for me.

After only a few years of commitment and struggling to make it work, I was devastated when he told me he didn’t love me. My self-esteem, fragile at the best of times, felt flimsy, as I dragged it behind me into my new single life, like a child’s old comforter.

A couple of years later, that husband called me and asked whether I’d be home one evening. I was, and opened the door to his best friend serving me with divorce papers. Sometimes we need to be pushed to dig deep and really get to know ourselves. This turned into an opportunity that I was not expecting.

I went to the divorce proceedings as I felt a need to see the death of my marriage. I looked at my husband and saw in place of contact lenses were thick coke-bottle glasses. His curly brown hair had turned dirty grey and he had put on weight. I was a little shocked yet quite pleased when the thought flashed into my head, what did I ever see in him? Then he greeted me in a surly manner.

In the small courtroom, the magistrate went through his procedures and then looked at me. He said, “Well Valerie Shepherd or Orton or whoever you are,” and asked a question. I don’t remember what the question was, but the opening stayed with me. “Who are you?

At home, officially a single woman again, I realised that my identity needed to change. I had been hiding behind my husband’s name, my title as a married woman and some of his outlook and attitudes. I had given up part of myself and needed to reclaim my identity.

By recognising the negative patterns of behaviour I had allowed myself to submit to and also display, I was able to start to learn new ways of relating. The first step in any change process is to know what is not working. Then, decide what you do want.

How can you recognise who you are?

1. Ask yourself some questions.

Who are you? What do you stand for? What won’t you stand for? What are your values, your motivations, your standards?

2. Notice what is not working.

One of the things I have realised about myself is how judgmental I’ve been. In Rosemary Shapiro-Liu’s recently released book The Mentor Within, she offers a challenge. She invites readers to notice and write down “every time you judge yourself or someone else”. Then, she advises, “write down what you want to do about what you notice. Or what you choose not to do.” After ten days, she suggests you re-read your notes, ask yourself what you have learned and how you want to be in the future.

How long do you think your list will be? In the past, mine would have been pages and pages long. I’m starting this exercise again today to review some triggers, which could affect my resilience.

3. Ask yourself what your strengths are.

A good resource is Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O Clifton. Once you recognise your strengths and play to them, your self-confidence will increase, you will feel better and you will be of more service to your clients. Your resilience will improve as you receive acknowledgement for your excellent work, which acts as ‘emotional padding’.

I’ll always be grateful for the gift that magistrate gave me on the day of my divorce. It set me on a path of wanting to know myself more. Is there a catalyst, which is propelling you to want to know yourself more, recognise your triggers, and celebrate your strengths? I urge you to explore this, to build your resilience.

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  • Andrew Griffiths

    Great article Valerie. Such an important point for all of us. Thanks for sharing. Cheers – Andrew

    • Valerie Orton

      Thank you Andrew. Your comment is much appreciated. Valerie

  • Catherine

    Thank you for your insight, Valerie. Your story reminds me of my own divorce and also other events that had profound effects on my life. How often when we are disempowered we blame ourselves for being ‘less than good enough’, and a spiral of triggered worthlessness feeds into all experiences from that point. Your advice is wise and I look forward to observing the patterns in my own reactions. Thank you very much.

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