Is Resilience the New Sexy?

Since the start of the pandemic, resilience has been a recurring theme in society and is a term that graces headlines across the globe on a near-daily basis. As a topic, it is often associated with mental health and wellness, the current climate catastrophe, coping with work-related stress, or to help recount the experiences of oppression or discrimination. Lately, the concept of resilience has also been touted by lifestyle media and popular culture, complete with the accompanying apps and other quick-fix paraphernalia that promise easy solutions and guaranteed personal growth. A term originally used within the context of ecosystems, resilience has become normalized as the new contemporary ideal. It’s become almost… sexy. And it’s being targeted towards women.

To define resilience, one might relate it to the characteristics of elasticity, as the ability to ‘bounce back’ from adversity. It could also be defined as “the capacity to recover quickly after facing a disturbance or challenge” (Oxford University Press, 2022). Synonyms include “flexibility”, and “pliancy”, while antonyms are “rigidity” and “weakness”. This begs the question of whether resilience can be measured; at what point does one truly become resilient? In contrast, does showcasing resilience in such a ubiquitous way promote adversity? Or is it that adversity has become sexy?

While women are told that avoiding adversity is likely an impossibility, but when faced with it, we are instructed to rebound post-haste, thwarting any adversity we are confronted with. Women are to then carry on developing the ensuing resilience through positive self-talk, relinquish the idea of achieving perfection, and adopt self-help strategies, all direct acts of resistance to be undertaken with relish and confidence. This is to be followed by re-framing adversities as opportunities for growth, leaving no room for languishing in the experience of adversity itself.

In essence, the concept of resilience has now been reduced to a simple mathematical equation: first a challenge is faced and then overcome, followed by swiftly applying the lessons learned only to emerge at the other side stronger for it. Check, check, and check. Resilience is acknowledged, yet the experience of adversity one faced is undermined, thus negating the qualities that make us different from one another as humans. Yet, is it not these differences between us as individuals the only true element that binds us all together?

In promoting resources through mainstream media outlets that are targeted towards overcoming adversity through resilience, this places the onus on the individual for navigating their way through life’s challenges (Gill & Orgad, 2018). However, in doing so, this avoids exposing the societal structures that create the barriers and adversity that women must face, effectively silencing any opportunity for discussing change (Gill & Orgad, 2018). Is this the message we wish to promote in society?


References:

Gill, R. & Orgad, S. (2018) The amazing bounce-backable woman: resilience and the psychological turn in neoliberalism. Sociological Research Online, 23 (2). ISSN 1360-7804

Oxford University Press. (2022). Resilience. The Oxford Learners Dictionary. Retrieved from https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/english/resilienc….

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Here at Lead Read Today, we endeavor to take an objective (rational, scientific) approach to analyzing leaders and leadership. All opinion pieces will be reviewed for appropriateness, and the opinions shared are solely of the author and not representative of The Ohio State University or any of its affiliates.