In this positive, practical guide to understanding resilience and its role in everyday life, Patricia O’Gorman demonstrates how women can resume control over their lives, make better choices, and enhance their ability to meet goals and priorities. Available from

Resilience?  What does resilience have to do with me?  I hear this question from friends, colleagues, and those who I counsel.  My answer is always the same:  Everything.

Resilience…Our Core.

It is all too common for us to doubt our abilities, to see nothing extraordinary or powerful about ourselves. Yet if we stop for a moment to consider how much we actually accomplish each day, the many roles we play, the distances we travel — both physically and emotionally, we may see quite another view of ourselves.  This is what our resilience can give us, the ability to align ourselves with our strengths and to recognize our personal power.

The fact is, most of us underestimate the degree of strength and flexibility our lives require on a daily basis.  And this is true both for ourselves and for those we serve.  We focus instead on unfinished tasks and unfulfilled goals.  We do not realize how much we ask of ourselves, having done so much and yet expecting ourselves to do more.  We need to be reminded of this from time to time for ourselves, and we need to teach this to our clients, as then Governor Ann Richards of Texas did in her keynote address to the 1988 Democratic Convention.  As a political leader, and a woman in recovery, she pointed out the irony that while Fred Astaire received top billing, “Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astaire did.  She just did it backwards and in high heels.”

Using Your Resilience

All of us have the potential to master the art of resilience.  We all share a special ability to take charge of our lives and find for ourselves the meaning, richness, and purpose we seek.  Our inner resilience is the power to know what we need and the strength to act on that knowledge.

Many of us have relied on this inner compass for so long that we are not even aware of it.  When we need to make a decision on what if right for us, our resilience is there to guide us.  If we permit it, our resilience can inform and share our actions and responses to allow us to be the person that we want to be. For others of us, we need to learn about this part of ourselves.

Do You Know Your “Resilience Style”?

Each of us has developed our resilience to a greater or lesser degree.  In first becoming conscious of your own resilient qualities, it is important to recognize the extent to which you already draw on these strengths and the areas in which you do so.  How you presently use your resilience depends on the challenges and reinforcement you experienced in childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood and how you have come to understand these experiences.

In talking about these differences and their implications for personal development, I have found it useful to think in terms of six different styles of resilience.  It is important to keep in mind that the categories that follow are not value judgments, nor do they indicate a woman’s potential or need for change.  They are only a general characterization of the ways in which a woman tends to use her resilience.

To begin to understand your patterns, ask yourself the following questions:

Balanced resilience

  • Do you feel you are capable in many areas?
  • Does your flexibility allow you to give and take?

Underdeveloped resilience

  • Are you tentative, inexperienced?
  • Do you leave decision-making to others?

Paradoxical resilience

  • Do you feel at times as if you operate as if you were two different people?
  • Are you anxious in areas where you feel inadequate, but quite competent in areas where you have know expertise?

Self-contained resilience

  • Do you isolate yourself?
  • Do you feel very competent, but feel you need to do everything by yourself?

Overwhelmed resilience

  • Do you feel shame and self-contempt?
  • Are you often unable to use your resources on your own behalf?

Stellar resilience

  • Are you a trauma survivor?
  • Has this lead you to become very vigilant, and determined to keep on track, no matter what?