Just recently I had a client who was feeling really depressed. He couldn’t stop himself from thinking up worst-case scenarios and criticizing himself for mistakes he had made in the past.

My client was well aware of his inner critic, that part of him that would go into overdrive to protect him by criticizing everything he did. But, he hadn’t recognized this as being mean to himself.

Are you being mean to yourself?

Sometimes we feel depressed because of external factors. Losing your job, being financially insecure, or going through a breakup are all examples of outside events that can make you feel extreme.

It’s hard to control those external factors but much easier to deal with internal factors like my client had. Are you doing any of things?

  • Self criticizing
  • Imagining worst-case scenarios
  • Beating yourself up

It makes sense that you’d feel depressed as a result of these internal factors. You’ve created harsh conditions inside of yourself and it’s hard to be inside your own mind.

You don’t have to suffer your suffering

This is a mantra from Buddhism that I like especially: you don’t have to suffer your suffering.

You don’t have to suffer your suffering.

If you take external events personally, they become internal factors that add to your misery. Your story of not being good enough, comparing yourself to others, etc., is not the truth just because you thought it. It is turning this event into personal meaning which causes unhappiness not the event.

Another way to understand it would be to ask yourself, “What’s going on inside me that’s contributing to me feeling so low?

Resilience is an important quality for weathering emotional storms

Talking about resilience is trendy right now – with good reason. Having resilience prevents you from suffering your suffering.

Researchers who studied resilience describe resiliency as “the process of coping with disruptive, stressful, or challenging life events in a way that provides the individual with additional protective and coping skills than prior to the disruption that results from the event.”[1]

Put more simply, emotional resilience is the ability to “bounce back” from hard times and even trauma.

If you feel like you struggle too much to bounce back, take heart. You can build up your resilience.

4 things you need to become more resilient

Being resilient means you have these 4 qualities.

  1. The ability to get along well with other people (social competence). Social competence means you have positive relationships with family members and friends, which are important for support.
  2. Problem-solving skills. This one is twofold. Being able to solve problems is helpful, of course. Knowing you have this ability also builds confidence. You can rely on yourself to seek help when you need it.
  3. Independence (autonomy). This is the ability to act on your own behalf. Again, knowing that you can take care of yourself is also confidence-building.
  4. A sense of purpose. Having a sense of purpose or reason for living inspires you to seek a satisfying future. When you have a clear sense of purpose, you’re aware of your goals and you have the courage to seek them no matter what others may think.

5 ways to build up your resilience

Let’s see what we can do with our Internal factors so that we can influence our bouncing back from bad experiences.

  1. Connect better with others. Start with a smile. Say thank you. Pay attention to your tone of voice. Start conversations with something small, and then extend them by being Curious about the other person. I recommend staying away from heated topics like politics or religion. Read this for tips about better relating.
  2. Connect better with yourself. Be calm and friendly with yourself. See what you are telling yourself and listen. Give yourself a hug (really).
  3. Start with the basics of problem solving. You probably know more than you think in this area. Imagine you’re on the show Naked and Afraid – you’re in the wilderness all by yourself and you have to figure out a solution to your current problem. If you’re not sure where to start, read this.
  4. If at first you don’t succeed, try again. Failure is feedback saying: try again in a different way.” In my experience your autonomy grows when we take risks. The key is in the doing and trying and not the outcome. You don’t know if you’ll be successful but you try. Maybe you fail and have to try something different the next time. This is good! Give yourself credit for trying to make something new happen.
  5. Define your sense of purpose. Does that sound too grandiose or big to define? Start small. Think about something you’ve always found interesting and follow your Curiosity. What’s the thing you enjoy doing most, even when it’s hard to do? Interview your parts to find out what’s important to them and use that information to advise the larger Self that is also you. Try my free worksheet for setting intentions – the exercise will help you start to define your sense of purpose.

Don’t wait until you feel bad, start building your resilience now!

The sooner you start, the better. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as the saying goes. Create your own Plan-Do-Review plan and be intentional about taking care of yourself in this way.


Image credit

Bounce!” by Flickr user elPadawan is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.



[1] Richardson, G.E., Neiger, B.L., Jensen, S., & Kumpfer, K.L. (1990). The resiliency model. Health Education, 21(6), 33-39.