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Resilience: What we can learn from Caroline Criado-Perez

Caroline Criado-Perez showed great resilience this week in the face of a torrent of the most vicious, sexist and personally threatening abuse. She’d led a successful campaign to keep the face of a woman on UK banknotes. It wasn’t a big ask on the scale of things, but somehow it seemed to tip huge numbers of internet trolls over the edge.

Caroline Criado-Perez

Press coverage of Caroline Criado-Perez’s successful campaign to keep a woman’s face on UK banknotes
Photo credit: Canadian Pacific / Foter / CC BY-NC

Abusive sexist trolling isn’t new. But what’s different here is Caroline’s response and resilience. She not only stood up and shouted back; it also spurred her on to a new level of campaigning. She’s now putting pressure on the Police to investigate rape threats made on social media and on Twitter to put in place a ‘report abuse’ button. Both campaigns seem to be making a difference.

Resilience or the ability to bounce back with energy and confidence is critical in business and even more so if you run your own business. You can face rejection and knock-backs every day. To survive and succeed you need to find something within yourself to keep going. BBC Woman’s Hour has released a series of video clips on ‘how to be a powerful women’; we’ve embedded the one on resilience below. Entrepreneur Kanya King kicks the clip off, saying:

I haven’t got where I am today because of any extraordinary talent, but because if you do what you do for however long it takes and refuse to quit, success is only a matter of time.

We learn to be resilient in the school of hard knocks

It’s often assumed that resilience is a personality type: self-confident, driven and able to see the funny side of things. Personality is one  important element, but it’s not the whole story.

No one is born resilient. It’s a process that we learn: the school of hard knocks. So give yourself credit for any time you’ve spent there.   According to research resilience is also strengthened by being part of a social or professional community and having the support of at least one family member. Campaigner Shami Chakrabarti says:

All it takes is for you to feel vulnerable in your personal life and external criticism will take on a resonance that it wouldn’t otherwise have.

The other leg in the 3-legged resilience stool – community, the support of your peers –  is clearly a huge strength to Caroline Criado-Perez. The vocal and high-profile support she has attracted from other women has even began to drown-out the trolls’ abuse.

So next time you find yourself in a tough situation it may help to remember that you don’t need to get through it on your own: resilience is not about being a tough lone ranger. A positive self-image is important and that is more likely to flourish when you have the support of a loving family and your peers.

The American Psychological Association suggests the following “10 Ways to Build Resilience”:

  1. Maintain good relationships with close family members, friends and others;
  2. Avoid seeing crises or stressful events as unbearable problems;
  3. Accept what cannot be changed;
  4. Develop realistic goals and move towards them;
  5. Take decisive actions in adverse situations;
  6. Look for opportunities of self-discovery after a struggle with loss;
  7. Build self-confidence;
  8. Keep a long-term perspective and consider the stressful event in a broader context;
  9. Maintain a hopeful outlook, expect good things and visualize what you wish for;
  10. Take care of your mind and body, exercise regularly and pay attention to your own needs and feelings.

 

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