Resilience: Choosing your Story of Well-Being

Resilience: Choosing your Story of Well-Being

Do you remember what kept you afloat and how you overcame difficult and distressing situations?
Or do you only ruminate about the setback? 
For some people, these setbacks can weigh them down and lead to negative self-talk and a failure identity.  However, when you choose to remember not just the challenges but also how you survived, this creates a more preferred and personal story of Resilience.
What is Resilience?

It is an ability to adapt and learn from adverse and painful situations.  Resilience helps increase awareness of self so that one has the skills and knowledge to handle similar difficult and stressful events in the future, e.g. loss of jobs, relationship loss, death, accidents or illnesses. These adversities create and strengthen a person’s Story of Resilience.

What Resilience is Not

Resilience is not a personality trait.  It is often attached to an experience of fear, anxiety, distress and helplessness when going through difficult and uncertain times.  Being resilient does not mean we do not struggle.  It also does not mean we have to struggle alone or to be silent about the struggle.

Some of the most resilient people that I have met are unafraid to express feeling weak, wounded and often wanting to give up. Their Story of Resilience includes their willingness to acknowledge their pain and to reach out for support to persevere.

Resilience: Choosing your Story of Well-Being

What gets in the way of resilience

Oftentimes, unrealistic expectations lead to rigid and negative thinking patterns.  For example, we may expect ourselves to be successful by earning certain income or getting a certain grade in exams.  When these expectations are not met, we think we are a failure.  These expectations can be imposed on us, sometimes even by our loved ones, which may lead to tense or distant interactions.


The habit of comparing is a close ally to expectations.  Comparing promotes the unrealistic expectations and standards that do not represent a person’s unique talents and preferences.  For example, when you see your friends liking other people’s social media posts rather than yours, it may make you feel ‘not-good-enough’ and lead to withdrawal from people.  When you isolate yourself, it may feed a vicious cycle of negative self-talk and self-harm.


In Singapore, we privilege productivity and efficiency, so slowing down to connect with people becomes less important. We may also hold onto the idea of ‘not airing our dirty laundry’, so talking about problems and feelings is not encouraged. However, this way of thinking increases isolation and decreases mutual support that a community can offer to us or that we can offer to others.

Resilience: Choosing your Story of Well-Being

Ways to build your Story of Resilience

Your Story of Resilience takes time to build.  It depends on getting into a pattern of preferred responses and remembering these experiences of resilience.  If you want to be intentional about strengthening your resilience, do consider these ideas:

1. Challenge unhelpful expectations

The first steps towards change are deciding that you no longer wish to have the unhelpful expectations and thinking that affect you in a negative way.  Then you can begin to identify and challenge these irrational and unrealistic expectations.  For example, if you had not been able to achieve a certain grade, it does not mean that there is no more future.  Or, if you lost your job, it does not mean the end-of-the-road for you or that you are a failure.

2. Focus on helpful responses 

We may not be able to influence or change unexpected and stressful experiences in life; or for that matter, change other people.  However, you can focus on what you can control, like how you think about the situation.

So, if you reframe your perspective, it will change how you feel and respond to situations.  Instead of seeing worst-case scenarios and feeling helpless about them, look at what you can first work on.  For example, looking at re-training if you lost a job or taking small steps of change/achievement.

When you are able to do this more often, it becomes a habit of looking at and handling situations in a more helpful way.  This strengthens your skills and abilities to deal with and learn from difficult situations.

3. Foster connections

Sharing your feelings and thoughts with someone.  This could be your loved ones, friends or a professional counsellor.  Someone who can listen to you with empathy and understanding, without judgment.  Such a compassionate and trustworthy person can help validate your experiences and feelings. It can reduce isolation and make you feel like you are not alone in your difficulties.

Besides one-to-one interactions, engaging with a community, e.g. therapeutic support groups, faith-based groups, or civic groups, are also helpful. It is through such connections that one can experience a restoration of purpose and possibility of being able to overcome difficulties.

4. Finding purpose

When people go through adversity, they may feel hopeless and lose direction.  It is important not to deal with this difficulty by avoiding or numbing through alcohol, drugs or gaming.  It will be helpful to pause to acknowledge and process these feelings through journaling, practicing mindfulness or other spiritual activities like praying.  Allow yourself time to grieve over losses and care for yourself.

You do not need to rush to be busy.  Being busy is not the same as being purposeful.  Being purposeful is being aware of what intentions in your life are important to you.

Resilience: Choosing your Story of Well-Being

There are many resources available online on resilience but at times, if you feel stuck and need someone to come alongside you to support you to restore your Story of Resilience, please contact a therapist at Counselling and Care Centre.


Resilience: Choosing your Story of Well-Being


Sharon’s passion to strengthen people’s stories of themselves and their relationships so that they can live out their hopes, is very much influenced by narrative ideas and practices. Besides counselling and conducting narrative and systemic training, she has also published multiple articles on supervision and narrative work.

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