Downsides of resilience

by Mar 13, 2022

Are there any downsides of resilience?

Resilience is recognised as the ability to cope and bounce back but there are times when resilience is not always positive

What is resilience?

Defined as:

the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.

Resilience is recognised as the ability to cope and bounce back in the face of adversity or negative situations including trauma, tragedy, threats, or other kinds of stressful situations.

This might include workplace issues, family and relationship problems, health challenges, or financial issues. What it also involves is a level of admiration for the ability to re-group, treating the situation as a learning experience, and returning to some kind of fulfilling life. Resilience or lack of it, is therefore loaded with judgement. This accounts for the stigma attached to mental health problems where we have a negative view of someone’s inability to “cope.”

Difficult circumstances can indeed stimulate personal growth, inner knowledge and wisdom which allows us to take control of the things we can. This is why those of us who adapt well to events and hardship can benefit from the circumstances they have to endure. But the process frequently is not problem-free and can leave scars. Combine this with cultural pressure to “push through”, show fortitude and “be strong” may come at a price.

Downsides of resilience

There are times when resilience has some downsides. This could include:

  • Getting stuck in trying to reach goals that may be unachievable

We are caught in a culture that admires and rewards resilience and persistence, but there are certain circumstances where it maybe better to step back and re-evaluate those goals. If they are unattainable it may be better to put those goals on pause or shelve them completely.

  • Leads to a higher toleration of poor behaviour

Advanced levels of resilience can involve being stuck in unhealthy situations where we develop a high tolerance for poor behaviour. A bully boss or an abusive relationship are prime examples. It can lead to minimising the way someone treats us. “They didn’t mean anything by it” is something we hear frequently both in the workplace and personal relationships.  Sometimes giving up and letting go is fine. It’s about choosing to live differently.

  • Leads to toxic positivity

Once again this is around developing an exaggerated positive attitude which makes the accurate and realistic analysis of a situation difficult. This involves dismissing negative emotions and responding to distress with false reassurances rather than empathy. It can be rooted in feeling uncomfortable with negative emotions so it’s  important to get comfortable with discomfort.

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Negative impact

Being able to demonstrate resilience has many positive results, but like many skills, (and resilience is a skill), and other traits, it’s on a bell curve. There is an optimal position (the top of the bell curve) of peak performance. Thereafter sticking with something resolutely without considering the consequences and the possibility of changing direction can have a negative impact.

The most important element is that it often means not being open to ask for help or admitting you are in trouble. We are seeing a lot of this currently as we emerge from the pandemic.  It’s OK to say we can’t do it alone.  Getting support can be one of the key factors to building a resilience muscle.


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3Plus welcomes any writers to join 3Plus as a Staff Writer. If you are an expert in Leadership and Competence Building or just want to share your experiences, contact us! We would love to give you a voice!

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