When I was a child, I remembered looking over to my peers and wondering, ‘how did she do that’? ‘Wow, I would never be handle that like he did.” In the younger days, I always felt that I lacked the emotional capacity to be resilient to whatever that was thrown in my way. What seemed so easy for other kids was like a stumbling block in my path. I didn’t felt like I was given the opportunity to be equipped with the means to develop resilience, to somehow find a way to push through my then struggles and challenges to emerge as a stronger person. I just continued to stumble on my muddy and foggy path, taking each day as it was. Of course things have changed now, but I can’t help but wonder how things might have changed had I learnt how to be resilient in my earlier days. As I learned now though, not everyone is built to be inherently strong. Children have different sense of what it means to be resilient and have different ways of responding to stress. Likewise in adults, we all have a different ways of processing hardships and trauma. Some of us handle trauma and stress effectively, while others take longer to bounce back from their problems. Make no mistake; it is 100% alright to feel emotionally vulnerable, what matters though, is to be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Resilience, by its very nature, is defined by APA by as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress — such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems or workplace and financial stressors. It means, “bouncing back” from difficult experiences.” (APA, 2017) Everyone must have encountered a difficult experience at least once or twice in his or her lives. It can either make or break you. Fortunately, resilience is not given to you from birth and it is a skill that can be cultivated in anybody and in any age.
· A Supportive Figure
The Story of The Real Life Chinese Cinderella
In the heart wrenching account of a true-life story set in TianJin, China during the Second World War. Chinese Cinderella is an autobiography written by Adeline Yen Mah. It tells the story of the real life childhood memories of Adeline when she was a child until she became of age. Adeline grew up being outcasted and rejected by her family members and emotionally abused by her stepmother. This was because in Chinese tradition, they considered her to be bad luck due to her mother’s death in childbirth shortly after Adeline was born. Being denied love from her parents and siblings, she sought solace in the arms of her caring grandparents, who showed her affection and love that she did not received from her other family members. Another supportive figure in Adeline’s childhood was her Aunty Baba, who had instilled confidence, faith and courage in Adeline. This encouragement continued to carry Adeline throughout her adult life. According to Hey Sigmund (2016), when it comes to building resilience in children, inserting at least one supportive figure in their lives is essential. The presence of a positive relationship is a key factor in leading children through adversity. Did you have a supportive figure in your childhood? How did it impact your thinking or values?
A Quote from the book excerpt in a conversation between Adeline and her grandfather:
“I’ve tried to tell you over and over that far from being garbage, you are precious and special. Being top of your class merely confirms this. But you can vanquish the demons only when you yourself are convinced of your own worth.”
· Building executive functioning
So one of the encouragements that Aunty Baba had constantly instilled in Adeline was the importance of education. Adeline was always encouraged to pursue her love and interest for academic excellence, especially in creative writing. Adeline had already developed a love for reading and writing at a young age, as a means of escapism towards the cruel treatment shown to her by her family. However, it was the constant support of her Ye Ye (grandfather in mandarin) and her Aunt Baba that gave her inspiration for her writing. These two supportive figures have encouraged her to pursue her dreams and passions without judgements and reservations. This would have strengthened Adeline’s passions and gave her courage to excel in her academic work. Talents can be nurtured and cultivated. Having a mature individual will help young children have faith in their abilities.
When I read Chinese Cinderella as a child, I was appalled by the adult world and the deplorable treatment a person could possibly exhibit towards another child. I wondered how could one possibly thrive under such circumstances. If you had read this book, you would have known that Adeline had, despite all her family struggles and emotional issues, excelled in boarding school and had even won first place at an international play-writing competition set in England. Her talent in writing was ingrained in her since a young age. But I think it would had been these supportive figures in her life that gave her the much needed push that made her what she is today, a successful writer and doctor. What had been immense potential in a child had been strengthened by positive reinforcement that not only protected her from the stressful and toxic environment that she lived in, but it also blossomed her passion and talent. It was her grandfather’s encouragement that gave her the courage to enter the competition. The glory that came with winning first place eventually paved her future in England.
I remember reading an excerpt of her book whereby during her Ye Ye’s funeral, Adeline broke down thinking that there would be nobody else that would want to see her succeed now that her grandfather is gone, along with the deep regret and that her Ye Ye would never be able to realise that her source of inspiration came from him. I think as adults, we often neglect or undermine the importance that an encouraging figure has in the vision of a child’s rear-view mirror.
· Making Mistakes and learning from them
Rejection or failure is imminent in life. Many times we say things we didn’t mean and do things that we weren’t meant to do. These mistakes cost us consequences that we have to learn to answer to. Making mistakes and having slip-ups as a child can often be overlooked or not properly addressed. If a child plays truancy in school or refuses to do his homework, an overprotective parent might inflict anger onto their child and impose punishment without explanation in order for them to not repeat the same mistake again. Did the child realize that his actions were incorrect? Most probably. But would he learn why he was wrong to play truancy or avoid homework? Probably not. Proper growth and learning can only be achieved with the correct guidance. Sometimes, it is better for children to learn to pick themselves up where they fall. Central Psych (2017) noted that when children are allowed to see the consequences of their actions, they may be able to understand where they went wrong, which can be helpful for independent learning when they grow up. In doing that, they learn to solve their own problems too. This promotes critical thinking. It’s normal to make mistakes, as that makes us relatable and human, but it would be great to be given a helping hand in our thought processes as a developing child, a time where everything can seem so perplexing and overwhelming.
· Model of Resiliency
There is something about our simple, wide-eyed nature of our childhood where we constantly look up to adults with awe and wonder. We would really want to emulate every single thing they do. (Well, at least the ones that we are genuinely close to) Psych Central (2017) points out that kids learn from observing their parents (or their roe-model’s) behaviours. I remember looking up to my cousin as a child. She inputs a sound of reason in me and I found that whenever I needed an outlet to vent to, she would be an appropriate person to seek to. Even as a kid, I knew who I could or not could not approach to for advice during hard times. That same sensibility allowed me to able to sift through my list of contacts to know who I should model my resilience after. So if somebody younger than you comes to you in a time of need, remember not to push them away. Be a role model that encourages individuals to emulate your strength. The same strength that helped you navigate that stormy path can help others too.