Scars Are a Sign of Resilience

April 18, 2017

I am 21 years old. And no, I’m not super clumsy, although I’ve certainly had at least 21 accidents in my life, probably even more. But when I say “scars,” I’m referring to psychological ones. I’m talking about the events or moments in your life when you feel lost, everything turns gray, and you enter into a state of misery. In this state, you can’t feel pleasure or enjoy the things that used to fill your heart.

Have you ever felt that way? Are you going through one of those times right now? If the answer is yes, I’ll tell you that I am, too. It’s perfectly normal, and in fact, it’s been shown that in evolutionary terms, we need to go through moments of crisis in order to go through cognitive restructuring and move forward. You might be thinking, sure, that theory is wonderful, but…what if I don’t have the strength to get out of bed? That’s why today I’m going to talk to you about a term that’s become very trendy in contemporary psychology: resilience.

What is resilience?

You know Scrat, the squirrel from Ice Age? I’m sure most of you probably do. Scrat is a great example of resilience. Resilience is defined as the capacity to overcome pain in a constructive way, to learn from it and see it as an opportunity for change and a useful tool instead of an impediment. This ability can be learned with enough commitment and effort.

There are many examples of overcoming pain in TV shows and cartoons. When we’re presented with characters who have this attitude towards life, we attribute their success to their strength and will to live, as if we didn’t have these “magical” qualities ourselves, which is certainly not the case. Resilience is a combination of communicative abilities, coping strategies, and a healthy lifestyle.

How to be more resilient

According to the APA (American Psychological Association), it’s helpful to take the following steps:

  • Maintain gratifying social relationships. Help and let yourself be helped.
  • Think of obstacles as things you can overcome. It’s the classic “if life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” or “if life gives you sticks, build a hut.” Value the positive aspects of the mud you’re stuck in, and take advantage of them.
  • Change is necessary and inevitable. Accept your circumstances and identify which things you can change, and which are out of your reach.
  • Optimism can be learned through visualization. Your expectations can influence how you perceive reality. The placebo effect and the technique of visualization are based on this idea. It involves constructing an alternative future to achieve your goals, making a mental projection with the involvement of multiple senses. For example, truly smelling the burning tires of your new car skidding along the road, or hearing your child give their graduation speech.
  • You are the main character in your own life. Take the reins, and don’t avoid confronting difficult situations.
  • Rediscover yourself. What has changed about you? What strengths have you gained as a result of this problem?
  • Have faith. I’m not necessarily talking about the religious kind. Trust in yourself, in your friends, in your children, and in your future possibilities.
  • Healthy mind, healthy body. Love yourself; nobody knows you better than you. Identify your desires and interests and fulfill them. Breathe, take a walk, take a bubble bath, make some tea, or watch your favorite movie just for you.
  • Express your pain. Write down how you feel, meditate, paint, or talk to someone.

Activities that facilitate resilience

There are other ways to clear your mind and find your way. Of all these activities, it is well-known that music in particular has numerous therapeutic effects and benefits, both for healthy people and those with an illness. Music therapy is an effective way to channel your feelings and emotions. 

Many studies have shown success in people with academic problems, Alzheimer’s, OCD, autism, etc. The benefits of music are especially important in disorders that involve communication deficits or younger children, due to the difficulty they have verbally conveying their psychological or emotional distress.

Other activities include reading or taking a walk on the outskirts of town. It’s been demonstrated that doing a half hour of exercise each day promotes a healthy mental state. Why? Because exercising releases a neurotransmitter called serotonin in the brain, which makes you feel happy and satisfied. Depression, as well as other associated issues, is related to a deficit in serotonin.

Resilience is not a mathematical formula

For me personally, it helps to paint, write, play the guitar, and be at home with my family. I can express in art what I don’t know how to say in words. But given that everyone is different, the only real key is to spend a few little moments to yourself doing what you like. You could also disconnect by doing something more active, like going rock climbing.

Try to get to know yourself again, take care of yourself, and treat yourself. You are the main character in your own life. You decide whether to cover up the scar or make it an identifying feature to be proud of, like Harry Potter. That said, good luck cultivating resilience!

As an example of resilience, I invite you to look up the case of Pablo Raéz, a boy from Málaga who was a great example of overcoming adversity and who never forgot what he was facing. He has been an inspiration for thousands of people, who were motivated to donate bone marrow thanks to his #retounmillón (#onemillionchallenge) campaign, which you can see below. Rest in peace, Raéz!

Dedication: To Bea, for trusting in me when you showed me yours.


The 7 Best Self-Help and Self-Improvement Books