How to Be More Durable


“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.' You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” Eleanor Roosevelt

I have a friend, let's call her "Gabby," who sees the negative in most communication she receives.

When Gabby listens to a voicemail saying, "give me a call, we need to catch up," she predicts bad news.  A vague email makes her almost as anxious as a scathing one.  My theory is she reacts this way because she's young and inexperienced, but that's imprecise; she's not THAT young nor is she particularly inexperienced.

Gabby's just fragile.

As her friend, I wish I could peel open her head and dump in a huge batch of confidence. I wish she could see what others see in her.  I wish she knew that people like her and are cheering her on.  I wish she were more durable.

Granted, there may be a part of Gabby that's wired to be nervous, but I also see her systematically protecting herself by surrounding herself with peers who are weaker versions of herself.  I watch her wince at negative input, and she's slowing insulating herself out of fear of criticism or something else (I can only guess).  She hasn't asked for my advice, but if I could mentor her, I'd give her at least a few steps to thicken her skin.  These are the things I'd tell her:

Seek Negative Feedback

The biggest opportunity for growth is understanding where you've failed.  If you've made a mistake, dropped a ball, or missed expectations, the WORST possible outcome is to not realize there's a problem.  If you can't hear the notes of a song, you shouldn't be in the choir. If your job performance isn't meeting expectations, or has room for growth, FIND OUT!  Don't accept praise without simultaneously asking, "What could I have done better?"

Move Toward Messes

Most people avoid messes, but when you learn how to cope with chaos, you build your confidence.  Every situation that falls apart is a growth opportunity.  Lee Iacococa didn't find make his mark while working at Ford, but had to move to bankrupt Chrysler to have an impact. Oprah Winfrey was fired from her newsroom job because she was always getting too emotionally invested in her stories.  When my doctor friends talk about their rotation through the hospital Emergency Room, they cite the growth of working in such a demanding environment. Look at your messes as similar training!

Know Your Strengths

When you know your strengths, you'll be less embarrassed by your weaknesses.  If you don't have "WOO" ("Winning Others Over") and you were intimidated by hosting an event, you know why.  If someone assigns you to an analytical project and you're thrilled by running numbers, you can lean into your sweet spot.  When you understand how to work out of your strengths, you're more likely to outsource those areas where you're weak AND do so without apology!

Find a healthy perspective

Everyone benefits from discipline, but a slap on the hand shouldn't crumple your self-esteem.  You're less than perfect and others know it.  So what? Don't dismiss and don't inflate the input.  Instead, acknowledge, adjust, and move on.  If you're unable to do this, do something (anything) where you're serving someone else.  By doing so, you'll shift your focus away your situation and give you a new perspective.

What practices have helped you be more durable?