Several months ago, I received an email from a woman named Cheryl Hunter in California who reached out in thanks for my work on Forbes, and to offer something in return. She shared with me her TEDx Santa Monica talk, offering it humbly and generously as something that might be of interest.
I receive literally hundreds of emails each month from folks reaching out to share their work, but Cheryl's note stood out somehow, and I clicked on her TED talk link immediately, and here's what I saw:
I was riveted, moved and deeply inspired by Cheryl's core message -- namely, that it is our many unique facets of imperfection that reveal our true magnificence. Without our imperfections, the flip side -- perfection, beauty and magnificence -- are impossible to see and appreciate. So many people today strive tirelessly to HIDE their flaws and foibles, to pretend at perfection and shun vulnerability at all cost. But here is Cheryl -- who, as a teenager, endured some of the most harrowing forms of abuse at the hands of two male strangers on her first day in a foreign country -- telling us so bravely and confidently that there is magnificence in imperfection (and embracing her own imperfect life experiences to the fullest).
I wanted to know more about how we forgive, move on and grow after experiencing terrible suffering at the hands of others. I asked Cheryl to share her behavioral and educational model for helping people do just that -- embrace their life experiences, as shameful and degrading as some have been -- in order to become more of themselves.
Cheryl shared with me her thoughts on the 8 most essential resilience behaviors that increase our ability to recover from trauma in life and allow us to thrive after experiences that have brought incredible suffering, despair and hopelessness.
Cheryl's take on the eight most important resilience behaviors are:
1. Know that exacting revenge won't bring peace.
In the grips of a catastrophe, many are shocked, stunned and unable to function. Soon, the shock spirals into rage, fury and blame. As individuals and as communities, we want the killers to be brought to justice; we demand blood for blood. The problem is, even when the bad guys are brought to justice, peace doesn't come. Peace is an inside job; it is not tethered to outside circumstances.
2. Understand that sometimes your thoughts are not your friends.
When difficulty strikes, we run the "If only..." and "What if?" scenarios in our minds until we're ragged. It is imperative to allow yourself to "outflow" by simply speaking with another unreservedly and letting go of everything that's in your mind.
3. Control what you can.
We can't control what happens to us. We can control how we respond. It's always a good idea to do what you know works -- eat right, work out, sleep an ample amount, etc. -- but it's essential to do those things when you're in the midst of turmoil. Keeping to your daily routine will ensure that life seems as normal as it possibly can.
4. Help others.
Shifting your focus off of yourself and onto another is one of the few things that can provide a reprieve from the anguish of your own circumstances and thoughts, as well as giving yourself a much-needed perspective shift. No matter how bad we have it, there is always someone else who has it worse. The act of helping people can also make a lasting difference for others, and the knowledge of that is soothing in a way nothing else quite can be.
5. Seize responsibility.
Get a toehold to stop the world from spinning out of control by finding at least one thing for which you can be responsible. This process of seizing responsibility shifts the locus of control from being outside of yourself to being located with you, and it can make our life feel under your control again.
6. Don't become a survivor.
Move out of victimhood and straight through the role of survivor without stopping. Understand that being a survivor and being a victim are opposite sides of the same coin; both are predicated upon dragging around the past. Do not condemn yourself to being a survivor; keep moving and put the difficulties of the past behind you.
7. Understand that there's no getting back to like it was before.
Many people who are going through difficulty utter the words, "I just want to get everything back to like it was before." Problem is, that is an impossibility. There is no way to un-ring a bell; what's happened has happened and there is no way to rewind the past. The sooner we can make peace with that reality, the sooner we'll allow our own healing process to begin.
8. Finally, embrace wabi-sabi.
Wabi-sabi represents a powerful Japanese aesthetic centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. Following this worldview and practice, we focus on finding beauty and peace within the challenges of life, and embracing the natural cycles of growth, decay, change, and uncertainty. Wabi-sabi further asserts that the magnificence and perfection of any object lie in its imperfections, so re-frame the way you see what is "wrong" with yourself and the difficulties you face. When you can hold life's so-called imperfections in that light, you'll find that what makes you magnificent is everything you've previously believed is wrong with you.
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When you have that amazing opportunity in life to meet an individual who has overcome great suffering as a young person and continues to grow and find new ways to embrace, love and accept herself and others, you know this person has something very important to teach -- about life, love, empathy and reaching your fullest potential on this planet.
What imperfections are you struggling so hard to hide today? Can these flaws be the very reflection of how you are truly magnificent in the world?