10 personality traits that indicate you are more resilient than you think

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Many people think resilience is about bouncing back or breezing through adversity without letting it get you down.

It’s become a bit of a buzzword, often thrown about to dismiss people’s difficulties or encourage them to ‘suck it up’ and power on. 

If you’re struggling with life or finding it challenging, you may start to think you lack this ‘resilience’ that everyone seems to value so much.

Maybe you think you are somehow weaker or less than because you can’t just ignore your feelings.

But being resilient isn’t about effortlessly ‘getting on with it’ when times get hard.

Being resilient actually takes a lot of time, energy, and effort.

And sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before you can find that spark of strength inside to pick yourself back up again.

We’ve rounded up 10 traits that we think show true resilience, and some of them might surprise you:

1. Self-awareness.

Self-awareness refers to our ability to monitor and adjust our thoughts and behavior.

If you’re self-aware, you have a strong understanding of yourself, your thoughts, your feelings, and your actions.

You probably have a good understanding of your strengths and weaknesses too.

And this is crucial when it comes to facing adversity.

It means you know what tasks you can handle alone, and when to reach out for support or advice.

It means you can identify from your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors when a situation or problem is becoming too much for you to handle.

It allows you to proactively cultivate coping strategies, advocate for your needs, or reach out to someone else to help you do this.

It’s a common misconception that resilience means suffering in silence, putting up with a challenging situation, or picking yourself back up without any help.

We all need help sometimes, and when you’re self-aware about your limits, you’re more likely to seek that help.  

Self-awareness also allows you to know when you’ve reached your limits and need to remove yourself from a situation.

Refusing to tolerate a situation that’s unacceptable to you isn’t weakness or lack of resilience, it’s a show of strength and power.

2. Adaptability.

It’s true that being flexible and able to adjust to new situations makes it easier to cope with the ever-changing ups and downs of life, but this is not a trait that everyone naturally possesses.

Some people have no problem with it, taking big and little changes in their stride.

Those people may be adaptable to change, but that’s because change is not necessarily an adverse experience for them.

Being able to cope with change because you find it easy is not resilience.

Those with the most resilience are often those who struggle with flexibility and uncertainty but who still manage to make it through each day of unexpected changes.

They don’t necessarily make it through unscathed, but they make it through.

Experiencing unexpected changes to plans or routines can cause real distress and anxiety for some people.   

Often they cannot alter how their brains and bodies respond to change, but they put plans and strategies in place to help them adapt and cope as best they can.

That’s true resilience.    

Adaptability can also be about not giving up when something doesn’t go right the first time, or when you ‘fail’ at a task.

Some people give up because they simply can’t think of an alternative approach.

But if you’re adaptable, it’s likely that rather than giving up, you think outside the box and try something new.

Even if that means failing a few times first.

3. Forward-planning.

Not everyone is good at planning.

Let’s be honest, it can be boring. And for many of us, it takes a lot of time and effort.

But it can also make life much easier to cope with, particularly when things don’t go to plan.

If you’re a planner, you’re likely to have not one, but two (or more) versions of a plan in your mind at any one point.

You’ve probably mapped out a plan for how you’d like things to go, but you’ve got enough foresight to think of contingency plans a, b, and c, too.

You’ve got a backup idea ready to go because you’ve evaluated what might go wrong/be out of your control/or lead to an undesirable outcome.

You might still be disappointed when your preferred plan doesn’t work out, but you’re not going to get completely knocked down by it, because you’ve got an alternative plan ready to roll out.

That’s resilience for you.

4. Selfishness.

A lot of people view being selfish as a bad thing.

Of course, being selfish and nasty is not good. But being ‘selfish’ by understanding and meeting your needs is a good thing.

Being selfish is likely to equate to high levels of self-care. You know what you need, and you make sure you get it (nicely, that is!).

This self-care can help build resilience because you’re more likely to be in an optimal state both physically and mentally to tackle whatever comes your way.

It’s all about looking after yourself so you keep within your ‘window of tolerance’ wherever possible.

The window of tolerance is a concept that describes the optimal zone of ‘arousal’ (e.g. alertness, attention, and energy) to comfortably manage stress, emotions, and difficult situations.

If you are too low in arousal (e.g. lacking attention, alertness, and energy) you’re unlikely to be able to overcome challenging situations because you’re simply too tired or sluggish.

If you’re too high in arousal (e.g. too much energy, hyper-alert, and over-attentive) you’re already going to be in too much of a heightened state to cope with additional pressures or struggles.

People who don’t look after themselves will find themselves frequently living outside their window of tolerance, and as a result, will often struggle at the first sign of trouble. They simply don’t have the energy or capacity to adapt or fight.

It’s important to note that everyone’s window of tolerance is different.

People with additional needs or whose lives are already inherently more challenging will have a smaller window of tolerance and therefore need to be more ‘selfish’ in getting their needs met.

So next time you find yourself being pleasantly selfish, don’t feel bad.

It’s essential for building resilience and facing the difficulties that life will inevitably throw at you.

5. Self-confidence.

When it comes to handling adversity, believing that you can is half the battle.

You can have all the other traits on this list, but if you don’t believe you can handle something, it’s unlikely you’ll even try.

And let’s be clear, when we talk about the confidence to ‘handle’ something, we don’t mean putting up with and pushing through it if it’s unacceptable for us.

Self-confidence could mean you are confident in your ability to safely tolerate a situation or stressor.

But it could also mean being self-confident enough to know when you’ve reached your limit and being able to advocate that. 

Some people are naturally more confident, whereas others are predisposed to lack belief in themselves. And it’s often not even linked to capability.

Perhaps you wouldn’t describe yourself as confident because you don’t go around shouting about your skillset.

Self-confidence isn’t about being loud or brash about your abilities though. Often it’s those with quiet self-belief who can persevere through adversity.

Whereas the cocky and over-confident are often overcompensating, and when push comes to shove, aren’t as resilient as they make out. 

It may not be your natural disposition, but if you’re resilient, it’s likely that deep down you believe you can overcome obstacles, enforce boundaries, and achieve your goals through hard work and determination.

That doesn’t mean it comes easily or without fear. Self-confidence isn’t the absence of fear. It’s the willingness to be brave, trust yourself, and risk making a mistake.

And no doubt you’ve discovered that the more challenges you handle and the more boundaries you enforce, the more you believe in yourself, and the more resilient you become.

6. Optimism.

Unsurprisingly, being able to put a positive spin on things is likely to make you more resilient than those who see everything in a negative light.

We’re not suggesting that being optimistic means denying the difficulties you face or ignoring the negative thoughts and feelings you experience.

Life is hard. Bad things happen. Sometimes you reach your limit of how much you can take.

When those things happen, it’s important to take the time to feel what you feel. Denying your difficult emotions or avoiding facing them will not make them go away.

To be resilient doesn’t mean not letting negative things affect you. It means you allow yourself to experience those negative emotions, accept them, and then when the time is right, you work through them to a more positive mindset.

Once you’ve faced these difficulties and survived, you have the strength and optimism to pick yourself back up and try again.

If you’re a positive person, you likely see the best in people and situations, which allows you to find solutions that others may not be able to see.

When you’re naturally optimistic, it’s likely you view the world as you’d like it to be, or as you think it could be, with a little positive effort on everyone’s part.

This enables you to spot and hold on to the silver linings or small moments of joy when things get tough.

7. Realism.

We just mentioned optimism, so you may now be wondering why we’re contradicting ourselves with realism.

But the two can work well together as well as alone when it comes to being resilient. 

Being a realist means accepting things as they are—you acknowledge the good and bad in everything rather than projecting your ideals onto people or situations.

The ability to accurately and realistically assess a situation means that you can then act accordingly.

It’s likely you accept what you can and can’t change, and as a result, focus your efforts to maximize impact, rather than optimistically trying to make everything perfect, or pessimistically not even trying when you could make a difference.

This realism helps you navigate tricky aspects of life. You’re less likely to get bogged down if you fall at the first hurdle, mainly because you were probably expecting it to happen already.

You’ve likely prepared yourself for several realistic outcomes and can take them in your stride should they occur.

You know how to balance positive thinking with real-life experience and draw on previous situations to better equip yourself to handle a task.

The balance between optimism and realism can be tricky to strike, but when you nail it, it does make you uber-resilient.

8. Proactivity.

Being resilient requires action—fighting the hard fight rarely happens without you doing something.

Taking a proactive approach means anticipating problems before they arise, and having the initiative to put plans in place to deal with them.

It involves being proactive in knowing your limits and setting boundaries.

If you’re resilient, it’s likely you know how much of a challenging situation you can face before you reach your limit.

You are proactive in standing up for yourself when your boundaries are being tested and you don’t wait for people to cross them before calling it out.

Advocating for yourself in this way doesn’t have to mean being confrontational. Sometimes the biggest show of resilience is just walking away from a situation before it crosses a line.

If you’re proactive you likely stand up for what you believe in, and when you sense injustice you don’t back down without a fight.

9. Compassion.

When you’re able to acknowledge your difficulties with self-compassion, you can see them as setbacks rather than failures, making you more likely to bounce back.

Difficult things still happen, and they still get you down, but rather than criticizing and blaming yourself, you’re able to talk kindly to yourself and give yourself another chance.

Even if the struggles or mistakes were of your own making, being self-compassionate allows you to forgive yourself and start to move on.

In contrast, those who lack self-compassion tend to berate themselves when they make mistakes or when things don’t go wrong.

This negative self-talk only serves to push them deeper down into despair, making it harder to get back up and try again.

Sometimes it’s easier to show compassion towards others than it is ourselves. But compassion towards others builds resilience too.

When you show empathy, kindness, and understanding to those around you, it fosters mutual care and support.

And when you’re surrounded by loving, accepting people it gives you the strength to keep going (or the strength to say no) when things get hard—their support powers you!

Compassion towards people or causes also fuels you to fight for them.

You want to protect the people you value and love; you want to stand up for the causes you believe in; you want to do good in the world because you care.

There is no ammunition better than love and kindness—it fuels you to get stuff done for those in need even when times get tough.

10. Maturity.

A lot of people think maturity is about age. And in the physical sense of developing or maturing, it is.

But we’re referring to maturity in terms of experience, stability, and self-regulation.

Being mature in this context means that you’re generally emotionally stable and well-developed. You understand your moods and behaviors, and you’re pretty self-aware.

The way you got to this stage of maturity was likely by going through a lot of life experiences—again, that doesn’t mean you need to have been alive for a long time!

It just means you’ve experienced a lot of ‘life’.

You may have been in a range of different environments, relationships (be they familial, romantic, friendships, etc), or circumstances.

Some of these experiences may have been positive, whilst others might have been adverse.

The point is, you’ve learned from them.

The more exposure you have to different situations or different people, the better equipped you become to deal with them.

If you’ve been through a certain tricky situation before, you’ll likely be better at handling it if comes up again versus someone who’s dealing with it for the first time.

Through experience, you’ve learned how to handle yourself, you’ve learned your limits and how to enforce them, and you know how to navigate difficult circumstances with grace, emotional maturity, and respect for all involved.

About The Author

Lucy is a travel and wellness writer currently based in Gili Air, a tiny Indonesian island. After over a year of traveling, she’s settled in paradise and spends her days wandering around barefoot, practicing yoga and exploring new ways to work on her wellbeing.