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Virtue: Resilience

15th September 2021

Failure is an important part of your growth and developing resilience

(Michelle Obama)


Over the past week we have all been immensely impressed by the performance of Emma Raducanu as she won the US Tennis Open, the first British woman to clinch a Grand Slams title for 44 years. And despite slipping and requiring medical assistance in the final game, she picked herself up and with great poise and composure went on to win.

Who would have thought this was possible especially after having withdrawn from Wimbledon back in July, suffering from breathing difficulties for which she faced considerable media criticism. Such a ‘failure’ may have been experienced as a set-back for many, but Raducanu exhibited considerable resilience in the face of adversity. This ability to learn from her failure and not to be defeated by it, is arguably a part of her ‘super power’ as a sportsperson.           

Philosopher Alain de Botton writes that too many of us are afraid to fail and it can make us timid to try new things, yet it is through trying and failure that, as Michelle Obama says, we grow and develop resilience. We like to play it safe and avoid risk-taking but perhaps in doing so we risk much more.

And I wonder if girls in particular and for whatever reasons, tend to be more risk averse, afraid of failure and of being less than perfect? This can prevent them from putting themselves forward. Michelle Obama goes on to say, ‘Men fail up. I wish that girls could fail a bad as men do and be OK…Because let me tell you, watching men fail up – it is frustrating. It’s frustrating to see a lot of men blow it and win. And we hold ourselves to these crazy, crazy standards’.  Times journalist Caitlin Moran also writes in her book ‘More than a woman’ that we should ‘ let women make their mistakes but still continue…a woman who has made mistakes but is still given the chance to carry on without undue criticism….will have far more useful things to bring to society’.

Developing resilience will help us with our ability to manage even if things go badly. And each of us can also help others develop resilience by holding back from undue criticism, and by giving them the space and the chance to learn from mistakes and carry on.


Christine Crossley

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