5 phrases only highly resilient people use, according to psychology

As a journalist, when I talk to high-profile people, I’m often just as interested in their back stories as I am in the work they do. 

I’ve never interviewed Canadian country singing sensation Shania Twain (I came close when her documentary came out but the sit-down fell through due to scheduling conflicts), but her story has always been fascinating and inspirational to me. 

The five-time Grammy-winning artist’s career was said to have begun more out of necessity than any ambition on Twain’s part. 

Her parents divorced when she was a toddler and she rarely saw her father. Her mom remarried and her stepfather, with whom she grew close, often couldn’t make enough money to get by. As a result, Twain started singing in bars to make extra money at just eight years old.

The singer-songwriter recalls her mother waking her up at all hours to perform. Her hardships didn’t end there. When she was 21, Twain’s mother and stepfather were killed in a head-on car accident with a logging truck on the highway. 

Twain decided to put pursuing her career on hold and she stepped in to take care of her three teenage siblings. She started singing in resorts and put off going after stardom until her siblings were old enough to take care of themselves. 

It wasn’t until her younger brother graduated high school that Twain decided to give her dreams a real chance. She headed to Nashville and the rest is history. 

Twain is resilience personified and as a Canadian myself, I’m proud of her success, especially because of the obstacles she’s overcome. 

Highly resilient people have a number of things in common that help them persevere with whatever challenges life gives them. 

Here are five phrases highly intelligent people use, according to psychology. 

1) “I can get through this”

Emotional resilience is all about having some grit and mental toughness to get through whatever challenge or hardship you’re experiencing right now, says Harvard-trained psychologist Dr. Cortney Warren

“There is an understanding that we have to be strong and overcome adversity without letting it break us.”

Dr. Warren says that a similar phrase is: “As much as I hate this, I can survive it.”

Resilience is about coping as well as you can during a bad time, and coming out of it stronger, says Christopher Jones, from the BeeLeaf Institute for Contemporary Psychology. 

“Resilience is not about always seeing the positive, denying how you are feeling, or seeing being vulnerable as a sign of weakness,” Jones emphasizes. 

“Being resilient means that you know yourself on a deep core level, and that inner strength and essence of YOU is always stronger than whatever it is you are going through.”

2) “What is this trying to teach me?”

A life challenge is often a lesson in disguise. 

That’s because lessons learned from hardships often reveal limitations, patterns, deep-seated beliefs, and skills you either didn’t see or didn’t appreciate before, says the team from the Center of Creative Leadership

“This shift, which increases self-awareness, is powerful. You have the chance to make new choices based on what matters; how you act, think, and feel; and what you can and can’t do.”

Having to take care of an ill or elderly parent, for example, might teach you patience. 

I recently interviewed a high-profile woman (I can’t say who she is because the article hasn’t been published yet), but she told me that years ago, when her parents broke up months before her wedding, that panic attacks set in. 

The event was an instigator for her to check in with herself instead of allowing herself to be overwhelmed and then doing something about it. 

While in therapy, she learned to be more mindful of the stressors in her life. She also learned to slow down in her daily life. 

She took up yoga and meditation, and breathing exercises. Now, she is much more attuned to her mental health and takes proactive steps towards her self-care and well-being. 

3) “I’ll figure it out” 

Similar to the above, resilient people are willing to figure their way out of a challenging situation or hardship. 

When challenges and change strike us, we need new skills and knowledge to cope with so as to overcome the adversities, says Pantea Vahidi, RN, who is a corporate wellness advisor from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). 

“Resilient people are open to learning about the topic that they are facing,” she says. “They know that the more equipped they are with information and facts, the better they can make decisions and battle what they are facing.”

Resilience is the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult life events, adds Katie Hurley, LCSW

I would argue that it’s also the ability to remain calm overall (we’re all human, after all) and clear-headed about the situation. 

“Being resilient does not mean that you never experience stress, emotional upheaval, and suffering,” adds Hurley. “Resilience involves the ability to work through emotional pain and suffering.”

Resilient people don’t just sit and stew in their problems, they seek solutions

4) “Things could be worse”

Everyone said Work harder and youll succeed. They were wrong. Heres what actually works 5 phrases only highly resilient people use, according to psychology

I recently lost a dear cousin to cancer this past January. She was only 50 years old. She actually didn’t look a day over 40. She was always the life of the party, and I miss her terribly. 

So any time negative things come up, I try not to get annoyed or thrown off by them. I don’t spiral or get too anxious, because I think of what her family is going through right now. 

Life can always be worse. 

Resilient people have skills for tolerating uncomfortable emotions, says Emma McAdam, LMFT

She gives an example: “Laura finds out that all the beams in her house have been damaged by ants. Laura gets overwhelmed, stressed out, and worried. But she doesn’t feel ashamed to have normal emotions. She just works through them.”

Things resilient people do can be anything from taking a break from the problem (I like to go for walks), they might sleep on the problem. 

They remind themselves that things could be worse and that they’ll figure it out somehow. They’ll also ask for help if they need to. 

5) “No matter what, I’m grateful for what I have”

The more Jeff Thompson, PhD researched the concept of gratitude, the more he realized how important it truly is and the impact it has on resilience and overall mental health. 

“The more I researched, the more I realized there are helpful and practical gratitude practices we can do to help rewire our brains to be more positive and resilient,” he says. 

But Thompson wants to be clear that practicing gratitude isn’t intended to minimize any hardships we are going through. 

“Gratitude practices help you manage these tough times and remind you that if you stop and pause, there is still good all around us and it is happening each day.”

But sometimes, it’s okay not to be okay 

Resilience can be a loaded term, says Rachel Goldsmith Turrow from The Conversation

“Although coping with challenges has its place, for trauma survivors, people who have experienced racism or homophobia, or those living in regions especially affected by climate change, and many others fall flat,” she says. 

I would add to this the people living in war zones. They shouldn’t have to be as resilient as they are. 

“The word comes across as tacitly accepting the status quo rather than demanding accountability from those who caused harm or working to reduce the source of stress.”

Turow says that overemphasizing resilience can reinforce racial injustice by suggesting that people who are subjected to it are resilient enough to handle it. 

“Having to wear a mask of resilience or put on a smile can add to the burden…habit to continually adapt to microaggressions…takes a mental and physical toll.”

That’s why, sometimes, it’s okay not to be okay. 

Picture of Wendy Kaur

Wendy Kaur

Wendy Kaur is a Toronto-based journalist whose work has been published by The Globe & Mail, ELLE USA, ELLE Canada, British Vogue, Town & Country, and others.

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