When life doesn’t go exactly to plan, how well – or how badly – do you cope? Confidence coach Lisa Phillips shows you how to build emotional resilience.

When life chews you up and spits you out, do you feel defeated and beat yourself up for failing? Or do you have sufficient trust in yourself that everything really will be OK? In challenging times, we can often be our own worst enemies. We render ourselves as being victims of circumstances, blaming both ourselves and others for the situation we may find ourselves in; and then we become stuck in disappointment, looking to the past and wishing we had done things differently.

Resilient people, on the other hand, have a quality which allows them to bounce back positively, even in difficult situations. They believe that everything will work out alright, and this helps them to handle stress more effectively. Plus, rather than focusing on what could have been, they flow with life’s changes and use adversity as a springboard to propel themselves into something even better. Here are my top tips for strengthening your resilience muscle:

1. Soothe yourself

OK, so things aren’t looking good: What’s your inner self talk like? What are you saying to yourself? Are your thoughts on a rampage of hopeless-helpless-useless, telling yourself that things will never be right again and you can’t deal with it? That’s just victim thinking. When it comes to building emotional resilience, the mind is everything; you need to start with your mindset. This doesn’t mean expecting that you will be able to resolve the situation or feel terrific right away. It is simply about acknowledging where you are right now in your life, and soothing your disappointment, pain or fear with kind words, and reminding yourself that you will be fine and that all will be well for you
eventually. A good affirmation to practise is: “Even though it may not feel like it, everything is working out for me.”

2. Prioritise self-care

If you care about your own happiness, don’t dwell on things that make you feel guilty, afraid, or upset. Choose to make your emotional wellbeing a priority and tune into more positive feelings, like appreciation, affection, and humour, wherever possible. If you don’t feel good, it is because you are choosing to think thoughts that are fearful and negative: use your inner self talk to remind yourself that you deserve to feel good, and that you are working towards that.

3. Deflect the effect

When you experience a setback, what do you make it mean about you? Someone with low emotional resilience will typically take a difficult situation and make it mean something personal and punishing about them – perhaps that they are not smart enough, or not deserving enough, or that of course, things will go pear-shaped because they are always a failure and a flop at life. Resilient people, on the other hand, have a healthier perspective, seeing the trigger person or situation as the cause, not themselves. As a result, they can shift towards seeing the trigger person’s criticism or unkind comment or the upsetting situation as simply a circumstance in their lives that they cannot control – but they can choose to control their reaction to it and to be as kind as possible to themselves and to others as they work through the issue. Whether we make challenges about ourselves has massive power to either help or hinder us, so practise selecting an objective interpretation of a person or event to top build up your confidence and resilience, rather than undermine it.

4. Identify your hijackers

People who are less emotionally resilient tend to fly off the handle when faced with particular triggers. What is it that causes you to flip out? When we overreact to an experience, it usually has something to do with a negative belief we hold about ourselves, such as not being able to cope. Look within and determine what triggers hijack your emotions.

5. Let it go

Give up the need to control everything! Yes, it is important to have some measure of control, but there are also times when you have to let go of the reins, resign as Ruler of The Universe, and just trust. Choosing to let go of the need to control every outcome in your life will help your body, mind, and spirit to all release the struggle as well – and it feels so much better! In my experience, when you let go of the need to control every outcome in your life, you open yourself up to something far more exhilarating.

Lisa Phillips is a confidence coach based in Sydney. Visit her at