How To Gain Resilience And Tolerate Setbacks


Resilience is a critical success factor for a joyful life.

Photo by Giuseppe Patriarchi on Unsplash

Setbacks and criticism never end, and they come from everywhere constantly.

Dealing with setbacks and criticism require the proverbial thick skin.

It can be challenging to deal with criticism. It requires life experience and solid skills.

Building confidence is one of the core skills. None of us is born with the confidence to deal with setbacks. We develop those skills as we grow.

Confidence building is a matter of rewiring our brain.

Our primitive brain directs us towards comfort and energy saving. It does not enjoy criticism. It sees it as a threat. Thus, it creates anxiety and fear signals. When rewiring our brain for confidence, the first thing is to see negative criticism as feedback. In fact, every complaint is feedback mirroring and reflecting on our actions.

When we habitually deal with negative criticism seeing it helpful feedback, we increase our emotional intelligence and enhance our emotional maturity.

With improving emotional maturity, we become tolerant of negative criticism.

Being tolerant means that we still feel anxiety, but it does not cripple us. It does not shut down our prefrontal cortex. Rather than reacting mindlessly, we respond mindfully.

A healthy dose of anxiety and fear can expedite the rewiring process. Without emotions, our brain does not create new neural connections. The stronger the emotion and exposure, the faster the neural connections are made, and more profound memories are constructed.

The key is not to pass the stress threshold affecting our mental health. The ramification of the passing threshold is burning out and losing mojo in life. The recovery can take too long or sometimes never happen.

I used to hate setbacks and negative criticism by family members, friends, and colleagues. I envied people with equanimity and poise. I always wondered about their secret.

I noticed that those who tolerated and embraced negative criticism usually performed better than those who couldn't.

A mentor of mine taught me the importance of acceptance. I learned how to accept setbacks and negative criticism.

As soon as I accepted some minor criticism, positive things started happening. But my skin was still soft. I needed to resilient.

The same mentor taught me to observe my emotions when the setback happened. It was part of mindfulness training similar to my fitness training. Uncomfortable emotions were triggered by perceived threats rather than actual danger. My perspectives towards threats changed.

When I learned to observe my emotions, labelling them, and detaching from them, I started tolerating setbacks and criticism.

I accepted that it would not be possible to be creative, productive, and enjoy life without tolerating setbacks.

Rewiring my brain required me to move out of my comfort zone and challenge my abilities. This significant viewpoint became the major success factor for my growth.

By going out of my comfort zone, I learned to embrace negative criticism.

It was not easy initially, but I got used to it gradually.

During the rewiring process, I made a conscious effort to switch from the instincts of my primitive brain and consciously use the thinking part of the brain.

Mindfulness was my starting point to accept and embrace setbacks and criticism.

Through mindfulness practice, I learned to observe my thoughts, emotions, behaviour, and triggers. Mindfulness practice also helped me live in the moment. I used to worry about the future and regretted the past.

With the mindful approach, my thinking part of the brain became the boss.

The more I used my thinking brain, the more cognitive skills I acquired. With the helpful mindfulness practice, I improved my attention, focus, awareness, and reasoning skills. These skills helped me establish the foundation for dealing with setbacks and criticism incrementally and progressively.

When I gained these foundational skills, I made a deliberate effort to accept and even searched for criticism in my stretch zone. I systematically started to understand and learn the benefits of proactively dealing with setbacks and criticism.

Using cognitive skills and prior experience, I exposed myself to criticism and primed myself for dealing with it successfully. I always asked about the worst-case scenario. Reviewing these scenarios helped to take calculated risks and strengthen my neutral connections.

I observed successful people, leaders, professionals, celebrities, politicians and other public figures. I read their bios and particularly focussed on how they dealt with setbacks and criticism. Interestingly, every biography was full of setbacks. None of those successful people has a comfortable lifestyle. They all developed a thick skin.

Their passion was one of the reasons they made their skin thicker. Passion is a powerful feeling and helps us create strong neural connections.

These outstanding people were once shaky and inexperienced, but they developed skills to thicken their skin.

Inspired by them, I turned negative criticism into a positive motivational tool. By reframing setbacks as pleasant life challenges, I felt like I was playing a game.

This growth mindset became a catalyst to rewire my brain to tolerate setbacks and criticism. The more tolerant I got, the thicker my skin got.

I applied my skills in various situations and documented them. Dealing with negative criticism becomes fun. By leveraging negative criticism, I looked at things from multiple perspectives. By accepting and using negative criticism, I moved from a comfort zone to a stretch zone and later to a risk zone.

When people ridiculed my ideas, I just smiled and thanked them.

If you can smile and thank people who viciously criticise you, this means that you have thick skin. Congratulations.

All of us can learn how to deal with setbacks and negative criticism.

First, we need to start with creating foundations. Understanding the benefits of being thick-skinned can motivate us. Conditioning our brain to take negative criticism and repeating the process at every opportunity can improve our skills. Once we rewire our brain, negative criticism becomes not only productive but also joyful.

Gaining inspiration from thick-skinned people can speed up the learning process.

Thick-skinned people are resilient. Yes, they feel the pain like anyone else, but they do not suffer unnecessarily.

Becoming resilient was a substantial skill for me. I gained enjoyable benefits in my personal, social, and professional life.

Thank you for reading my perspectives.

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I write about important and valuable life lessons. My ultimate goal is to delight my readers. My content aims to inform and engage my readers. Truth, diversity, collaboration, and inclusiveness are my core values. I am a pragmatic technologist, scientist, postdoctoral academic and industry researcher focusing on practical and important life matters for the last four decades.


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