What is Resilience Anyway?

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como water resilienceEach Monday, Tiffany posts a message that provides positive energy and tips for eating more mindfully. The purpose of the weekly message is to reinforce the ideas from the talks and classes that are a part of the Como Water Membership, and to further support those living the veg-centric lifestyle. To receive our Mindfulness Mondays posts, Become A Member today.

What is Resilience Anyway?

In last week’s Mindfulness Mondays post I talked about the food security and resilience conference I attended in Ethiopia. Afterwards, I realized that I never explained what resilience is, nor why it’s important. Enter this week’s post.

Resilience is hardly new in psychology (or in engineering or ecology, for that matter), but has more recently been adopted in international development. To the psychologist, resilience represents the processes by which individuals (or families, communities, etc.) withstand chronic stress, and in some cases, even “prosper” despite adversity. The way I put it, resilience is concerned with one fundamental question–given the same context and barriers, why do some folks do ok?

I was obsessed with this question before deciding to formally study psychology because in many ways I felt like resilience embodied how I had been able to navigate my own pre-college context.

Now, almost 15 years later, resilience and I have crossed paths again. Not in the context of poor, urban adolescents, but rather in the context of poor, rural individuals, households, and communities in vulnerable and food insecure countries around the world. And whereas the psychological community grappled for decades with exactly what resilience is, how we know it when we see it, how we measure it, and how to cultivate it, the development community is now grappling with similar issues–both conceptually and programmatically.

I feel lucky that I’ve been able to work on resilience in my current job because it means that I’m thinking about resilience–all the time (even when I’m working on Como Water stuff too)!

Resilience in the context of continuing my Como Water passions, despite fatigue! But also resilience as it relates to defining and shaping and reaching our collective objective to eat more fruits and vegetables. Fostering resilience means having a realistic and clear sense of the barriers that stand between where we are now and attaining our goals. Fostering resilience means having role models on whom we can model our behavior, as well as social support to encourage us when we stray from our intended paths. And fostering resilience means having the availability and access of resources we need to reach our goals.

It may not always be easy or straightforward. The process may not always be fun. But having tenacity coupled with resources, and bending in the wind, rather than breaking (or breaking and putting yourself back together!) brings us closer and closer to resilience, and thus closer and closer to being who we know we can be. This is encouraging to me. This fills me with hope. And this is why I feel so fortunate to be able to contribute to work that seeks to build resilient food systems around the world.

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Tiffany M. Griffin is the woman behind Como Water, Washington DC’s premiere veg-centric cuisine consulting company. Through cooking classes, demonstrations, catering, and consultations, Como Water gives people the opportunity to learn how to prepare veg-centric cuisine that boasts maximum flavor, with minimal effort. Tiffany is quickly becoming a go-to expert on the future of veg-centric cuisine, and is a regular contributor to Como Water, the blog, as well as to vegetarian and vegan sites across the Internet. For over a decade, this self-taught, entrepreneurial expert has developed a set of tried and true techniques for making simple, delicious, and sometimes decadent veg-centric dishes. Featured on the Steve Harvey Show and other leading media outlets, Tiffany was born and raised in Springfield, MA. She then earned Bachelors degrees in Psychology and Communications from Boston College and a PhD in Social Psychology from the University of Michigan. She now resides in Washington DC, where she has worked in the US Senate and at a federal agency on issues around health, food, nutrition, and international food aid/development, and of course, as the owner of Como Water. Tiffany gets culinary inspiration from the food she grew up eating, and from her travels throughout Latin America, the Caribbean, Western Europe, and Sub-Saharan Africa. She is dedicated to sharing her wealth of knowledge on veg-centric cuisine with others and to help others live by her mantra—love life, live long, and eat veg-centric cuisine!

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  1. Resilience is an attribute I have never explored. Thank you for bringing it to my attention. It’s funny but it is something I have had all my life and never looked at it in this way before. Because I am a very resilient person I have become the person I am today. I have never thought of how special that is and that not all people are resilient. Now I wonder if it is something that is inbred or can it be learned? Hmmm only the strong survive?

    • Personally, I do not think that people are resilient or not (there are A LOT of people out there who disagree with me though…). I think everyone is more or less resilient to certain stresses, in certain contexts, at certain times in their lives. I also think that there’s a dimension of resilience that’s linked to personality, but that there are other dimensions that are not only learned, but that are outside of a person’s direct control (i.e., that are contextual). It really is fascinating! And how we conceptualize has all sorts of real life implications on how we make meaning about our lives … and how we allocate resources, etc. Thanks for engaging on this post!!! :)