When ‘stiff upper lip’ is just lip service

An attendee at one of my recent resilience workshops made a good point as we debated what resilience is and why it means something different to each of us.

She had been brought up to believe that she had to grin and bear whatever was happening and never seek help. Manage challenges on her own. Never complain. Deal with it. That’s what resilience was.

It was a good point because generations of people are still conditioned in this belief. And those conditioned beliefs sure are hard to shake!

smiling multiracial businesspeople applauding to speaker in office

However, it’s now known that people who might be described as emotionally ‘strong’ or as having a stiff upper lip are more likely to end up with depression or PTSD than those who express their feelings. Repressing emotions makes us lose our ability to empathise with others. Over time it causes irritability and ill-health.

While most of us still don’t want to be a ball of snot all the time with our friends, the lesson is to balance genuine stoicism and hopeful optimism that things will get better, with accepting your vulnerabilities and knowing when you need help.

And unashamedly asking for help if you are struggling.

That’s resilience in action.



Lisa is a professional coach and trainer who works with employees, managers and business owners in healthcare, industry and business, helping them become the kind of leaders people can’t wait to work for.

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