Debunk Common Myths About Resilience

April 1, 2024
Daphne Hou

Daphne Hou

Resilience can be broadly defined as positive adaptations towards adversity faced by an individual. Yet, despite its recognition as a crucial aspect of mental health and well-being, numerous myths surround resilience, clouding our understanding of what it truly means to be resilient. By unraveling these myths, we hope to shed light on the true essence of resilience, revealing it as a dynamic interplay of personal growth, communal support and learned strategies for coping with adversity.

Myth 1: Resilience is an innate trait you are born with.

Some people may believe that resilience is an innate trait you are born with and cannot develop. However, resilience is more like a dynamic skill that can be cultivated and nurtured. A synthesis of research has suggested that individuals’ resilience can be improved by training programs and interventions (Joyce et al., 2018). Crucially, beliefs that personal attributes like personality and intelligence are malleable (a.k.a. growth mindsets) play a pivotal role in fostering well-being. Students who have stronger growth mindsets have higher achievements and lower stressing the face of academic and social challenges (Yeager & Dweck, 2012). This evidence underscores the transformative power of cultivating a growth mindset in building resilience.

Myth 2: Resilience is never giving up.

A deep-rooted misconception is that resilience is all about unwavering persistence. When we feel stuck in a problem, it is tempting to believe that giving up is a sign of failure. While determination is undeniably valuable, stubbornly sticking to a single approach, especially in the face of repeated obstacles, can lead to unnecessary frustration and burnout. True resilience is not about never giving up on a specific task-it's about being flexible and adaptable in the pursuit of your long-term goal (King & Burrows, 2021). According to a recent study, when people have the option to switch between tasks, their persistence on the immediate challenging problem decreases, but they spend more time overall on tasks and attempt a greater number of them (Neo & Chen, 2023). The ability to switch tasks can be a strategic approach to dealing with challenges, promoting persistence towards your ultimate goal.

Zhixu Yang

Zhixu Yang

Myth 3: Resilience is doing everything on your own.

Another misconception of resilience is that you have to weather the storms in isolation. In a society that emphasizes independence and individual achievement, asking for help can be perceived as a sign of showing weakness or acknowledging failure, as the opposite of being resilient. In reality, resilience is just as much about recognizing when we are stretched beyond our limits and need external support as it is about withstanding adversity. Resilience and seeking help often go hand in hand when facing adversity. An empirical study has shown that caregivers with higher resilience are also more likely to seek help, highlighting the mutual reinforcement between resilience and help-seeking behaviors (Buanasari et al., 2023). Rather than framing resilience as a solitary endeavor, we should acknowledge that resilience often requires communal efforts, as a testament to human interconnectedness and the understanding that collective wisdom and support bolster our ability to bounce back.

Together as a society, we should debunk these myths by changing the way we talk about

Instead of saying, “You are a resilient person who never gives up and handles all problems alone”, we could say that, “You can build resilience by flexibly adapting your approaches to the long-term goal and seeking social support.

Daphne Hou: Daphne (Xin) Hou is a graduate student working with Louis Tay in the industrial-organizational psychology program at Purdue. Her research interests include vocational interest, career choice/development, technology and assessments, and research methods.

Zhixu Yang: Zhixu (Rick) Yang is a PhD candidate in industrial-organizational psychology at Purdue University. His research focuses on the intersections of goals, conflict and diversity. He is dedicated to understanding how these factors influence individual and collective well-being in the workplace and beyond. 



Buanasari, A., Rahman, A., & Gannika, L. (2023). Is resilience related to help-seeking behavior? A study on family caregivers of people with mental illness. Jurnal Keperawatan, 14(01).

Neo, D., & Chen, P. (2023). Leave to fight another day: Having the option to switch promotes a persistence trade-off. Motivation Science, 9(2), 131–143. https://doi.org10.1037/mot0000291

King, D. D., & Burrows, D. (2021). Resilience in the goal hierarchy: Strategy change as a form of perseverance. In Work Life After Failure?: How Employees Bounce Back, Learn, and Recover from Work-Related Setbacks (pp. 99-108). Emerald Publishing Limited. https://doi/10.1108/978-1-83867-519-620211007/full/html

Joyce, S., Shand, F., Tighe, J., Laurent, S. J., Bryant, R. A., & Harvey, S. B. (2018). Road to resilience: a systematic review and meta-analysis of resilience training programs and interventions. BMJ open, 8(6).

Yeager, D. S., & Dweck, C. S. (2012). Mindsets that promote resilience: When students believe that personal characteristics can be developed. Educational psychologist, 47(4), 302-314. https://doi/full/10.1080/00461520.2012.722805