I recently watched Susan David’s TEDWomen Talk from 2017.   She speaks clearly and passionately about emotional agility and how learning to radically accept of all our emotions – even the messy and hard ones – which is the cornerstone to resiliency, thriving, and true authentic happiness.  These are some of the take-away messages I heard…

I appreciated her position on how, as a society, we build a culture around relentless positivity.  As someone who works closely with educators and teens in building resilience and increasing positive culture in schools, this concept of relentless positivity and unrealistic expectations on feelings resonated with me.  It made me stop and think about whether or not I offer permission to myself, my loved ones, my colleagues and other educators to authentically show up with ALL of our feelings: messy and beautiful. 

Often when we feel a negative emotion we try and escape as quickly from the emotion, be it fear, sadness, anger, resentment, etc.  But tough emotions are “part of our contract with life” and “discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful life,” so if we continue to “brood, bottle or force positivity” on our hard emotions we are not truly listening to the signals they are offering us.

Her concept about emotional agility is that instead of locking ourselves to a rigid response to our emotions we need to be able to greet our emotions with curiosity, compassion, and courage to take value-connected steps in having a life-long correspondence with our heart.  

Learning that we “own” our emotions and they don’t “own us” is transformational in gaining an understanding about how and why we feel the way we do.

So, if we want to learn to build our resiliency, David suggests learning to have an openness to our human emotions and to notice our feelings and welcome them instead of “brooding, bottling or forcing positivity.”

The practice of mindfulness aligns with her concept, as mindfulness practices learning to pay attention to our feelings and allows us to meet them without judgement in the moment where we are.

She starts her talk with the Zulu greeting Sawubona which means ‘I see you’ and the response, ‘Ngikhona’ means ‘I am here’.  In essence, by being fully present for you and all your emotions and for me and all of mine, I invite you to be fully present in my life as well as yours. 

This is a practice I can lean into! 

I look forward to reading her book Emotional Agility.



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