Boss Lady

Why women need resilience — and how to get it


When we begin an entrepreneur’s journey, it is a leap of faith. Actually “leap of faith” is probably a rather mild term – it is more like jumping off an airplane and then realizing that the parachute might be defective, gravity is real, and you might just need to figure out how to fly like a bird if you are to make it (and if you are married with kids, try doing all of the above while playing Mozart on a piano and juggling 6 pieces of expensive china simultaneously).

We feel we have the right product, the right target market, and all the ideas to take it forward; however inevitably, somewhere along the line our momentum is suddenly stopped. A major target client declines us, were told the idea is not relevant, or a potential client loves everything but does not have the budget, and so the list goes. It is crushing, painful and for many the journey ends there.

However, for a businesswoman to be successful, she will need to overcome setbacks – both internal and external. For women this sort of strength is essential for our working lives, not least because of the large number of obstacles that confront us in order to progress.

Resilience helps us cope with whatever life will throw at us, and it can throw a lot. Right from external voices trying to judge you at every step to internal whispers nagging away at your self-doubt and making you feel like an imposter. What many women do not realise however, is that they are very resilient by nature, and that with some cultivation any women can strengthen her resolve to push past obstacles.

Before I go over my own experiences, and how to become and stay resilient, I want to take a quick look at what resilience is, and give us a way to define better. To me resilience has these characteristics: –

  • A sense of purpose and place: this helps you find value in your ‘struggle’ or journey. Having a sense of purpose gives you worth and from this a new found sense of strength and motivation to keep going. You should look to ask yourself –Whatvalue do you offer? What gives you meaning and purpose?
  • Tenacity and grit: Resilient women will stick to something and see it through. A great way to define this is using Angela Duckworth’s definition in her book ‘Grit’. She found it is “A combination of passion and perseverance for a singular important goal.”
  • Balance: having this approach will help you see things objectively, and provide perspective to enhance both your motivation and your ability to bounce back.
  • Reliance on self: Being able to be resourceful and self-reliant are key traits of resilient people. This means you have self-belief and also can draw on your own experience and develop to help you solve the problem, in order to overcome your obstacle.
  • Be you: To be resilient, you have to be able to be comfortable in your skin and be able to sometimes take the lonely road. Sometimes this can be really hard, but being able to take the contrarian course of action and having the four other traits and your ability to be one, with yourself will serve you well.

My own experiences of resilience have come in the forms of rejections from potential clients, sudden changes in scope or variables which I assumed I had figured out. Talking about the former, as a young business it can be depressing to have target clients turn you down – often for ostensibly flimsy reasons. There are really two choices – a). You mope around and get frustrated, or b). You learn, take things in your stride and soldier on ahead. Putting it like that makes the choice sound easy, but often it is anything but.

However, throughout my experience, I learned how to cultivate and maintain a resilient nature, and I was able to bounce back from these setbacks. Small things like developing a thick skin to counter rejections, and to adopt a stoic philosophy of controlling how I react to external events, helped me find the above five characteristics of resilience and to carry on.

In going through the above problems, I realised there are some ways that women can help to maintain their resilience. While these are simple pieces of advice, they are almost always overlooked by busy women.

  • Take care of yourself, and this means to exercise, eat healthily, get good sleep and to enjoy yourself. This can be through whatever form of clearing your mind you enjoy. Meditation and activities like swimming for instance, I have found to be really good ways to de-stress, and help maintain my mind and body.
  • When things are low, always find support networks, there will be other women to talk to, and make yourself available to help others when they are at their lowest. Talking is a great way to alleviate some of the problems and keep yourself on track.
  • Do things you enjoy. This has helped me to find time away from work and to keep things in an objective view, but to also de-stress and come back to whatever work problem I may have with a new found energy, motivation and outlook.
  • Finally, balance is key. Too much work, or play will be detrimental, but keeping them in check will help you maintain resilience and stop you from getting absorbed by your obstacles, without running away from them.

Of course by nomeans haveI figured it all out. There are times I don’t follow my own advice. But in the darkest hours and lowest moments, I tap into some good old Ancient Indian wisdom and remind myself of two Sanskrit phrases – a). “Etadapigamishyati” which translates to “this too shall pass” and b). “AnugachhatiPravaha,” which means “go with the flow”. The latter has been tattooed by Katy Perry on her right bicep, so at least I am in good company.

I hope that this article can help other women to find the resilience and strength to make through obstacles in their careers, and in doing so propel towards success.

About Ketaki Sharma

Ketaki Sharma is CEO of Algorithm Research, a Middle East, North Africa and India focused research and business solutions firm. She has previously worked for institutions such as Nomura securities and Standard and Poor’s, as India economist and ratings analyst covering the EMEA region. Algorithm Research was selected as a top 100 start up in the UAE in 2017, is nominated as the top 3 startups in 2018 and was chosen to participating in UAE’s trade delegation to China.

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