Harvard psychologist zeroes in on nine phrases used every day that signal emotional resilience

Harvard psychologist zeroes in on nine phrases used every day that signal emotional resilience


Emotionally resilient people are deliberate in their response to painful experiences. They allow themselves to grieve, remind themselves of what they are grateful for and focus on what they can control in the moment.

But as a Harvard-trained psychologist, I’ve seen so many people struggle with this. It takes effort, practice and mental strength. If you use any of these phrases every day, you are more emotionally resilient than most:

1. I can get through this

Emotional resilience is associated with grit and mental toughness. There is an understanding that we have to be strong and overcome adversity without letting it break us.

Similar phrase: “As much as I hate this, I can survive it.”

2. I’m not going to let myself be a victim

Being resilient means that when you experience the pain of mistreatment, you shift your perspective from “I’m a victim and powerless to help myself” to “How can I grow from this?”

Similar phrase: “Even though I was a victim in this situation, I won’t let it define me or ruin my future.”

3. Life is hard

Resilience is associated with a basic acceptance that life isn’t always fair, and that we all experience emotional hardships. Accepting this truth helps people to not take things as personally when undesirable events happen.

Similar phrase: “I won’t always be happy with how things play out. But it’s part of the journey.”

4. This, too, shall pass

Resilient people believe that setbacks and challenges can feel horrible in the moment, but that nothing in life is permanent. It doesn’t mean that the pain will go away entirely, but it does mean that we can work to make them less traumatic and damaging to us over time.

Similar phrase: “Each day is an opportunity to feel a little better.”

5. What can I learn from this?

Openness to experiences and the ability to shift your perspective from “Why did this happen to me?” to “What can I take from this to help me grow?” can help you better navigate through life’s inevitable ups and downs.

Similar phrase: “There’s always a gift, even in the darkest experiences – I just need to figure out what it is. How can I use this experience to empower and transform me?”

6. I need some time

A key component of resilience is emotional flexibility, or the ability to regulate your feelings and reduce their intensity in a given situation. Mastery over this can help us feel empowered during challenging times.

Similar phrase: “I’m feeling a strong emotion, so I’m going to take a moment before I respond or make any big decisions.”

7. I still have things to be grateful for

We’re hardwired to notice threats to our well-being. But people who are resilient find a way to turn towards the positive, even in times of difficulty.

Similar phrase: “I may be struggling, but I can find a way to be thankful for the good things in my life.”

8. It is what it is

The key to resilience is not denying reality or seeking out a reason that makes us feel better about why something happened. When we arrive at a place of radical acceptance, the situation has less power over us.

Similar phrase: “I have to see reality for what it is, even if it’s not what I want, so I can move forward.”

9. I’m letting this go

Staying mired in resentment, wanting retribution or focusing on payback keeps us holding on to past pain. Developing resilience requires getting to a place where we can see difficult life circumstances for what they are and actively choosing to let them go.

Similar phrase: “Forgiving this doesn’t mean it was okay; it just means that I’m not longer letting it weigh me down.”

  • A Tell report / By Dr Cortney S. Warren, a board-certified psychologist and author of Letting Go of Your Ex
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