Resilience vs. Grit

Hey friends,

I was recently interviewed by Kevin Pho, MD for his podcast. You’ve likely heard of him through his hugely popular website

I thought I’d drop the article below so you can tell me what you think. And I’ve linked up to the podcast via youtube as well.

Enjoy! And Happy Thanksgiving to those who celebrate – I’m thankful for all of you!

With that said, we’re confusing the term resilience with grit. 

Reading many articles on burnout, physicians are understandably frustrated with being asked to be more resilient in the face of the pandemic, staffing shortages and oppressive systems, to name a few. Often, when wellness is eluded to, physicians are encouraged to take better care of themselves or show “resilience” when truly what’s going on is that we’re asking them to adapt to unhealthy systems and show intense perseverance without signs of emotional exhaustion. Sigh…

It may be helpful to differentiate resilience from other terms such as grit, motivation or determination. Resilience refers to withstanding, overcoming or adapting to adversities and challenges despite hardship; and maintaining good physical and mental health. Here’s where we might confuse that term with grit, meaning, stick-to-it-iveness or perseverance. And if that’s the case, physicians are righteously upset about being encouraged to simply stick with things a bit longer, be more persistent or determined. But there are a few caveats that are often overlooked with resilience. 

First, resilience is multi-faceted and determined by experience, culture, temperament, and social and systemic support. We are not meant to be resilient ALL of the time in EVERY situation. Some of us might find that we’re resilient for periods of time when we have support and in situations where we feel safe. That’s normal. Second, resilience is built IN RELATIONSHIPS. The best antidote for trauma & stress is in relationship with a safe, stable, nurturing people with whom we can regulate our nervous system. Finally, resilience is built in communities and systems of support. When we look at research on resilience, it’s those that feel seen and heard in supportive communities that feel resilient. 

Arguably, it’s NOT that physicians need to be more resilient it’s that we’ve failed to provide them with 1. The goodwill to be human and embrace their “whole selves” – people who are resilient often, but not always 2. Access to safe and consistent relationships to heal; and, 3. Systems that support their well-being.

Physicians have persevered despite hardships. They have shown grit. Now, let’s give them supportive spaces, relationships, communities, and systems so that they may have the ingredients to feel resilient more often.

Take care – and tell me what you think!

With compassion,

Dr. Amy