Who’s Got Your Back? Pressure and Resilience

The recent news about Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka made me sad—for them personally, for their potential accomplishments, and for us as a society. How much pressure do they feel, that they needed to stop competing at the highest level of their sports? 

When I feel extraordinary pressure, I rely on my support systems. It took me a while, but I realized I need a variety of support systems. I have my family, but they’re not enough. (Besides, they’d get tired of me asking for help or wanting support.) I also have physical and professional support systems.

You might wonder—physical support systems? Yes. I work hard to maintain and build my physical fitness. I use my fitness friends as accountability for my walking and exercise. (Of course, my physical therapist sees what I do—and don’t do. Sigh.)

I also use professional support systems in a variety of ways:

  • Learn with other people, as a symmathesy.
  • Accountability, to see if I’m meeting my professional goals.
  • Create and run experiments.

My professional support systems vary: Some are informal (weekly check-in meetings). Others are formal, such as masterminds.

Support systems help me succeed in more ways than just offering support. They help me see when the pressure is too much.

Seeing Too Much Pressure

I’m not always aware of when I feel too much pressure. For years, my mantra has been, “Work through it.” Most of the time, that works for me. And when it doesn’t work? I fail, spectacularly.

Early in my vertigo journey, I was convinced that I could persevere and everything would work out. I took care of myself physically: gym workouts and dance classes (with modifications to accommodate my lack of balance). Because I had physical strength, I thought I could continue to travel the same way I had before.

During my travels, I did ask for help. Other people gave me their arms when walking, helped me on and off trains, and physically supported me.

Physical support meant I could fool myself into thinking I could do it all. I didn’t realize I had insufficient physical support and not nearly enough emotional support.

The result? I put myself under pressure—way too much pressure.

After too many bad falls and exhaustion, I finally saw the pressure. That’s when I realized I had to change. I could still expect a lot of myself. However, I couldn’t let those expectations make me physically ill or emotionally depleted.

I cultivated and used my support systems to test out new ideas and get feedback.

How Support Systems Can Help

My support systems offer information, along with support. Sometimes, people ask, “Are you nuts?”

Ah, yes. Next question.

Sometimes, people offer their perspectives on what they see me do—or not do. That also helps.

I like to know that people want me to succeed and that they see the pressure I might not see. Or, if I see the pressure, they might offer options so I can reduce that pressure.

My support systems offer me options to create resilience—especially if I can’t see the pressure.

Which support systems do you have and which do you need? Who’s got your back?

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