I Don't Know How You Do It

Your Guide to Building Resilience, with Dr. Nefertiti B. Poyner

October 17, 2023 Jessica Fein Season 1 Episode 40
I Don't Know How You Do It
Your Guide to Building Resilience, with Dr. Nefertiti B. Poyner
Show Notes Transcript

Talk of resilience is everywhere these days, particularly in the aftermath of the pandemic. But what exactly is resilience? And is it something we're born with or something we can develop over time? What tools can we add to our toolkit to help fortify us for the challenges we all face in our lifetime?

"Peace doesn't mean the situation is fine, it meansI'm fine in the situation."

Meet Dr. Nefertiti B. Poyner. With more than two decades of experience in the fields of early care and education, adult resilience, and strength-based leadership practices, Dr. Poyner is a renowned teacher, author, and speaker. As a national trainer and early childhood specialist for the Devereaux Center for Resilient Children, she shares with us what muscles we can strengthen to build our resilience. She has authored several books, including "Building Your Bounce: Simple Strategies for a Resilient You," which offers valuable insights and practical tools to support adult resilience. 

In this episode you'll:

  • Learn about protective factors and how they contribute to your resilience.
  • Find out what to do when you feel like your rubber band is stretching so much it might break.
  • Discover the keys to cultivating resilience .
  • Learn how building strong relationships can be a powerful tool in fostering resilience, and find out what quality is way more important than quantity.
  • Develop a strong sense of self to boost resilience and equip your children with the invaluable skill of self-awareness, empowering them to face adversity head-on.
  • Find out why initiative matters.
  • Gain insight into the role of awareness and control in resilience, and learn practical strategies to cultivate these skills .
  • And so much more...

Learn more about Dr. Nefertiti Poyner:

Center for Resilient Children

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Music credit: Limitless by Bells


Jessica Fein: Welcome. I'm Jessica Fein, and this is the “I Don’t Know How You Do It” podcast, where we talk to people whose lives seem unimaginable from the outside and dive into how they're able to do things that look undoable.

I'm so glad you're joining me on this journey, and I hope you enjoy the conversation. 

Welcome to Episode 40 of I Don't Know How You Do It. I cannot believe we have come this far. And I'm so excited to introduce you to my guest today, Dr. Nefertiti B. Poyner. You know, as I've thought about all of the episodes so far, as we try to figure out how people do these things that seem really undoable, I realized one thing that every single one of my guests has in common, whether they're going through really tough [00:01:00] situations or living daring, unconventional lives, is their resilience.

And that is Nefertiti's area of expertise. She is a renowned teacher, author, and speaker with more than two decades of experience in the fields of early care and education, adult resilience, and strength based leadership practices. Nefertiti is a national trainer and early childhood specialist for the Devereaux Center for Resilient Children.

She's authored several books and is the co author of Building Your Bounce, Simple Strategies for a Resilient You, which is a resource written to support adult resilience. Nefertiti's research interest and the passion that guides her work revolves around better understanding how resilience contributes to effective education for children, staff, families, and communities.

She's just the perfect person to be talking to us at this juncture in the podcast. And I'm so excited to introduce you to Nefertiti.[00:02:00] 

Welcome Nefertiti. I am so happy to have you on the show today. Thank you.

Dr. Nefertiti Poyner: I consider it a privilege and an honor to hang out with you for a little bit. Well, I gotta 

Jessica Fein: Well, I gotta tell you, I mean, you and I met in a different context, and we were talking about resilience, and I didn't want the conversation to end, and I kept thinking about the things that you were saying, and you have so much to offer, so I am excited that we just have time to dive into it today.

Dr. Nefertiti Poyner: Yes! I'm ready! 

Jessica Fein: Okay. Well, first tell us a bit about yourself and how you got interested in the topic of resilience.

Dr. Nefertiti Poyner: I have always wanted to be a teacher. So when I was a little girl, I had some reading difficulties, self esteem issues, and I struggled a little bit. But as a young person, I met beautiful teachers who pulled things out of me that I didn't even know I had.

And so when I thought about it, I said, I want to be able to do that for other people. Other children. And so all of my undergraduate was in education and I got my master's degree. Education was my thing. [00:03:00] Then I got into the classroom and nothing that I was learning was lining up to what I was being asked to do in the classroom.

So I'm trying to go in there and do ABCs and one, two threes, and the children are throwing chairs. And parents are saying, Ms. Bruce, they don't do this at home, so it's kind of your issue. And so it was like, Oh my gosh, I've always wanted to do this, but have I chosen the right profession? And so I joined an organization where that's what I get to do every day is look at the literature on how to promote children's resilience.

Now in the classroom, I did not know that that's what I wanted to do. I wanted to stop the hitting, the fighting, the biting, the throwing of chairs, but what I have learned over the years is to do that is to build the children's resilience and social emotional skills. And another piece of that is to also work with the grownup.

My mom brought me a little plaque that said it takes a village to raise children. And I've always loved that statement. I've always tried to be a part of the [00:04:00] village, but as a teacher, what I really learned is it takes a healthy village, not just a village. And so that health is resilience to me. And it means a lot for me as an individual, but I also tried to make sure the families who are loving and raising children, they also prioritize their health, which again has a lot to do with where this idea of resilience comes for me because I struggle. So that's how I got there. 

Jessica Fein: Well, and you've become such an expert. I mean, you've written books and you speak and you are a trainer.

How do you define resilience? 

Dr. Nefertiti Poyner: It's a great question. First of all, I think it will vary from person to person. I will tell you from me, what I say to myself when I'm trying to exercise my resilience is Nefertiti, you already have everything that you need. When life is throwing curve balls at me, my resilience says to me, Nefertiti, you already have everything that you need.

And I think Jessica, when people hear me say that, they're like, well, no, I don't have everything I need. Do you know what I'm going through right now? Even your awareness of where your gaps are [00:05:00] is telling you, you have what you need because that awareness is how you move forward. And so I know for sure I'm not the same person I was before I started researching resilience as a part of my work, but I'm so thankful for it.

We talk about a rubber band, you know, life is what pulls you. Your resilience is your decision not to stay that way. And more recently I've been calling resilience a choice because when life pulls you, you can say, okay, I'm done with this. I'm just going to stay that this way. And that's going to be the end of it.

But resilience tells me I have a choice and I can work on the skills that I need to bounce back and it requires tools. 

Jessica Fein: Well, we need to know, what are those tools? 

Dr. Nefertiti Poyner: Yeah. One of the things that I saw in the literature when I was first learning about resilience, and this part scared me, because I'm a textbook introvert who does not have a big friendship circle or family circle.

I was raised by a single mom. It was just me, my mom, and my brother. When people came by for Thanksgiving, we were like, What were they doing here? Like, we were really a [00:06:00] small family. It was just the three of us and our family dog. Again, Thanksgiving, you think, no, it was just the three of us. Relationships.

One of the key contributing factors to a person's ability to bounce back is that they don't do it by themselves. What I found to be encouraging from the resilience literature Is you don't need a whole basketball team of friends, right? Because I mean in this age of social media people are looking to build their Facebook followers and their Instagram followers and then we're posting a picture then we're waiting to see how many people react to it.

Like that is not what we're talking about when we say relationships. You know relationships is that person who can look at you without having to say a word and they know that you're not okay. You know, the relationship is the person who will never try to fix your scenario or your situation, but rather they'll hold it with you, right?

They ask good questions. They stay present for you and with you. And I'm learning that small thing that we sometimes think is like no big deal is one of the key identifying factors in the resilience [00:07:00] research as a tool is relationships. Another one is a sense of who you are. You know, I told you I struggled with my self esteem because I was raised in a single family.

Very, very poor, but I didn't know we were poor because mom gave us everything that we needed. You know, I didn't really know I was poor until I started talking to other people. I'm like, Oh, Oh, we don't have, Oh, I guess we are poor. I was like, okay, is this really how this is supposed to go? Like you don't heat your water on the kerosene heater.

I thought everybody did that. Because mom just made home home. And so I suffered a little bit with feeling like I was worthy or I was enough because my foundation was not the best. And so I had to grow up and understand you are worthy and you are enough. And you do have a place in this world and your voice needs to be heard.

But boy, it took me a long time to start to understand that. And now I don't want to be quiet because it took me so long to get here. I now understand how important your sense of worth is [00:08:00] and your sense of self esteem. 

Jessica Fein: I'm so struck by both of those things. And when you talk about relationships, it's interesting because I've also been reading that one of the things that contributes to a longer life even is healthy relationships.

Those very times in life when we need to be able to draw on resilience are those same times when we're feeling most isolated. You know, we've talked to a lot of people on the show, for example, who have very ill children or who are going through intense grief, and that in and of itself is so isolating.

And yet, if what we need to have that feeling of resilience is the relationships, how can those two things live together?

Dr. Nefertiti Poyner: I think another thing I would want your listeners to hear is that we also have to give ourselves a little bit of grace, right? So when you are dealing with an intense feeling, the first thing you have to do is just honor that, right?

I'm feeling sad. I'm feeling remorseful. I'm feeling grief. You just have to own that. And the moment that you give yourself that grace to just stay in that feeling is then when you start to think, and [00:09:00] again, that's what my self talk says. Nefertiti, you already have everything that you need. Several, several years ago, I was invited to do my very first virtual keynote.

This was even before Covid. So I was here in my home office and I was doing a keynote. It was going great. And I kept getting these text messages from my cousin and he never bothers me during the day, so I don't know what's going on. And so I'm, I text him while my participants are on break and I say, well, I'm going to call you when the presentation is over.

He's like, yes, please do. And so once my presentation is over, he says, well, Nefertiti, where are you? I'm like, I'm home. And you know how people say, are you sitting down? He's like, are you sitting down? I'm like, yes, what's going on? And he was calling to tell me that my brother was found on his kitchen floor dead.

I am like, what in the world, I just talked to him that morning. And so I am saying to myself, this is where you have to say, I have everything I need, let me just get myself together. That's [00:10:00] as I process the shock that I'm going through. And then I say to him, has anyone told my mom? And he said, no, we've been trying to call her all day and she's not picking up the phone.

So Jessica, it had to be five more hours before I was able to get my mother on the phone. It had to be five hours before I could get her on the phone. And I'm telling you this story because, again, relationships. I can't get mom on the phone, so I am calling other people because I want to get to her, because I'm in North Carolina, she's in Philly.

I want to get to her so I can be with her, but I need her to know before it comes from somebody else. In the meantime, I'm calling our relationship people. I'm calling them and they're like, yes, Nefertiti, we'll be right there. So by the time I finally get her on the phone, she's like, Hey, honey, how you know what to say.

I said, mom, I've been trying to call you all day. She said, yeah, we've been in meetings all day and I just got home and all these people, what are they? And again, she has no idea. She has no idea. You know, by this time I know where everybody is in the house. I know where [00:11:00] everybody is. I'm like, mom, I gotta tell you something.

So I tell her, and then she passed out is what she did. The research calls what we use to help us bounce back. Protective factors, that's the term in the literature around what we used to help us bounce back. My mother was surrounded by protective factors and they held her till I could get there and they comforted her.

And by the time I got there, you know, she cleaned the kitchen, she'd vacuum the floor. All the things that a mom does and you know, so I hope what I just shared helps people understand those people aren't just your people, those people are your protective factors. And while you may not always want to be with them, just knowing that you have them and that you can lean upon them when you need to, that's where your resilience comes into play.

And your protective actors will also know when you need to be left alone. And they can say, okay, I'm going to leave you alone and I'll be right outside the store when you're ready and leave it at that. And since then, I can't tell you the number of times where the people in my life have not just [00:12:00] been my people, but they've been my protective actor.

And it's only about five of them. 

Jessica Fein: Well, like you said, you don't need to have thousands who are clicking like on your social media posts. You need to have that inner circle. Can you tell us about the other protective factors? 

Dr. Nefertiti Poyner: Sure. There's another protective factor that we talk about a lot in our work is the sense of initiative.

And so again, if I go back to the story of my brother, my brother worked for American Airlines and because of that, he was able to use his benefits to fly anywhere. And one day I said to my brother, listen, uh, brother, I'm watching you just exist and you're not living. And he said, what does that mean? I said, I am watching you go to work and do this thing.

And like, you're just existing. And my brother looked me dead in my eyes, and this is where it makes me sad to think about him. Because he said to me, T, that's what my family calls me, T. He said, T, I don't know how to do what you're asking me to do. He said, all I know how to do is go to work, be a good dad, be a good husband.

That's what I know how to do. And I told this story to [00:13:00] somebody once and they said, Nefertiti, that was him. That's what he wanted to do. And I'm like, you know what? You're absolutely right. Who am I to say anything? I do say that my brother left this earth doing what he wanted to do and like, he had just come back from drop off, from dropping off his children at childcare.

That was his thing. My brother's life and my life have taught me, you want to make sure you get up today and you did what you wanted to do with the 24 hours you were given, right? Like there's so many of us are just getting through Monday, getting through Tuesday. Resilience has taught me dance like nobody's watching and live today like it really is your last because you just never know.

And so again, if we want to give language to that behavior, it's called initiative. You're getting up. You're doing the absolute best with the 24 hours you have and you're living with no regrets. Now, I'm not saying go out there and do no real crazy stuff. 

Jessica Fein: Maybe sometimes. 

Dr. Nefertiti Poyner: Yes. Mix it up a little bit. Right here in my home office I have the words live today well. Live today well, and so there's this sense [00:14:00] of initiative. In our work, we also talk about self control, you know, being able to process all your feelings. I think some grown ups don't grow up in homes where people talk about feelings. And then before you know it, you're a grown up who doesn't know what to do with sadness and overwhelm.

And sometimes we adopt poor behaviors because of that. And so I'm trying to raise my children to understand all of your feelings are okay. Every single one of them. And I'm thinking if we can do that when they're young, they'll be able to do that when they're older. Because again, I can think of a few people who I share my life with who don't know it's okay to feel, you know, peed off.

Can we say that on the podcast? 

Jessica Fein: You can say whatever you want. That's the beauty of a podcast. 

Dr. Nefertiti Poyner: It's just what I do with that feeling contributes to my resilience. So, you know, feeling and knowing what to do with it is another part of being resilient. 

Jessica Fein: You train educators on these very things so that, like you said, people can learn these skills when they're young and then they serve them throughout their life.

What about people [00:15:00] who don't get these skills when they're young and then they're older and they don't have the community, don't have the initiative, don't have the self control? How can you build those skills later on? 

Dr. Nefertiti Poyner: Well, again, I think it begins with an awareness, right? I think you don't know you need that filled up unless you know what it is.

And so I think, especially in the work that I do, I always tell people after we finish, you have a responsibility now to tell this to three or four people. They don't even have to be educators. Go tell it to your spouse, go tell it to your children, because that's how we strengthen the village. I also think that we have to continue to create safe spaces where people talk about this stuff, right?

Because really what we're talking about is mental health. And then when you try to put that label on it, it's like, Oh no, we're not talking about that. I don't want to talk about that. And so I'm also trying to make sure people understand you talk about your headache, you talk about your backache, but you won't talk about the fact that it has been really hard for you to get out the bed over the past five days.

I want to create spaces where we're [00:16:00] talking about that because usually when your back is hurting or your head is hurting, it's usually indicative of something that's happening socially, emotionally, or even with your resilience. I think people have to know it is never too late to rerecord. This is another thing we talk about.

Some of us have grown up in homes where when you press play and record, like those negative things were recorded, things were scripted for you that don't feel so good. We now can press play and record in a different way, like we got all this new social media stuff, I mean, all this fancy technology, you can re record a life for yourself.

Still honoring what was there, but now it's time to re record some new and different things. I think you first have to start with knowing that I want this to be different. I want to feel different. I want to experience some different things. And when you know better, you can do better. 

Jessica Fein: I love how you talked about that difference in language because resilience is something that you know people talk about all the time and it's very positive.

And I like how you said what we're really talking about when we talk about [00:17:00] resilience is mental health and yet there's so much shame in talking about mental health and it's the same thing.

Dr. Nefertiti Poyner: Yeah, it is. I was listening to another podcast the other day and they were talking about how when you say mental health, the word that next comes sometimes is crazy.

You think you're crazy. And so I was looking at the definition of crazy. And one of the definitions was like, when you're something you're really passionate about it. Right. And I'm like, that's the definition we're going to lean on, uh, Merriam Webster dictionary, but number two, because it says, yes, I'm crazy about my mental health.

I am crazy about making myself a priority. I was single most of my life, dedicated my life to children and families. That was fine. I wanted it that way. I don't know if I wanted to be single all that time, but that's just, that's another podcast. 

Jessica Fein: That's another one. We'll do that next time.

Dr. Nefertiti Poyner: But I didn't become a mom until much later in life.

And so a lot of this learning that I am trying to really make a part of my life is because now I've got little people looking at me. I'm like, okay, I got to get this right. And I think that when you don't grow up and you don't know what you [00:18:00] need, there is the challenge. But if we can start talking about this over coffee, or while we're at our places of worship, or we're in a grocery store, like if we could just normalize it, I think we could all get better.

I want to make it where we just talk about it like we talk about a headache because your mental health is a part of your overall health. 

Jessica Fein: It's interesting. So we have a headache, we take the aspirin. We have the backache, we put on the heating pad or we, you know, lay flat. So if we have this corollary, we're saying the mental health ache, I don't know what we're calling it, what do we do to fix that?

Is there like a, you know, your soul is hurting or your mental health, is there an equivalent of a quick fix or are all of these things that have to be developed over time? 

Dr. Nefertiti Poyner: You know, your question is so interesting and it may be one of the reasons why we sometimes find ourselves in this predicament because there is no one thing you can do when you understand that your soul is hurting, right?

It's a series of things and there's nothing you can go buy off a shelf. I wish there were though, right? And I think that's what people want and that's [00:19:00] not what this is. And so I like to tell people, you first got to just keep quiet. You know, you got to get quiet. When I do my work with teachers, I say to them, All children have an invisible suitcase.

Every child that comes into your classroom has an invisible suitcase. And in some instances, that suitcase is well organized and has everything they need. They can freely be a four year old. And then some of them, like the ones you're asking to crisscross applesauce, they can't crisscross applesauce because their muscles are tired of carrying all that they've had to carry as a four year old.

And so I'm asking educators to pay attention to what is in the invisible suitcase of your students. But what we also have to ask as adults, what's in my invisible suitcase? I sit across from you, you sit across from me as we record this podcast. You have a suitcase, right? 

Jessica Fein: I have a whole luggage set.

Dr. Nefertiti Poyner: Correct! Correct! Correct! And it's part of the reason why you're having these conversations with people to better understand [00:20:00] how are you carrying your suitcase? What are you doing? You know, sometimes you can take some of the stuff out, right? But I can't take out my parents divorce from my suitcase. I can't take out the fact that we lived for about seven years without hot water.

So when I'm telling you I really did, we had to heat hot water on a kerosene heater, and my mom probably used seven to eight buckets of water just to make a bath for us, right? And you only got a bath once a week because she's not going to do this too often, right? So all of those things are in my invisible suitcase.

How do you turn those things around? Well, again, I said to you, I grew up in a wonderful home where I could be 14, 15. My mother never let us know all of what she was going through. I remember sometimes I talk to mom now and she'll tell me this story from our life. I'm like, mom, why didn't you tell me that?

And she said, it was none of your business. You didn't need that. You didn't need to take that on. All you had to do was worry about, you know, your 13 year old life. And I say, oh my gosh, that's [00:21:00] wonderful. But not many of us get to do that now, right? Like we're taking on everybody's everything. I think what I would want your listeners to understand is what's in my suitcase that's making this journey heavy and where are my muscles?

Where are my protective factors? What do I have in terms of my relationships? How do I feel about how I'm getting up every day and interacting with life? How am I with my self control? I also know from the literature that people have faith. I mean, my faith is one of my greatest protective factors. It is where I go for my strength.

And I know many people use their faith as a protective factor. Also forgiveness. You know, sometimes you have to forgive the fact that you didn't have everything in your suitcase that you may have wanted. You have to go back and love on the version of yourself who didn't know any better. But now that you do know a little bit better, we can move forward.

And also being able to ask for help, you know, podcasts are great. Somebody listening to us today might say, okay, I get it. I got some things I need to work on. So what's that going to look like? Is [00:22:00] that a person in your life you want to start with? Is that a person in your faith based life you want to start with, or is that a professional?

Because I think seeking professional help is so okay. That person is going to sit and listen to you and only want to help you be better. Like that's what their job is, just to help you be better. I think we all need somebody like that in our life, a few of them. So being able to say, I need some help, and let that not be a negative, that asking for help is a strength.

Jessica Fein: It's a muscle, right? It's one of the muscles that's going to help you carry the suitcase. And I love thinking about acknowledging what's in our own suitcases and being able to forgive ourselves and give ourselves grace for all we're carrying. But also know that I have no idea what's in my neighbor's suitcase.

Do you think that tough situations test our resilience? Help us build it both. What do you think? 

Dr. Nefertiti Poyner: So during the pandemic, we were talking with educators and somebody said, enough with TD. I'm tired of needing to be resilient. That was her [00:23:00] language. She said, I'm tired of needing to be resilient.

And what I'm learning, and I wish this was different, the growth and the person that you're becoming, you learn a lot of that through your lifestyle. I wish there was a way from what I see in the literature to learn them without having your rubber band stretched. But when your rubber band is stretching, it is when life is just teaching you.

And this is when you have to say, I have everything I need and I'm ready to be a learner. And Jessica, the other yucky, yucky part though is sometimes you're learning and you're hurting at the same time, right? Like you're learning and you're hurting at the same time. And I'm trying to give my own self grace.

And again, I'm going to do both of these things at the same time. I'm going to do a parallel process. I know that it's okay to grieve. And I can also learn that I'm finding my way and I'm asking for help to answer your question. All of it happens, life comes to teach you a lesson and we just have to approach it with curiosity and be a ready [00:24:00] learner.

I wish that there were ways to do it without, but you know, diamonds have to go through a little something before they start to shine. But when you learn it, just keep applying it. Because I bet you the last time your rubber band was stretched, you learned some things about yourself that you're going to use next Monday or next Tuesday.

Jessica Fein: What if you feel like your rubber band breaks? Can you get a new rubber band? 

Dr. Nefertiti Poyner: You almost have to. You almost, you almost have to. And again, I think one of the things, if we're going to go with the analogy of the rubber band, we want to have a sense of awareness of when our rubber band is stretching. Of course, the big things are stretching the rubber band, of course.

But somebody listening to us today, the little things that are going unattended to are stretching the rubber band. So it makes it even more difficult when life's big things come. We call these the daily hassles, right? The daily hassles of traffic and children and not being able to say no. Like you keep saying yes to everything and when you say yes to everything, you're saying no to you sometimes.

All of those [00:25:00] daily hassles of stretching your rubber band, and then you have those big things in life that you didn't see coming. And so resilience also teaches me, pay attention to what you are allowing. And I think this is different language for me. You are allowing that stuff to continue to come and permeate your life and stretch your rubber band.

You now have to learn and be able to say, Nope, not that one. I'm not going to let that one stretch my rubber band. Because again, death and unemployment and just the world that we're living in that we can't always change. Those things are going to come and stretch us undoubtedly, but I have some control over my feelings, how I let people treat me, what I say yes and no to.

Yeah, those things I have control over. And then yes, rubber band can be mended and rubber band can be put back together. Or I could throw that one away and I can go get me one of those big ones from the office max from the, from the office supply stores. And I can try to approach life a little differently this time.

Jessica Fein: How does a resilient person look different from somebody who's just not [00:26:00] resilient? 

Dr. Nefertiti Poyner: How do you look different? It's a great question. I think this is important to say because with the naked eye, you don't really know what you're looking at, right? You don't know what you're looking at because again, if I just give myself as an example, if you compare what was happening to my household and you go to another zip code with another family makeup, you say, well, which one of these people are resilient?

You have no idea. You have no idea because there are two things that are going on. Another analogy that we use in our work is your risk factors to things that are stretching your rubber band can kind of feel like rain. So just follow this analogy with me again. When life feels like it's just one thing after another, after another, that feels like rain.

And somebody listening is in a, like a summertime rain. It just feels just a little bit of rain. But somebody listening, the rain is. And what resilience has taught me is I don't have to stand in the rain. Your protective factors are your umbrellas. And so when you say to me, Nefertiti, what's the difference between somebody who's resilient and who is not?

First of all, that [00:27:00] is not for us to determine. I don't think we could do that with the naked eye. But we can encourage your listeners today. What am I using when life feels like it's raining on me? Am I using one umbrella? Am I using five big umbrellas? What am I doing? Because you can't always stop life's rain, but the resilient person is standing in it with their umbrellas.

That's where their success is coming from. They're not getting soaking wet from their experiences because they are using their resources. They're using their tools. And again, you don't always know what that looks like. And I don't think it's up to us to know it's up for that person to know. Again, when I was working on my dissertation, I met a woman who said she was going through a divorce while she was a teacher, she was a teacher.

And she said, Nefertiti, nobody knew what I was going through. She said, nobody knew what I was going through. And when I finally told them, they were like, why didn't you tell me, blah, blah, blah. I said, well, how did you do that? She didn't use the word protective factors, but I heard all of her umbrellas. I heard her sense of [00:28:00] community.

I heard her sense of forgiveness. I heard her leaning on her faith. I heard her protective factors, and so I don't think you can see it with the natural eye. I think it's up to that person to determine what that looks like for them, and I think that's the joy. I think that's such a joy when that person can feel life raining on them, but they use their tools.

Jessica Fein: Are there common misconceptions about resilience? I mean, I think as we talked about it, it's a word that people use kind of regularly and freely. What misconceptions do we have?

Dr. Nefertiti Poyner: Yeah. That's another great question. And one of the misconceptions that we're actually trying to make sure we talk about is that even as I talk today, it feels like it's so easy, right?

It feels like it's so easy. But there are some risk factors that we're dealing with as a society. Let's just say, for example, racism, right? Racism is packed into many suitcases. And what kind of muscle do you need to carry? I just want to deal with that like now. So in our work, we do a webinar called race and resilience, because again, we're trying to make sure people are looking at these [00:29:00] two things together.

And in that webinar, we will say to the listeners is being Black a risk factor? It's a webinar poll question. And you know, sometimes the poll box will be really slow to filter in with answers, right? And so sometimes people say yes. Sometimes people say no, and sometimes people say, I don't know. Our answer to that question is the color of your skin is not the risk factor.

It's racism. That is the risk factor. It's racism. That is the risk factor. And what does someone need to counteract racism? Eileen, once again, when you need your protective factors, right? Well, Nefertiti, how in the world do I use my protective factors to combat racism? Your voice is a protective factor.

Committing to be an anti racist teacher, that's a protective factor, right? Advancing the voices of the marginalized, that's a protective factor. One of the misconceptions is that, oh, it's just so easy. It's not easy and it's going to require work. And again, for [00:30:00] some of the most marginalized communities.

Just to get up and say, Oh, this week we're going to focus on this. It's a never ending component of your life. Let's change the misconception. Oh, this one experience is going to make me resilient. Or if I read these three books, I'm going to be resilient. It's like a workout. If you don't work the muscle, it's going to get a little flabby.

And so what we can do together is get up and know, I got to be resilient. And again, I'm raising a 19 year old and an eight year old. And even for them, like my 19 year old, she uses this term. Life is lifing. I didn't even know what that means. Life is lifing, which means I'm just dealing with some situations, mom.

Okay. Okay. What's your strategy? How are we going to do this? What's your strategy? Because again, at 19. If we can help her understand that when life is lifing, as you call it, my 19 year old, then you have to have a strategy for that. And she looks at me like, I don't know what my [00:31:00] strategy is. Okay. Let's talk about it a little bit.

Let's talk about it a little bit. And then Madison, our eight year old going through a number of things, she was running for secretary of the student government association. She didn't want to do it because. She was afraid she was going to lose. She said, Mom, I don't want to run because I might lose. And I said, You also might win.

And then she came back and she said, But what if I lose? And I said, What if you win? And so we did a scenario for both a winner and somebody who was considered a loser. And I said in this second scenario, did you do everything you could? She said, yes. I made a poster. I worked on my speech. I read my speech nice and slowly.

You did everything you could. All right, so you're already a winner. Now it'll, we'll see what happens when the voting is cast. And again, giving these examples, because you gotta work at this. It doesn't just happen like going to the store and getting a Tylenol for your headache. Resilience doesn't work like that.

It's a skill that you have to continue to [00:32:00] work at. And I think the misconception is it's just easy. Everybody can do it. Some of it is actually genes as well. And again, we can't get into all of that today, but some of it is, is genetics. You know, how your body is orchestrated, what kind of things you've had to deal with, I'm very fond of the adverse childhood experience work.

That has helped us understand. Sometimes we are dealing with things before our brain fully matures, that begins to impact the mind, the body, and the spirit, I call it. We give attention to all the other stuff, all the other stuff. When are we going to give the same attention to how we're feeling mind, body, and spirit, right?

You got to work at it. 

Jessica Fein: So many of our listeners are listening right now and they are in tough situations and they're facing a major life challenge. What can they do today, tomorrow? What advice do you have to start to build up this muscle, to start to identify these protective factors? 

Dr. Nefertiti Poyner: I think a lot of it will start with how that person will treat themselves.

You are not your situation [00:33:00] and you have everything that you need and whatever self talk you adopt for yourself. I would really love us to lean into that because there's so much that can happen in the power of just how we talk to ourselves. And so whatever the situation is, you have everything you need.

And even when you feel like, Nefertiti, you keep saying that, but I don't. The awareness that you need some more is a great place to start. And again, be kind to yourself. The person that's listening to us, if they were talking to somebody else, they would say all the right things. They would treat that person with such grace and kindness.

But they're not doing that for themselves. And so I often tell people to treat yourself like you are your very best friend, because ultimately we really should be our very best friends. And if we can start there and again, try that mantra, I have everything I need. I go back to this analogy of a cloud, the cloud is going to move.

I know it feels like that cloud has been there for a long time and it's not moving. [00:34:00] But if you just look up at the clouds, the clouds don't stay there forever. The cloud will move and remember while you're waiting for that cloud to move, you just get your protective factors also thought about as your umbrella and don't stand under that cloud without your tools.

Jessica Fein: You run a community that's all about helping women live life with intention. What does it mean to live life with intention? 

Dr. Nefertiti Poyner: I've always heard the word imposter syndrome, but I didn't really know what that meant. And then during the pandemic, when my girls were virtual learners and I was here in the house trying to do my work and take care of them as virtual learners, I would get in front of the webinar screen and I would tell people about being resilient and say all the things we're talking about today.

And I would get off of the webinar and I would use not kind words, talking to my children. I was using a tone of voice that I don't typically use. I was very sad. I was like, what in the world? How are you telling other people to do this? And you're not doing it yourself. And then I realized that if I'm going to [00:35:00] do it, I'm going to have to be intentional.

Like I'm going to have to get up every day with the intent to make sure my girls have what they need as virtual learners, but that I am intentionally doing what I say to other people. what I need to do for myself. And so intentionality is the space where we go. And I've affectionately called the space, the serenity room, because what I am always seeking is peace and peace doesn't mean the situation is fine.

I'm fine in the situation. That's what I'm always seeking. And that to me is another way to think about my resilience. The situation can be swirling like a typhoon hurricane, but I am at peace with whatever I've got going on. And so I call the space, the serenity room and intentionality just means I know who I am, I know what I have a purpose for, and I'm living that daily.

I thought we needed to have a space because you don't always do that when you work up in the morning and the car didn't start or the bus was [00:36:00] late or your boss is getting on your nerves or the children are getting on your nerves or you got like, we don't always do it. And so I was like, we need a space to hold ourselves accountable for it.

And so in the serenity room, I try to offer women, not only resources, but community. Resources and community and I target this work for those of us who work in education and human services because ultimately the quality of how we are is going to impact our work and I want to make sure we are the best we are so that we can be the best for our children and families.

Jessica Fein: Thank you so much. I learn so much talking to you. It always gives me so much to think about and then to share with other people because you just have such an amazing way of making these concepts accessible and actionable. So whether we're thinking about the suitcase, whether we're thinking about the umbrella, the rubber bands, like I can visualize it.

Dr. Nefertiti Poyner: Put them all together in your suitcase. 

Jessica Fein: Yes, toss the rubber bands in, but I know that people listening are going to be like, I would like some more [00:37:00] Nefertiti, please. Where do people find you?

Dr. Nefertiti Poyner: Well, there are a few places. So a lot of the work that we talked about is done through my full time job, which is at the Devereux Center for Resilient Children.

And so I'll make sure that I share those links for you. If you're wanting to learn more about how to promote the resilience of children and adults, again, my full time job is with the Devereux Center for Resilient Children. When I am not doing that work and I am trying to make sure I have a space for particularly women of a faith base, you know, the serenity room is where we go.

And by the time this podcast drops, the geriatric mom podcast might be out there because like I said to your listeners, I became a mom at an age I'm not even going to say on the podcast, but I have no regrets. Thanks. I have absolutely no regrets, but I do not like that they called me a geriatric parent.

I didn't even know that was a term. But if you have a baby over 35, you're called a geriatric parent. And so I'm taking this geriatric parent knowledge that I have, because not only am I a parent, I'm a two [00:38:00] decade teacher, over 20 years in the field. I'm going to take that knowledge and try to help parents at any stage of parenting get this thing right, because I really feel like the village is hurting.

And it's causing hurt for our children, and I don't think it has to be that way. So I think knowledge is a protective factor. And so on the Geriatric Mom Podcast, we'll talk about all those things related to parenting. Come on over, even if you're a young parent. 

Jessica Fein: Thank you so much. 

Dr. Nefertiti Poyner: You got it. You got it.

Thank you for the opportunity. 

Jessica Fein: Here are my takeaways from the conversation with Nefertiti. Number one, you already have everything you need. Even your awareness of where your gaps are will tell you how to move forward. 

Number two, resilience is a skill and it requires tools or protective factors. 

Number three, you do not need a basketball team of friends.

You need relationships with people who stay present for you. 

Number four, another protective factor is initiative. The ability to get up and do your best that day. [00:39:00] 

Number five, it is never too late to re record. 

Number six. We are all carrying visible suitcases. Your protective factors are the muscles that will help you carry your suitcase.

Give yourself grace for all that you are carrying. 

Number seven, we can also think of protective factors as the umbrellas that protect us from the storm. 

Number eight, pay attention to the daily hassles that are stretching your rubber band. 

And number nine, none of this is easy. Resilience is a skill you have to continue to work on or it will get flabby.

Thank you for being with me for this journey and if you're coming into it, A little bit later, definitely go back and listen to those early episodes. I've got tons of great episodes coming up, so if you are not following the show, definitely follow it so it will just show up in your feed. And I'd be so grateful at this point in particular, because it feels like kind of a milestone if you would take a second and rate and review the show.

Have a great day. Talk to you next time. [00:40:00]