Facing adversity, building resilience and finding joy

Written by Rakhee Rajani

Last Saturday wasn’t a regular Saturday evening. I spent the evening with two of my biggest female role-models – Sheryl Sandberg and Malala Yousafzai. I don’t think either of them need any introduction.  The talk, organised by Intelligence Squared, was on the topic of ‘facing adversity, building resilience and finding joy’ – all hugely relevant topics for these uncertain political times we live in.

Sheryl’s talk offered a really useful ‘life toolkit’ so I wanted to share some of the key points that I took away:

  • Growing old is a gift. As you will know, Sheryl Sandberg lost her husband very suddenly. Her husband will never get to see the age of 50. Growing old is inevitable: you either grow old or you die, so it’s a gift to grow old. So her message was to quit moaning about those grey hairs or saggy skin or crow’s feet and be grateful to be alive.
  • If a friend or family member is going through a tough time, the most unhelpful thing you can say is ‘Can I do anything to help?’. Just do something. Too often we’re scared to say and do the wrong thing at a difficult time so we ask open-ended questions; it’s far more helpful to that person if you just to do something and take the decision-making away from them.
  • Just before bed, Sheryl jots down the best, the worst and the most grateful moment of each day. This helps her put her day into perspective and not just focus on the negative: it allows her to reflect and appreciate.

I was keen to hear Malala talk about the Malala Fund, an international charity campaigning to give girls a minimum of 12 years’ education. Here at Stand, I recently worked on The Maiden Factor, a global girls’ education initiative, so it was great to hear from Malala who had put her life on the line to speak up for women’s education. Through a combination of advocacy and investment in educational programmes, the Malala Fund has already started tackling this huge global issue.

One of the most impressive things about the whole evening was that 19-year-old Malala was in the midst of her A-level exams but still made the time to travel to London and talk to an audience of about 500 people. When I was in the final week of my A-levels, I could barely leave the house; my respect and admiration has only increased.

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