Tough Enough?
/ Author: Andre van Heerden
/ Categories: Blogs, Newsletters, National /
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Tough Enough?

When it comes to toughness, what’s accomplished is all that really matters

By André van Heerden, Communications Director

When you think of someone who is tough, who do you picture? For many it might be the extreme competitors often pictured for the Tough Mudder competitions. Or maybe a particular ultimate fighter. Or maybe it’s a family member or friend who has been bravely battling illness.

For me, I picture a particular long term care worker. I was visiting a nursing home and asked a tired, but kind-looking, middle-aged worker how her day was going.

She replied with a small smile, “I’ve been hit and kicked but I don’t have poo on my shoe so it’s a good day.”

I couldn’t believe how low the bar was set for what a good day was for her—or how pleasant and positive she still was.

I spoke with her about the work she does and why she does it and why she continues to do it. Above all, she cares deeply about the people in the home that need her help, even if their physical or mental disabilities make it challenging and at times dangerous to serve them.

To have that sort of amiable, dedicated, resilience certainly made me think of a special kind of tough.

Often, we admire the wrong people for being tough. We may think of someone with great physical strength, or a loud voice, or overly aggressive behaviour without actually considering what they accomplish.

The support worker that I met cares for some of society’s most helpless. In the face of abuse, long hours, low pay, and very little thanks, she makes a direct, positive difference in many people’s day, every day.

I remember working with a particularly difficult person who enjoyed using his power and status to intimidate others. One day, after another verbal exchange with him, he looked at me and said, “You know, I keep yelling and screaming and you keep smiling and agreeing—but somehow I still end up doing what you want!”

I don’t think what I was doing would ever be described as tough, but it was effective.

Those who yell and make a scene in the face of adversity may get immediate attention, but does that help them achieve their goals? Is it easier to blow off steam and look tough for the media, or stay positively resilient in the face of adversity?

Author and journalist Amanda Ripley noted that “resilience is a precious skill. People who have it have three advantages: a belief they can influence life events, a tendency to find meaning and purpose in life’s turmoil, and a conviction they can learn from positive and negative experiences.”

This is one of the reasons that I enjoy working for CLAC. My experience with other unions had been frustrating because of tough posturing for the sake of being difficult. Being tough in the media or in propaganda to gain popularity is different than being tough to affect positive change.

The first is good for soundbites. The second is good for improving people’s work lives.

Part of the reason that CLAC staff enjoy representing members is because we appreciate how tough and resilient our members are. They inspire us to likewise be resilient in representing them to make a difference in their work and lives.

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