Dr. Olivia Moorehead-Slaughter is a licensed psychologist who specializes in Child Psychology. She received her doctorate from the University of Denver and is a former Chairperson of the American Psychological Association (APA) Ethics Committee and of the Massachusetts Board of Registration for Psychologists. In 2014, Dr. Olivia Moorehead-Slaughter was the recipient of the APA Society for the Psychology of Women's Bonnie Strickland and Jessica Henderson Daniel Award for Distinguished Mentoring.


 

I came into Explo at Yale expecting to meet a room full of high school students who are engaged, bright, and who are excited about the topic. And I was looking forward to them being eager to join in the conversation. I spend the majority of my time with young adults. These are my people! So, although I wasn't quite sure what the conversation would entail, I was sure it would be a good one. And all my expectations have been met.

My morning class discussion was about success, and not just thinking about success for it's own sake, but thinking about how does a student become successful? Were they always successful? And I wanted to give at least equal attention to failure, and how does failure relate to success. I hoped that the students would already have some experiences with failure, while they were still in high school and before they moved into a college environment. I think it's very important that students get to experience having to recover from something that was difficult and where they did not feel that they were immediately successful. So the conversation started with a video that showcased several people who failed, including some who failed multiple times, and miserably, before they were finally successful at whatever it is they were doing.

That led us to thinking about resilience, and how does one build it. Resilience is not something that you can grant someone, or bestow upon them, or hand it to them. You've got to build it! You build resilience by coming back from something that was really, really hard. We had some great discussions about calluses, and how to build calluses. The example I put forth had to do with people who play string instruments at a really high level. In order to get there they develop calluses on their fingertips, be it guitar, violin, viola. We also talked about how artists who play in string orchestras even build calluses on the side of their neck that they are very, very proud of. String players can spot that, and they are able to tell that that's the mark of an expert musician, of an accomplished string player!

In young adults, resilience can be expressed through a sense of confidence, which may look different for different people. It may likely come across in that person's courage; is their chin up or down? Do they have a sense of what's core, a sense of authenticity? What makes you, you? And carrying that forward with a sense of self-awareness and confidence. Even in times that are not calm or affirming, such people can find the time and the space for what's core and what's healthy, and what feeds them or drains them. And we all probably know people who are like that. We may look at them or be in their presence and think, "wow, given what this person has gone through, how in the world do they seem to be okay? Where are they finding that strength? Where are they finding whatever feeds their soul so that they can withstand the pressure, or the toxicity of their environment, be it at home, or at school?" The ones who can dig down and find that space always succeed!