Warning: this article talks light-heartedly about cake. It is intended as an analogy or metaphor but if you are someone for whom food isn’t a joking matter then you might want to read carefully. You could instead choose not to read it, which is your absolute right, but I think there’s a good message for everyone in here so I hope you can read it.
If I say I’m going to talk about cake and resilience, I imagine you think I’m going to say something about resisting the temptation of cake.
No. That would be a piece about resistance, not resilience. Resilience is not about resisting things, although that might sometimes come into it. But only if resistance is the right thing to do, which it isn’t always when it comes to cake. Resilience means finding the strength, skills and courage to bounce back after a bad thing or setback, learning from it so we can make good choices that will work for us. And cake is not a bad thing or a setback. Unless you’re baking it and it all goes wrong.
A book launch without cake
Today is publication day for Be Resilient – HOORAY! – and this evening is the launch. And launches should have cake, don’t you think? I’ve had launches with cake before, and very impressive cakes they’ve been.
But I don’t like cake. Which is why this is not about resistance – I don’t have to resist cake.
So, what has cake got to do with resilience?
Be Resilient has five building blocks, five things we need to build in order to be resilient.
The five things are:
- Your support networks
- Your skills
- Your coping strategies
- Your courage
- Your future
And cake is relevant to that final one, your future.
The future is (not) cake
So, what has my not liking cake and not having cake at my launch and yet having sometimes had cake at my launches got to do with resilience?
“Building your future” is about:
- First knowing yourself
- Second valuing yourself
- Third, most importantly, making decisions that are true to what is best for you – analysing the benefit. Sometimes this means doing what you are afraid of or don’t enjoy but sometimes it doesn’t.
Most people seem to like cake so understanding that I am quirky and don’t like cake is the first step. Easy. Second is standing up for not liking cake and owning the dislike, not beating myself up for being different, hiding my difference or letting people force me to eat cake if not eating cake is my choice. Third and most important is deciding when eating cake is in fact the right choice, even though I don’t like it, and when it’s the wrong choice.
You see, it’s not about avoiding what you don’t like and doing what you do like. That would be having your cake and eating it. And it would be giving into to your animal/child limbic system and not respecting your human/grown prefrontal cortex.
It’s about not doing the things you like when not doing them is the right thing and doing things you don’t like when doing them is the right thing
So, here we come to the cake cost-benefit analysis and why sometimes eating cake is the right/wise thing (for me) and sometimes it isn’t
And we need to apply the same questioning when we’re making decisions and choices about actions which, as every action does, has an effect on our future, whether the future is next year, decade or minute.
What are the costs – what might I lose by eating the cake? What are the benefits – what might I gain by eating the cake?
- Will I get pleasure (benefit) from eating the cake? No. Although see the next point.
- Will it cause me displeasure (cost) if I eat it? It depends on the cake, as I dislike some cake much more than others. I actually quite like Dundee cake and some cakes with very little cake and a lot of cream. If the cream is dairy and thick. There might also be the displeasure of feeling sick, which I need to consider, but this is unlikely if the portion is modest. But there is the high risk of displeasure at the lack of pleasure: this is my main problem with cake, that it’s a lot of energy going in without sufficient attendant pleasure. There is highly like to be the internal question, “Why did you bother to eat that when you don’t like it?” Maybe not a big deal and certainly thinking about calories is not a healthy mindset. Cake is very complicated, which is another thing that doesn’t draw me to it.
What if someone offers me cake as a gift or treat? Then the benefit of eating it might be enough to suggest doing it: not offending the person; joining in; indulging in a spot of appropriate feasting, which is emotionally beneficial. But there’s a practical risk here, which might adversely affect my future: they might think I really like cake and then give it to me again. I’m going to have to handle this carefully. Maybe I should ask them to read this post…
- What if it’s someone else’s birthday or celebration and they’ve invited me to share cake with them? I definitely would eat some cake. I was brought up by a cake-disliking father to believe that it is polite to eat a small amount of disliked cake when offered in a celebratory situation which is not about you. However, because of the severe risk that the cake-offerer thinks cake is a massive treat for me, I’d probably include some very subtle clues, especially when offered the second piece. “Oh gosh, I think my sweet food pipe is a bit full – I’m not really big on cake but that was an unusually nice cake, even for someone who doesn’t really eat cake…”
- What if it’s my own book launch and I believe people expect and/or would like cake, even though I don’t like it? I don’t have to offer cake but a good host is a generous one and thinks first of what the guests want, so having cake brings benefit to me as I get pleasure from giving and they get pleasure from eating cake (unless some of them don’t like it, in which case there’s no problem because I will also have provided some savoury deliciousness.) Cake is also simple and relatively cheap. Win-win. Let them eat cake.
Depending on your own cake-attraction levels, you might have other questions to ask and other answers to give. But the point of the “Build Your Future” chapter is about just that: knowing yourself and thinking through the situation, your feelings and what you will gain or lose from any decision you’re worrying about. And then using the other chapters to find the 1. Support 2. Skills 3. Coping strategies and 4. Courage to make that right choice.
Your future might be cake or it might not but it should be your choice.
Since my launch is an e-launch, everyone will bring their own cake – or not, in my case. The extra benefit is that in this post I can tell almost literally the whole world that I don’t like cake, thus vastly reducing the chance of someone generously but mistakenly offering me cake at any later stage in my life. I have taken a practical step to prevent unwarranted storms as I sail my little boat on the rough seas of life.
“Oh, Nicola, but surely avoidance is not a good strategy?”
Quite right: it’s not, as I say in the chapter about coping strategies. Avoidance is a negative coping strategy and should be avoided. (Although there might be times when even avoidance might be right, but that requires a bit of care from someone who understands the situation.)
I am not avoiding cake. I’m working out whether eating cake or not is the right thing on this particular occasion. And it’s not. I’m making a good, wise decision. I’m building my self-knowledge and my life skills to make myself stronger.
Remember: part of building a strong self, ready to withstand the challenges associated with cake setbacks and upsets throughout your life, is to recognise, appreciate and stand up for what is right for you and make choices based on asking yourself what you will lose and what you will gain from sometimes doing things you don’t like and sometimes not doing things you do like.
Sometimes you should eat cake and sometimes you shouldn’t. Wisdom is knowing the difference. And wisdom is an enormous part of resilience.
Thank you for listening. Thank you for supporting my books. Thank you for not giving me cake.
Have you booked the Boosting Teenage Resilience webinar? I won’t talk about cake, I promise!
I won’t talk about cake at the launch, either. It is a cake-free event entirely.