Being ‘anti-fragile’ in times of pain is just as important as being resilient — here’s what that means

Anti-fragility is gaining out of chaos.

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Anti-fragility is gaining out of chaos.
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JGA / Shutterstock

  • Being resilient to life’s experiences is vital.
  • But it’s also important to be anti-fragile.
  • This is when you bounce back but grow even stronger.
  • Sometimes we don’t give ourselves enough credit for what we’ve gone through.
  • If you’re feeling weak, remind yourself of two things you’ve overcome.
  • Pain doesn’t discriminate, so don’t downplay the value of your experiences.

Humans are amazingly resilient. We’re able to withstand immense tragedies and heartbreaks, and come out the other side with scars, but in one piece.

However, sometimes we’re made to feel weaker than we really are. This can happen, for example, in a relationship with a toxic person who diminishes your good points, and exaggerates your bad ones.

Some people are also used to playing the victim, according to psychologist Perpetua Neo, which isn’t healthy. This is why it’s important to be not just resilient, but anti-fragile.

Read more: 17 steps to leaving an abusive relationship with a narcissist

“We often think in terms of the dichotomy of fragile: I hit you, you break. Or resilience: I hit you, you bounce back,” she told INSIDER. “Anti-fragility is even better because you gain out of the chaos. I hit you, you bounce back and you grow even better.”

In Greek mythology, this is like the Hydra – the monster which grows back two heads if one is cut off.

The statue of Hercules fighting the Hydra.

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The statue of Hercules fighting the Hydra.
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Antony McAulay / Shutterstock

Vulnerability, as opposed to fragility, doesn’t make you weak. It can actually be a source of strength, Neo added, because it means you can face up to what you need to change and seek help.

“It takes a lot of courage not to lie to ourselves and somebody else,” she said. “Vulnerability doesn’t mean you get shattered. But fragility is like a porcelain vase. I accidentally drop it – it’s gone.”

So if you’re feeling like everything is against you, and you’ll never be strong again, you should ask yourself where this idea comes from. For instance, did someone tell you you’re limited? Did someone take advantage of you, gaslight you, or make you feel small? Often, people feel like victims beacuse someone else has treated them that way.

“Some people like playing the victim, because that gives you secondary gain,” Neo said. “So again, it’s about being honest with yourself. If I am a victim, and I stay in this s—-y place, what do I benefit from it?”

You may like the sympathy you get from friends, or even strangers, when you tell your story. But in the end, you may not be gaining all that much from the drama.

“It’s all about comfort zones,” said Neo. “And it’s scarier to create a new world than to languish in an old world that sucks.”

Read more: The difference between being familiar or comfortable with someone – and why one can be a red flag

You can always change your path, and everyone has the capacity for anti-fragility, Neo said. Problems just arise when we oscillate between thinking our complaints are not big enough to bring up, and running away from them out of shame.

The way to combat this is to remind yourself of two things you’ve overcome. This makes you realises everyone, including yourself, has triumphed over something.

“When you think about this triumph you’ve had, we actually learn to be proud of ourselves,” said Neo. “And I want you to tap into where you feel that in your body. Give it a colour. Not a colour you like but the colour it feels like.

“And whenever you feel like you’ve got nothing to feel resilient about, tap into that colour again. That can be the quickest shortcut to getting you where you want to be.”