Have you ever heard something or seen something and after doing so your life is never the same again? Do you know what I mean? Those moments and usually it’s a single moment, which change the trajectory of your life. I had one of those moments the other day.
I thought there were two ways of being in the world, fragile or resilient. I grew up in the fragile camp. Life shook me and roughed me up pretty bad. Often it didn’t take much. One comment could send me reeling down the rabbit hole for weeks or often months at a time. I was often told I was thin skinned. It actually felt like I didn’t have any skin at all. The world just seemed so harsh to me. While others seemed to navigate the ups and downs with grace, I flailed and struggled… a lot.
I did my very best to pretend I wasn’t of the fragile variety. The world seemed to be giving me the message it wasn’t good to be fragile or sensitive. To me, it seemed like being tough and sucking it up was more preferred. I wanted to be a trooper or better yet a warrior. I did my very best. I held in the pain the best I could and pretended I was good with it all. But I wasn’t. I was hurting, pretty bad.
Being fragile in a world that seemed to prefer resiliency made me feel broken. Every time I felt something hit me deep in my core I felt weak. This is the last thing in the world I wanted to be– weak. And I felt it all the time. It’s an excruciating thing to be the very thing you despise. Each time this would happen I would sink and retreat a little deeper into myself. And it just wouldn’t stop happening. I couldn’t understand why I felt things so deeply or why I cared so much. I reasoned that I must have been born defective. Something was terribly wrong with me.
I was desperate to learn how to make it over to the resilient camp. I wanted to be like my brothers so badly. I wanted to take chances, stumble, and be okay. I saw them living boldly and being so happy. Yet every time I dared I fell so hard. It took so long to recover, and I never really did recover. I felt the wounds getting bigger and bigger. How could I keep this up? Every attempt to be resilient left me feeling more fragile than ever. I didn’t know how I could ever close this gap.
I read every self-help book I could find. I craved reading about resiliency. I wanted to fix myself. I knew I could do it, if I just worked hard enough. When books weren’t enough, I started attending lectures. When lectures didn’t do it I attended workshops. When those weren’t enough, I joined groups. When those didn’t do it I went back to school. The degrees and the certificates piled up. I had so much information about transforming your life– yet I remained a stupid fragile caterpillar. I worked SO hard. I did all the things. I read, I studied, I prayed, I meditated, I exercised, I kept going, I was brave, I shared, I was vulnerable. I did it all and I was still fragile. If I wasn’t fragile I was just pretending to be resilient and then I wasn’t speaking my truth any more. Could you fail at self-improvement? I seemed to be doing so. Be honest and risk the world seeing me as not getting it or fake it and win approval, yet further lose myself. I couldn’t win.
Then in an instant the whole game changed. I was listening to Steve Chandler and he revealed that there was a third option. There was a third fucking option. Anti-fragile.
Without language to call this other way of being, it simply got the name anti-fragile. This way of being doesn’t require you to be in the fragile or resilient camp. It’s all about choice. This was beyond HUGE for me. For years I’d struggled to fit myself in to something I just wasn’t. Now I didn’t have to.
A candle in the wind is fragile. It is easily extinguished. This is how I felt all the time. My flame went out easily. Resiliency is about learning how to not have your candle go out when it’s windy. I’m not real sure how to do this. I sucked at this camp. Others just seemed to do it more naturally. There are a hundred books on this if you want to know more about it. Clearly I’m not the one to ask.
Anti-fragile is a forest fire. Forest fires feed on the wind. The wind actually makes a forest fire stronger. What if the harshness of the world could actually make me stronger? What if I was a forest fire and grew from the things that used to beat me down? This was beyond intriguing.
I quickly found this is more than possible. It’s all about choice. In any instant I can choose pain and suffering or upliftment. It’s not about not being in pain in the first place. This is where I was stuck for so long. I thought it was about not getting hurt or not feeling emotional pain, which I could never seem to master. Not at all. It’s about what you do with the pain. To me this was such good news! I wasn’t broken after all.
I now had a choice that I just didn’t see before. When something would happen and I felt upset I could choose. I could remain in the upset and choose it. Sometimes I did… and still do choose this. However, I always know that I can choose out of the suffering at any time. I can do this by accepting the upset and seeing it as a blessing. This is where the wind turns into fuel. The blessing is the opportunity to learn from it, to heal the pain, and to grow and uplift. This is the inner work. While I absolutely sucked at resiliency I am a master at using things for my learning, my growth, and my upliftment. Now being sensitive is a gift. The only way to evolve is to heal places inside that hurt. Being sensitive is like having a magnifying glass on all the places that hurt. This is brilliant for learning and growing. While others may struggle to tap into emotions and feelings, it’s super easy for me… and just like that the wind is my fuel. My curse is now a blessing. There was never anything wrong… in fact; there was everything right with me.
What if your biggest challenge was actually your greatest gift? What could it be here to teach you? What if life wasn’t here to blow your flame out, but to ignite your fire?