I belong to a Facebook group where the concept of “anti-fragile” is frequently discussed. It’s a useful concept for people who get wrapped around the axle about the details, and get in the mindset that minor things will have major consequences, and, as a result get in their own way. The group encourages members to embrace a little chaos and uncertainty and scary details in order to become stronger, rather than run from the challenge and continue to be delicate.

Last week someone in the group asked whether anti-fragility encompassed letting other people put her down. And I realized that there’s a difference between being anti-fragile and putting up with crap from other people.

You can be anti-fragile by ignoring put-downs, if they’re coming from people who aren’t important to you, but I think that if you’re being put down by someone who’s an important part of your life, the anti-fragile response would be to fight back against the insults, and be unwilling to put up with poor treatment. Being anti-fragile in this situation would NOT involve finding a way to be OK with the put downs, based on a misguided need to be less “sensitive.” Especially because “don’t be so sensitive” is a favorite gambit of assholes, put-down artists, and covert-aggressive wankers and wankettes everywhere.

Anti-fragility is about being flexible and versatile. It’s about being resourceful and making the most of the world that IS, instead of hand-wringing and hoping that the world will change to support one’s special-snowflake-ness. So, for example, it’s anti-fragile to suck it up and eat the traditionally farmed potato if that’s what’s available and you’re hungry and you don’t want to be the person who grills the waitstaff endlessly about the provenance of every morsel of your meal. You suck it up and figure that you’re robust enough physically to be OK with it, and in the act of sucking it up, you become more robust psychologically.

The difference between being robust in the face of a possibly GMO potato, and being tolerant in the face of poor treatment is that the poor treatment is completely unnecessary and is NOT an inevitable facet of daily life. It happens because some person has decided to make themselves feel better by making another person their emotional punching bag. In this situation, no good will come from doing anything that enables the offender to continue behaving this way, especially putting up with it.

It’s not overly fragile to refuse to tolerate abuse, it’s actually a statement of power and control to remove yourself from a situation where you’re being treated badly, or to stand up to the abusive person and insist (and back up that insistence with action if need be) that they stop the bad treatment. If anyone needs to be anti-fragile in this station it’s the abusive person, who needs to be robust enough to learn to get through life without putting others down.

Posted by lesherjennifer


  1. Eric Linneman July 2, 2014 at 2:25 pm

    Jennifer, abuse is never ok – be it physical, verbal, emotional or all 3. With that said, different people have different perspectives and different places in life. There are people who are too sensitive to specific things, many of which are beyond our knowledge or understanding. In my opinion, the answer remains this – treat others with respect and kindness.



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