Psychological fragility or emotional fragility often manifests itself in an ongoing or even constant state of overwhelm, stress, defensive and over-reactive behaviour. Psychological fragility can leave us ill-equipped for the modern world at times.

Rather than being your thoughts and emotions, be the awareness behind them.” ― Eckhart Tolle.

Psychologically fragile people find it difficult to deal with some of the seemingly smallest of hardships in life. They suffer from low self-trust and confidence, struggling with imagined troubles in their heads. Modern living can also lead to many feeling socially alienated and lonely or heart broken. Many times, people become overly fearful or cynical of the world around them, often blaming the world for its cruelty and indifference. While views about the volatility and unpredictability of the world we live in today can be true, an external locus of control here is pointless and seeking to control the uncontrollable can lead to us feeling depressed and anxious. Instead, one should focus more of their energies to build inner strength and resilience. The modern world can be brutal, indifferent, and soul sucking, it is us who can seek to build an inner world that is less fragile and remains enduring through these trying times. 

We live in times that can seem obsessed with appearance, success, fame, and competition. For some, a lot of life feels like a step to something bigger and better. Instead of enjoying the moment for what it is, many battle with uneasy thoughts in their mind about their place in the world and what others think about them. While these thoughts and feelings are common for many, our reaction to them is what influences the lives of many. Living in a victim mindset can further exploit our already fragile lives; whereas, building healthy habits to deal with our triggers can help us lead richer lives. Here today, I’m offering some ways in which we can relieve and combat psychological fragility while living in the modern world:

1.    The Victim Mentality at the Heart of Psychological Fragility 

“I am not pretty enough”. “Well, he is smarter than me”. “I am just such a loser, everyone hates me”. Notice your brain come up with thoughts like these? These defeatist thoughts can be so paralysing that they completely distort your reality, magnifying your flaws and often leads to discounting all the blessings you have. Whenever your mind starts telling you that life is happening to you and you have no control which can lead to you relinquishing accountability and responsibility, this is a sign that you are approaching life with a victim mentality. Life can be unfair to all of us in different ways. Fixating on the ways it is unfair to us is not just draining but makes us extremely volatile and fragile to any negativity or criticism. Overcoming victim mentality lies in focusing our attention on the things in life that make us feel valuable and of service. Things that excite us and make our minds and hearts grow. This can help overcome psychological fragility.

2.    People’s Opinions Are Not The Gospel Truth 

Often, we crave validation so much that we rely on it completely. While wanting validation from other people is a common human need, we must understand that we do not have to have anyone’s approval to do things that we are sure about in life. This is not to say that one should be ignorant towards any constructive feedback but rather it means that once one has incorporated feedback and tried their best to do something well, it is okay to proceed without everyone’s approval.

Joan Didion, a cherished American writer, in her piece on Self-respect, talks about how self-respect has nothing to do with approval from others. She writes, “The dismal fact is that self-respect has nothing to do with the approval of others – who we are, after all, deceived easily enough; has nothing to do with reputation, which, as Rhett Butler told Scarlett O’Hara, is something people with courage can do without. To do without self-respect, on the other hand, is to be an unwilling audience of one to an interminable documentary that deals one’s failings, both real and imagined, with fresh footage spliced in for every screening”. Hence, respect your own self and decide whatever that means to you authentically. Once one respects their own self, life does feel richer. It might not always blossom into praise from others, but if it does, it would feel more rewarding as it would be for who you are at your core. 

3.    People Who Offer You Grace Help You Overcome Psychological Fragility 

Many times, we are fed the idea that people who love us most are permitted to be unkind to us. Their meanness is taken for honesty and transparency in a relationship. However, the truth is, we are all on very complex and distinct journeys in our lives whereby, no matter how much support we have, in the end, we have to go through our lives facing our obstacles and insecurities alone. Therefore, it makes sense to surround ourselves with people who treat us as sensitive human beings first and their friends, second. This helps bolster us and overcome psychological fragility.

Mean comments disguised as humour can be very detrimental to our self-image. Again, this is not to insinuate that we should surround ourselves with people who fawn, unnecessarily praise us or flatter us to the point of delusion; rather, these should be people who offer you grace and free you of shame whenever you share an insecurity with them. When you share how you feel bad about the way you look, or how you feel ashamed about not getting a job, these friends or loved ones can make you feel seen and heard in a way that liberates you rather than making you regret oversharing your feelings. 

4.    Read And Learn 

Most people who are inept for dealing with the ever-changing complexities of the modern world are people who are mindless of the world around them. Reading, reflection, and introspection are a must in the times we live in, or we are bound to get lost. Reading and learning inform our opinions about the world and ourselves. Reading allows us to choose what to believe in and what not to believe in. It helps determine what we give our attention to. On the contrary, mindless scrolling on social media, believing anything in the news, being self-absorbed are habits that make our minds fragile to the world around us.

In the words of James Baldwin, one of the greatest writers and poets, “You think your pain and heartbreak is unprecedented in the world, and then you read”. Hence, reading not only gives us better and a fresh perspective on life but also helps us connect with people. It makes us feel like we belong and relate to other people. This feeling of belonging and connection can help us fight psychological fragility to a very large extent. 

5.    Overcome Psychological Fragility by Eating Well And Exercising

Research study held by Aditya Mahindru and his fellow mental health experts in 2023, shows that there is a direct connection between our overall physical well-being and our mental agility. If we fail to take care of our diets and physical health, we can lose a sense of self and respect for ourselves.

Treating our bodies poorly gives the brain a negative signal about how we see ourselves and how much we care for ourselves. Hence, maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle is not merely about aesthetics and getting the perfect body, but it is about self-discipline and keeping promises to ourselves. It is one of the most important ways in which our minds learn to trust themselves. 

6.    Practice Gratitude 

Being grateful during all seasons of our lives can be so beneficial. More importantly, being grateful not out of compulsion, guilt, or fear of loss but rather for the sheer beauty and wonder of what we have and get to experience is essential. Hence, when you make your “I am grateful for” list, think hard about the things that you are thankful for. Do not mindlessly list down things that you have seen your favourite bloggers on social media put down in their diaries. Think deeply about the distinct beauty that different aspects of your life bring forth and note them down. When we begin to find joy in places that are seemingly dull and unyielding, we transcend our fears and inhibitions about living a life that is secondary to others at its core. To quote from a poem called Love Poem, the poet writes, “I do not track the world by beauty but by joy” and continues to talk about the possibility of finding joy in conventionally ugly places. Hence, if you truly want to overcome emotional fragility in the modern world, it is essential that you have a special eye and ear for joy and life; otherwise, you’d be too stuck looking for what you see sparkling in the magazines. 

Read this excellent article on the Science of Gratitude here.

7.    Cultivate A Sense Of Humour to combat Psychological Fragility 

In a research article by Tahereh Elahi and her colleagues in 2017 shows that  having a sense of humour, especially in these modern times, is a survival skill. Not everything everyone says is meant to be taken to heart. Neither is everything meant to be taken personally and seriously. Instead, approaching life and your own self with a certain sense of humour, while understanding the ridiculousness of it all in the larger scheme of things is very beneficial. It takes away pressure from us to be perfect and allows us to be our silly fallible selves leading to a calmer life and bolstering us against psychological fragility some more.

8.    Seek Solace In Solitude 

No matter how much the modern world convinces you to outsource your worth in life, and though it is healthy to spend your time socialising and spending time with friends, never let go of the habit of taking out the time to be on your own and reflect on life. The silence that comes with solitude can take you a long way in life and can help you deal with some extremely difficult situations in life. Solitude is especially important in the fast-paced lives we live today to rejuvenate our energies and re-connect with not only who we are but who we want to be. 

9.    Consistency Is Key 

When one thinks of psychological fragility, one often thinks of drowning in deadlines, a defeating crush on a co-worker, a financial crisis, or hating the way one looks. These are all manageable crises. They all tend to benefit from one particular thing: consistency. Realising the importance of real work and consistent effort is one of the most essential ways to overcome emotional overwhelm before time. If you know you are prone to getting stuck with deadlines, make sure to consistently work on them. If you know that whenever you have a crush it drains you, make sure to journal consistently or meditate regularly or talk with a confidante. Whatever the problem maybe, its solution often lies in consistent trial and error. No problem is fixed within a second; hence, while all the mental work is essential when approaching a problem, real work is essential. 

10. Learn To Say No 

Life is short and precious. Do not waste your life out of the fear of displeasing people. Do not be scared of confrontation. Stand your ground and if you do not want to do something or something feels wrong at a gut level, listen to your gut feeling and say no. Remove yourself from situations that drain you or make you feel unsettled. 

Final Word

In conclusion, while emotional fragility and feeling overwhelmed is a normal part of the human experience, if we do not want to sulk in misery and change our condition, we must first let go of the victim mentality. This allows us to reclaim our power in life, say no to the people who drain and discourage us while we focus on consistently working on the goals that make us happy despite all the ways our mind tells us of how life is unfair to us or how inadequate we are. 

“Choices,′ the philosopher Ruth Chang said, ’are chances for us to celebrate what is special about the human condition… that we have the power to create reasons for ourselves to become the distinctive people we are.” — Susan David.

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