Emotional Fragility: The Keys to Understanding and Strengthening Your Ego

August 24, 2018

Emotional fragility is extremely different from emotional sensitivity. Sensitivity is more of a quality you might have. Meanwhile, fragility is more of a lack of resources for managing your most complex internal states. In other words, fragility means having a lot of trouble confronting even the simplest daily hardships.

We just clarified the difference between those two terms for a very important reason. There are a lot of people who try to normalize their emotional fragility. They make the excuse that it’s just the way they are, that it’s how they live their life. “I’m just a sensitive person, and I can’t change that” is usually what they say in their defense.

Emotional fragility can often lead to paralyzing states full of anxiety, stress, and depression.

It’s also important to understand that if a behavior or attitude only brings you suffering, insecurity, and zero control over yourself, then there’s no room for excuses. Not when all you get out of it is unhappiness. Basically, sensitive people have a broader vision of life. They can deal much better with their needs and the world around them. Fragile people, on the other hand, are very emotionally limited.

On top of that, this trait tends to be a sign of a much bigger underlying problem. We’re talking about things like depressive disorders, anxiety, bad emotional management, etc… That’s why we want to spend some more time digging into this topic.

Cracked face representing emotional fragility.

Emotional fragility: causes and characteristics

The American College Health Association published an interesting study about emotional fragility a few years ago. In it, they talked about a very worrying statistic: young people today have much higher rates of depression, stress, and emotional dependence. Worst of all, attempted suicide rates are also much higher in this age group. What’s hiding behind this statistic is clearly emotional fragility. There’s a definite lack of resources for facing even the most ordinary problems.

Most of these psychological issues have their roots in people’s upbringing. Families in the past few decades haven’t been aware of the fact that our society has started to demand more and more skills. That has made parents work even harder to get their kids to study hard, even when they’re extremely young.

They try to give them every possible resource to make sure they succeed. They force them to excel and constantly remind them of how special they are and how they have to do well. That’s all understandable. But they’re forgetting a few key details with that approach.

One of the most important ones is that parents shield their children from failure. That’s why so many of them end up being unable to deal with frustration, no matter how small. It’s also hard for these kids to learn to make their own decisions. They feel insecure and extremely awkward when it comes to dealing with their own emotions. Little by little, they start to realize that they’re not so “special” to everyone else. They realize they don’t have the skills, tools, or strategies to confront even the most basic issues.

Now we’re going to take a look at the common characteristics of emotionally fragile people.

Woman with her head on her knees feeling sad.

How do I know if I’m emotionally fragile or not?

Besides the ones we already mentioned, here are some of the characteristics of emotionally fragile people:

  • Inability to process and understand emotions like sadness, anger, disappointment, etc… They often overreact to these kinds of emotions.
  • A constant sense of emptiness.
  • Feeling overwhelmed by simple problems, disagreements, or any situation that doesn’t go like they’d hoped.
  • Inability to deal with frustration.
  • Difficulty taking control of their own life. Feeling like everything is too much for them.
  • Constant problems in their social lifeThinking that everyone around them is a disappointment or turns their back on them.
  • Low energy levels, apathy, constant melancholy.
  • They seem insecure doing just about any task. They feel ineffective and have low self-esteem.
  • When things don’t go like they’d hoped, they sometimes react angrily or violently.

Your emotional health often depends on how you were raised, and the quality of your earliest interactions with other people. But a toxic upbringing or an ineffective education isn’t the end. There’s always time to overcome emotional fragility.

Strategies for strengthing your ego and becoming emotionally strong

If you want to understand the process for becoming emotionally strong, imagine a porcelain cup. You know that it’s sensitive. You can even see the cracks from when it’s been broken before. Yet that porcelain cup is anything but fragile. It’s amazing due to its shape, its material, and all its little imperfections.

A woman with leaves around her head.

You can always allow yourself to be sensitive, but don’t allow yourself to be fragile. Don’t cross over the line where you end up leaving your entire self in pieces. Don’t let your identity, values, and internal beauty escape you. But how do you do that? How do you get rid of the fragility that prevents you from being happy?

  • The first step is to become aware of your emotional weaknesses. We’re talking about all the empty spaces that limit you and cause discomfort. It might sound like a strange method, but there are studies that show that art therapy can be extremely effective for this. It’s a great way to explore your thoughts, emotions, and internal issues through colors, canvases, and drawings.
  • The second step is to take responsibility for yourself. Fragile people feel like they’re victims of their environment, or society, or the people around them. All they ever do is react, like a ball bouncing back and forth between a hard wall. Instead of just reacting, you have to take control and create a real, brave sense of responsibility.
  • That responsibility also means leaving behind your past experiences and making changes in the present. All changes come along with fear, but if you can move those boulders out of the path of your day to day life, you’ll see how much more secure you’ve become. You’re finally in control of yourself.

Lastly, we want to point out that this is obviously not an easy process. A lot of times it takes the help of a good psychologist to make it all the way. As hard as it is, remember that you always have time to become emotionally strong. So reshape your porcelain cup and make it into a unique, strong, and beautiful piece of art.

  • Thomas, S. G. (2003). Handbook of Art Therapy. Psychiatric Services. https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.ps.54.9.1294-a

  • Gendron, B., Kouremenou, E.-S., & Rusu, C. (2016). Emotional Capital Development, Positive Psychology and Mindful Teaching: Which Links? CRES Special Issue. https://doi.org/10.1080/09595239500185361