How Authenticity and Antifragility Changed My Teenage Journey

Learning to Embrace Vulnerability and Grow Stronger Through Adversity

Shanzeh Haji
5 min readApr 3, 2023

As an extrovert, I was so excited to start high school this year.

It would be this blank page in my journey where I could meet new people and explore new things. What I realized was: I was more focused on the number of friends I had rather than the quality of friendships I was forming.

The sad truth was that this mentality did not just start in high school but when I became a teenager. I always wanted to be loved by everyone. I needed that external validation in order to accept that I am good enough. When I would hear somebody say anything remotely negative about me, I would feel defeated. Incapable. This insecurity was destroying my mental health. I felt like I couldn’t be my authentic self with anyone without being judged.

But recently, this changed…

I was out with some of my friends a few weeks ago and one of them asked me why I was always so serious. It started this chain of reflections that made me realize how stupid the insecurities I had were.

I was preventing myself from forming meaningful relationships because I was scared of being alone. Do you see the irony behind that??

My reasoning was: If I had a mask on, I would be able to fit in wherever I was. But that made no sense! I was preventing myself from being me.

This realization led me to explore the concept of authenticity and antifragility. It made me wonder, what if instead of trying to fit in, I embraced my unique qualities and vulnerabilities? What if I became antifragile and used challenges and setbacks to grow stronger instead of breaking down?

In this article, I want to share my thoughts on the importance of authenticity and antifragility as a 15-year-old navigating through the complexities of life.

Learning to Bend Without Breaking

Antifragility is kind of like being a superhero — you know how they get stronger every time they get knocked down? That’s what antifragility is all about!

It’s a term coined by Nassim Nicholas Taleb that describes the ability of something to not just withstand stress and change, but actually thrive and get better because of it. Think of it like antibodies that develop after you get the virus or a bone that heals and becomes stronger after being broken. Antifragility is all about being able to adapt and even benefit from the challenges life throws your way.

In middle school, I had a very bad experience with my friendships. My best friend was saying really hurtful things about me to a lot of people. Every day, I would hear the comments she was passing about my appearance, my personality, and my abilities. Someone I trusted and cared about was doing this to me.

It might sound like cliché, petty drama but I started to believe the things she was saying.

That’s where antifragility comes in. Instead of letting this experience break me, I should have used it to become stronger. I realized that I was giving someone else power over how I felt about myself, and that needed to change. If I focused on building a better relationship with myself and defining my own self-worth, I would have been happier. I would have learnt to trust my own judgment and not rely on others to validate me.

Antifragility is not just limited to dealing with broken friendships

It’s a mindset that can help you throughout your life.

Life is unpredictable, and it’s impossible to control everything that happens to you. But by developing an antifragile mindset, you can prepare yourself to deal with any situation that comes your way. Instead of being afraid of failure or setbacks, you can embrace them and use them as opportunities to learn and grow.

An antifragile mindset can also help you in your personal and professional life. Whether you’re starting a new job, taking on a challenging project, or pursuing a new hobby, there will be obstacles and setbacks along the way. With an antifragile mindset, you can face these challenges head-on and come out stronger on the other side. You’ll be more resilient, more adaptable, and more confident in your ability to handle whatever life throws at you.

Breaking Free from the Fear of Judgment

Authenticity is all about being true to yourself, your beliefs, and your values.

It means not pretending to be someone you’re not and not hiding your true thoughts and feelings just to fit in or impress others. Being authentic is about having the courage to be vulnerable, honest, and genuine, even if it means standing out or being different from others. It’s about embracing who you are, flaws and all, and accepting that you are unique and valuable just the way you are.

Living authentically can be challenging at times, especially in a society that values conformity and perfection. It requires vulnerability, courage, and a willingness to face rejection or criticism.

But the rewards are immeasurable.

Authenticity leads to greater self-awareness, personal growth, and a sense of fulfillment. It’s a journey, not a destination. It’s about embracing your imperfections, learning from your mistakes, and continually striving to be the best version of yourself.

Authenticity requires a level of introspection, a willingness to explore who you are, what you stand for, and what truly matters to you. It’s not just about being true to yourself but also about understanding yourself. This requires a deep dive into your values, beliefs, and experiences, as well as the impact they have on your actions and decisions.

With that, here are the 3 action items I set for myself:

  1. Practice self-reflection: Take some time each day to reflect on your thoughts, feelings, and actions. Ask yourself questions like, "Am I being true to my values?" or "What can I learn from this experience?" By practicing self-reflection, you can gain a better understanding of yourself and your motivations, and identify areas where you can grow and improve.
  2. Embrace vulnerability: Authenticity requires vulnerability, which can be uncomfortable at times. But by embracing vulnerability, you can develop deeper connections with others and build stronger relationships. Take small steps to share your thoughts and feelings with others, and be open to feedback and constructive criticism.
  3. Shift your mindset: Instead of viewing challenges and setbacks as obstacles, try to see them as opportunities for growth and learning. Cultivate an antifragile mindset by reframing your thoughts and focusing on the positive aspects of difficult situations. For example, instead of thinking "This is too hard, I can't do it," try thinking "This is challenging, but I can learn from it and become stronger." By shifting your mindset, you can build resilience and become more adaptable to change.

I appreciate your reading, and I hope you learnt something 😊. My name is Shanzeh and I am a 15-year-old longevity enthusiast. Feel free to connect with me on Linkedin and send me a note if you enjoyed reading this post or have any questions. You can also follow my Medium page and remain updated on all the content I produce!



Shanzeh Haji

I'm a 15y/o longevity enthusiast on a mission to make a positive contribution to society by exploring ways to increase lifespan