"What doesn't kill me makes me stronger": meaning and story (2023)

"What doesn't kill me makes me stronger": meaning and story (1)

updatedMarch 11, 2023

"What doesn't kill me makes me stronger": meaning and story (2)

Whether you've come across a variation of the quote "What doesn't kill me makes me stronger" when reading Nietzsche, listening to Kelly Clarkson, or watchingThe Dark Night, it is very likely that this is not your first encounter with the maxim.

"What doesn't kill me makes me stronger" wrote Friedrich Nietzsche in his section "Sentences and Arrows".Dawn of the idolsmore than a century ago. Often used as a resilience statement, the idea is thiswe have the opportunity to learn and grow from even the worst of experiences.

Table of contents

"What doesn't kill me makes me stronger": the meaning behind the quote

The Story of "What Doesn't Kill Me Makes Me Stronger"

Cultural references to the quote

Nietzsche and the Stoics

Does need really make you stronger?

Northwestern University study

study at Bucknell University

Brown University and studying at the University of Concepcion

Post-traumatic growth studies

Quotations with a similar statement

Other Nietzsche quotes to think about

Finding opportunities in adversity

"What doesn't kill me makes me stronger": the meaning behind the quote

When you hear someone say, "What doesn't kill me makes me stronger," they typically use that as a statement of resilience. The idea is that even in the most negative experiences there is an opportunity to learn and grow. Soon,Adversity builds moral character.

While the quote is often used to make a general statement that suffering leads to strength under all circumstances, some scholars argue that Nietzsche had no intention of applying that strength inherently comes from suffering.

Instead, the idea is that an individual can use suffering as a meansopportunity to develop strength. In addition, people whoAgainFinding opportunities to grow stronger through suffering are those that are already strong.

"What doesn't kill me makes me stronger": meaning and story (3)

“We grow wiser through adversity; Prosperity destroys our appreciation for entitlement."

– Seneca the Younger

In that way, it's good to take this quote as a mentality rather than a fact of reality.There are many people who are crushed by difficulties. You probably know people personally who have technically survived certain adversities, but certainly don't appear any stronger as a result.

Although Nietzsche has a few choice words about Stoicism and the ancient Stoics (more on that later), there is something quite Stoic about the notion.

It's not that things that don't inherently kill you make you stronger. is that you have itChanceto learn and grow in difficult times. CanchooseSee adversity as an experience you can learn from.

This is a perspective you can use to help you accept the things that are not in your control and take control of the things that are in your control.When something terrible happens to you or you're going through a rough patch, you can use What Doesn't Kill Me Makes Me Stronger to put your experience in perspective. While you may not be able to control the external factors in your life, whatmayControl is how you perceive your experience.

If you consciously choose the perspective in which you benefit from negative experiences in the form of personal growth, you take control of your mindsetwillpowermake you stronger

The Story of "What Doesn't Kill Me Makes Me Stronger"

"What doesn't kill me makes me stronger" is part of an aphorism from Friedrich Nietzsche in hisDawn of the idols. The full aphorism listed under aphorism number 8 in the section titled "Maxims and Arrows" is as follows:

From the war school of life. - What does not kill me, makes me stronger.

Get out of the war school of life: what doesn't kill me makes me stronger.

Since the work was originally written in German, other English translations of the same selection exist. Here is a slightly different translation:

“From the military school of life. - What does not kill me, makes me stronger."

InDawns and Idols, the “Maxims and Arrows” section is a collection of short, concise statements.For this reason, the quote is not in a larger context, but stands out from other maxims.

The second part of the phrase - what doesn't kill me makes me stronger - has been used in numerous cultural references and borrowed as a title from many other works.

The idea is partially expanded inlook at the man, Nietzsche's autobiography. This text was also written in 1888.

Inlook at the man, Nietzsche talks a little about the people he describes as “the lucky charms of nature … among people”. These persons, he says, are “divine remedies for wounds; knows how to take advantage of serious accidents; what doesn't kill him makes him stronger."

Cultural references to the quote

Even if you don't know anything about Friedrich Nietzsche, you've probably heard the quote, "What doesn't kill me makes me stronger." This is because it has been used and mentioned many times in the media and culture.

The line has been paraphrased in songs by artists like Kanye West, Kelly Clarkson, Jay-Z, 2-Pac... the list goes on. G. Gordon Liddy, Nixon's co-conspirator in the Watergate debacle, used the phrase in his 1980 autobiography.Conan the Barbarian, the 1982 American epic, also begins with a variation of the quote.

Nietzsche and the Stoics

Although "what doesn't kill me makes me stronger" sounds like a quote that could have come straight from the mouth of an old Stoic, Nietzsche was actually overly critical of Stoics.

Ingay Science,we find the following passage:

"The Stoic ... gets used to swallowing stones and vermin, splinters of glass and scorpions without feeling disgust: his stomach ends up becoming indifferent to whatever the chances of existence throw at him ..."

InBeyond Good and Evil, also states that "stoicism is self-tyranny" and criticizes the stoic statement that one should live in harmony with nature.

At the same time, some of Nietzsche's ideas seem, at least superficially, to have much in common with Stoic ideas. your idea oflove fat, for example, certainly seems to have been takenMarcus Aureland anotherStoic.

Here Nietzsche discusseslove fatInlook at the man:

"My formula for greatness in man is amor fati: wanting nothing else, neither forward nor backward, nor for all eternity. Not only endure what is necessary, let alone hide it... but love him."

In the following quote from Epictetus we find a very similar mood:

"What doesn't kill me makes me stronger": meaning and story (4)

“Don't expect things to happen the way you want them to; rather wish that it happens as it happens: then you will be happy".

– Epicteto

"Eternal return," a notion that time repeats itself in an infinite cycle for eternity, sounds like Stoic physics too. Nietzsche is largely responsible for reviving the idea in the 19th century.

Some have even argued that Nietzsche's concept of the "superman" as an ideal to strive for bears some similarities to the Stoic notion of imagining the ideal sage or sage.

The relationship between Nietzsche, Stoicism and other ancient philosophies is truly fascinating and complex.While Nietzsche certainly had some choice words for the Stoics, his philosophy also seems to borrow ideas from them and in some cases present similar ideas.

The work of Nietzsche and the great Stoics has an almost infinite depth: you could spend the rest of your life reading, contemplating, and exploring the ideas contained in their texts. It is also worth noting that Nietzsche's philosophy evolved and evolved over time, so that ideas that appear central in one text are entirely absent in another.

Even if you've chosen to live your life the way the Stoics intended, it's always a good idea to explore other ideas that overlap or diverge from Stoic notions.

Does need really make you stronger?

If you do a quick Google search for "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" you will find a multitude of articles from major publications and universities claiming that science has either confirmed or discredited this quote.

"What doesn't kill me makes me stronger": meaning and story (5)

"Great men rejoice in adversity, just as brave soldiers triumph in war."

–Seneca the Younger

The titles of these articles are as follows: "Science shows that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger", "What doesn't kill you makes you weaker" or "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger - oh really?

Let's see what researchers and journalists have to say on this question.

Northwestern University study

Northwestern University Kellogg School of Managementconducted a studywho examined "the connection between professional failure and the success of young scientists". The result of the study was that people who failed early in their careers are more successful in the long term.

While people who fail early in their careers have higher dropout rates, those who persevere fare better over the long term.

In this way, the people who left your field because of failure are the ones who were metaphorically "killed" by failure. However, those who survived failure ended up being stronger than those who didn't deal with failure early in their careers.

study at Bucknell University

Biology researchers at Bucknell University also wondered if what doesn't kill you actually makes you stronger this time.through the lens of stress.

"What doesn't kill me makes me stronger": meaning and story (6)

"Difficulties strengthen the mind as work strengthens the body."

– Seneca the Younger

This animal study used Japanese quail to examine how oxidative stress is affected by 20-minute periods of social isolation. The results of the study revealed that birds that were previously isolated suffered no cellular damage from oxidative stress, while birds that had no previous experience of isolation had high levels of oxidative stress both when exposed to numerous stress events and when they were exposed were exposed to acute stress.

Brown University and studying at the University of Concepcion

This studiorejects the maxim "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger".This eight-year research involved studying 1,160 Chileans before and after a major earthquake and tsunami in 2010.

None of the participants had a history of post-traumatic stress disorder or major depressive disorder at the start of the study. After the earthquake, almost 15% of the survivors were diagnosed with a major depressive disorder and 9.1% with a post-traumatic stress disorder.

People who appeared to be particularly vulnerable to developing these disorders had experienced a range of stressors prior to the disaster.such as divorce, legal problems, serious illness or injury, loss of a valuable possession, ordeath of a loved one.

While the argument here is that people are not madestronger through adversity, it is worth noting that the study ended in 2011. This means that the research was carried out only about a year after the extreme event - it is the sixth strongest earthquake ever measured along with two other tremors. Presumably it could take some time to recover from such an event, to learn from it and to grow from it.

It would be interesting to consult with these survivors now, more than a decade after the fact, to see if the study's conclusion is still valid.

Post-traumatic growth studies

Although you're probably familiar with the concept of post-traumatic stress, you may not have heard of post-traumatic growth. This theory addresses the phenomenon when an individual experiences positive transformation after coping with a traumatic event.

Clinical psychologist George Bonanno published aKey role in 2004where he reviewed a number of studies on resilience. His paper showed thatMany people who experience trauma are not only resilient in the face of their difficulties, but actually thrive afterwards.He found that the majority of people who survive a traumatic event do not develop PTSD, and a large proportion of them report that they actually grew from the experience.

This phenomenon has been termed "post-traumatic growth" by Lawrence Calhoun and Richard Tedeschi. There are reportedly seven areas of growth that people can develop after overcoming difficulties:

  • Greater appreciation of life.
  • More altruism and compassion.
  • Greater empowerment and appreciation for close relationships.
  • enhanced spiritual development
  • Increased use and awareness of personal strengths.
  • creative growth
  • Identification of a life purpose or new opportunities.

Which certainly won't kill you according to this articlemayMaking Yourself Stronger This aligns with the Stoic view of adversity, which is that it is an opportunity to learn, grow, and practice virtue.

"I consider you unlucky because you have never experienced unhappiness. You have gone through life without opponents, no one can know what you are capable of, not even you.”

– Seneca

It can be a helpful exercise to look back on your life and reflect on the difficult events and experiences you have gone through. Were there valuable lessons in even the worst of experiences? Are there "bad" things that have happened to you that have contributed to your growth as a person?

The more you realize that adversity offers you opportunities to become stronger, braver, wiser, and generally more virtuous, the more you can take advantage of those opportunities. As impossible as it may seem at this point, you may even find yourself in a position where you relish the opportunity to face a difficult challenge.

Quotations with a similar statement

Though "what doesn't kill me makes me stronger" has garnered cultural attention for over a hundred years, Nietzsche was certainly not the first to comment on how adversity can be an opportunity for growth.

Let's look at some quotes from other great minds that convey a similar message.

"What doesn't kill me makes me stronger": meaning and story (7)

"Setback has often paved the way for greater prosperity. Many things have fallen only to rise to higher heights."

– Seneca the Younger

"As it is pleasing to see the sea from land, so it is pleasing to the one who has escaped tribulation to think of it."


“No tree takes root and grows strong unless many winds attack it. For even with his throw he tightens his grip and plants his roots more firmly; Fragile trees are those that grew in a sunny valley.”

Seneca the Younger

“The real man shows himself in difficult moments. So when problems arise, think of yourself as a fighter that God matched like a trainer with a tough young man. For which purpose? To transform you into Olympic-class material.

– Epicteto

“Every difficulty in life presents us with an opportunity to turn inward and call upon our own inner resources. The trails we walk on can and should show us our strengths. Wise people look past the incident and searchform the habitto put it to good use. Don't just react haphazardly in the face of a random event: remember to turn inward and ask yourself what resources you have to deal with it. dig deep You have strengths you may not even know you have. Find the right one. Use it.

– Epicteto

"The world breaks everyone, and then some are strong in the broken places."

- Ernest Hemingway

"If you find a path without obstacles, it probably won't get you anywhere."

– Frank A. Clark

"The greater the obstacle, the greater the glory of overcoming it."

– Moliere

“Whoever fights with us strengthens our nerves and sharpens our dexterity. Our antagonist is our helper."

– Edmund Burke

"I'm not afraid of storms because I'm learning to sail my boat."

– Louisa May Alcott

"It's a bumpy road that leads to the heights of greatness."

– Seneca the Younger

"You don't develop courage by being happy in your relationships every day. You develop it by enduring hard times and defying adversity.”

- Epicurus

"Nothing happens to a man except what is endurable in his nature."

- Marcus Aurelius

"Character cannot be developed in ease and stillness. Only through the experience of trials and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved."

- Helen Keller

"Here is a match fit for a god, a valiant man paired in conflict with adversity."

– Seneca the Younger

“The strongest souls have come from suffering; The most massive characters are riddled with scars.”

-Jalil Gibran

"Adversity is the proof of a man's merit."

– Seneca the Younger

"Suffering becomes beautiful when one bears great calamities with joy, not out of callousness but out of magnanimity."

– Aristotle

“I love those who can smile in trouble, gather strength in anguish, and find courage in reflection. Small minds' business is to shrink, but those whose hearts are firm and whose conscience approves of their conduct will follow their principles to the death."

-Leonardo da Vinci

"When you face fear, you can say to yourself, 'I've seen this horror. I can take whatever comes next.'”

- Eleanor Roosevelt

"Gold is tried by fire, the mighty by adversity."

– Seneca the Younger

"A hero is an ordinary person who finds the strength to persevere and persevere in the face of overwhelming obstacles."

– Christopher Reeve

"The bravest vision in the world is to see a great man fighting against adversity."

– Seneca the Younger

"If you're going through a storm, keep going."

-Winston Churchill

"Hold this rule tooth and nail: never give in to adversity, never trust in wealth, and always keep a close eye on the habit of fortune, to behave as it pleases, and to treat it as like she's really doing what she wants." She needs ".it's in your power to do this. What you've been waiting for for some time comes as a bit of a shock."

– Seneca the Younger

“No one is unhappier than the one who never faces adversity. Because he can't prove himself."

– Seneca the Younger

Other Nietzsche quotes to think about

Friedrich Nietzsche has had an enormous influence on the fields of philosophy, psychology, fiction, poetry and theatre. Moreover, his ideas permeate modern culture so deeply that many of us have been influenced by his thinking without even knowing the source.

For example, there are a large number of ideas that at least canpartly attributed to Nietzschecommon in contemporary American culture, including:

  • Being true to yourself is the greatest virtue
  • Finding yourself is the goal of life; Creating or discovering an identity for yourself is true maturity
  • You have to love yourself before you can love anyone else
  • Your body is trying to tell you something when you are getting sick, and you should listen to your body's wisdom.
  • Sexuality is a natural gift that needs to be developed and integrated as part of a fulfilling life.
  • An important step in mental health is overcoming guilt
  • You have to experience life as intensely as possible because life is short.
  • Don't live passively; challenge yourself
  • The culture in which a person lives shapes their values.

The list goes on.

Despite the impressively long influence of his work, Nietzsche was remarkably influential during his lifetime. Before we say goodbye, here is a collection of quotes from this deeply influential man.

“There will always be stones on the road ahead. They will be stumbling blocks or steps; it all depends on how you use them.”

- Friedrich Nietzsche

"To live is to suffer, to survive is to find meaning in suffering."

- Friedrich Nietzsche

"There are two different kinds of people in the world, those who want to know and those who want to believe."

- Friedrich Nietzsche

"Enjoy life. This is not a dress rehearsal."

- Friedrich Nietzsche

"If you fight monsters, you have to be careful not to become a monster in the process. And if you stare into an abyss long enough, the abyss will stare at you."

- Friedrich Nietzsche

"Sometimes people don't want to hear the truth because they don't want their illusions shattered."

- Friedrich Nietzsche

"I was in the dark, but I took three steps and found myself in paradise. The first step was a good thought, the second a good word; and the third, a good deed.”

- Friedrich Nietzsche

"And those who were seen dancing were thought insane by those who couldn't hear the music."

- Friedrich Nietzsche

"I know of no better purpose in life than to perish attempting the great and impossible."

- Friedrich Nietzsche

"The higher we fly, the smaller we appear to those who cannot fly."

- Friedrich Nietzsche

"The tree that will grow to heaven must send its roots to hell."

- Friedrich Nietzsche

"The snake that cannot shed its skin must die. Also the opinions that are prevented from changing their minds; they cease to be ghosts.”

- Friedrich Nietzsche

"Would you like to have an easy life? So always stay with the pack and lose yourself in the pack.”

- Friedrich Nietzsche

"Become who you are. Do what only you can do."

- Friedrich Nietzsche

“Young people love the interesting and the strange, no matter how true or false. The most mature minds love the interesting and strange in truth. After all, mature intellectuals love the truth, even if it seems simple and boring to the common man; for they have noticed that truth tends to reveal its highest wisdom under the guise of simplicity.”

- Friedrich Nietzsche

"Love your enemies because they bring out the best in you."

- Friedrich Nietzsche

“You must be willing to burn in your own flame; How could you be resurrected if you were not reduced to ashes first?

- Friedrich Nietzsche

"Those who have a why to live can endure almost any how."

- Friedrich Nietzsche

"The secret to attaining the greatest fertility and the greatest joy in life is to live dangerously."

- Friedrich Nietzsche

“Examine the lives of the best and most productive people and nations, and ask yourself whether a tree that grows proudly into the sky can do without bad weather and storms. If unhappiness and resistance, or all kinds of hatred, jealousy, stubbornness, mistrust, severity, greed and violence are not among the favorable conditions without which great growth in virtue is hardly possible?

- Friedrich Nietzsche

"What makes us heroic? Simultaneously confronted with our highest suffering and our highest hope.”

- Friedrich Nietzsche

"The discipline of suffering, of great suffering, do you not know that only this discipline has produced all the upheavals of mankind up to now?"

- Friedrich Nietzsche

Finding opportunities in adversity

While "what doesn't kill me makes me stronger" may seem almost cliche at this point, it's important to realize that Nietzsche is not stating a fact, but rather stating a fact.potential. Ofmaybe crushed by the things that happen to you if you let them. You can also work to see the opportunity hidden in adversity to move your business forwardpersonal growthhow to be moral.

We all experience difficult times in this life - no matter how rich, attractive, lucky, strong or blessed a person is, they will still face difficulties.

It's not about trying to prevent something bad from happening to you at all costs; The only way to do that is to hide in your room for the next few decades until you wither. anyway youstillYou could not protect yourself from all of life's challenges.It's about empowering yourself in the face of difficulties.

It can be a helpful exercise to look back at your life and reflect on some of the toughest times you've been through. What did you learn from these experiences? how did they change you

You will likely find examples of how the things in your own story that "didn't kill" you made you stronger. Once you understand the real meaning of it, you can work on applying it in real time. The next time you're struggling with something difficult, you can remind yourself that in the experience there is an opportunity to learn and grow. Not only does this help you grow faster, but it can also help you keep your cool in the face of adversity.

Are you on a mission to improve your life with the wisdom of the past? Then come and see usBlog with stoic quotesfor inspiration, motivation and practical advice for personal growth.

"What doesn't kill me makes me stronger": meaning and story (8)

Written by:Sofia Merton

Sophia received her BA from Vassar College and has always had a keen interest in the best way to live life. She hopes to help others understand how to apply Stoicism in their daily lives to become the person they want to be, accept the present moment, pursue their goals, and get rid of unnecessary fears.

Leave a message

related posts

"What doesn't kill me makes me stronger": meaning and story (9)

"What doesn't kill me makes me stronger": meaning and story (10)

"What doesn't kill me makes me stronger": meaning and story (11)

12Next "


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Arline Emard IV

Last Updated: 07/19/2023

Views: 6287

Rating: 4.1 / 5 (72 voted)

Reviews: 95% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Arline Emard IV

Birthday: 1996-07-10

Address: 8912 Hintz Shore, West Louie, AZ 69363-0747

Phone: +13454700762376

Job: Administration Technician

Hobby: Paintball, Horseback riding, Cycling, Running, Macrame, Playing musical instruments, Soapmaking

Introduction: My name is Arline Emard IV, I am a cheerful, gorgeous, colorful, joyous, excited, super, inquisitive person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.