Tattoo Filter: What's a word, phrase, or image representing resilience?
September 15, 2017 5:36 AM   Subscribe

I want my next tattoo to be on my wrist and represent the concept of resilience in some way. First because I have had to draw on my own stores of resilience during hard times and also because it's an important concept in my field (social work.)

I don't just want to have "stay resilient" or "resilience." What represents resilience to you? Do you know a lovely quote or image that does? Because it's on my wrist I won't have too much real estate for a long string of text.
posted by We'll all float on okay to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (33 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Are you thinking a full wrist band, or just a tattoo on one side of your wrist?

I've always like the idea of a full wrist band design of the ouroboros, but that's likely not quite right thematically.

However that made me think that a stylised grecian column / pillar design could make a really cool wrist tattoo, either full or one sided.
posted by protorp at 5:51 AM on September 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

When I think of resilience, I think of the ability to endure and bounce back. So for a small space, I thought of a flower tattoo of a desert dandelion or succulent tattoo, since those suckers endure some harsh times and still can bloom and survive.

Also thought of a spring, which could look good in a simple style, a slingshot, a rubber band, a tree bending in the wind.
posted by buttonedup at 5:59 AM on September 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Are you thinking a full wrist band, or just a tattoo on one side of your wrist?

Just on one side, underneath the palm of my hand.
posted by We'll all float on okay at 6:03 AM on September 15, 2017

kind of depends on how nerdy you are? the equation for the modulus of resilience could be cute, but if you're more into botany, the succulent is a nice idea. or, if you're open to something detailed, what about a tardigrade? nature's most resilient creature!
posted by halation at 6:08 AM on September 15, 2017 [5 favorites]

Seconding tardigrade!
posted by Drosera at 6:14 AM on September 15, 2017 [5 favorites]

If I were to get a tattoo meaning resilience, I would get an anvil.

If you're a Bob Seger fan, maybe the phrase "Like a Rock," though now that I read the lyrics I see it's about someone looking back on their (apparently lost) youthful resilience.
posted by ejs at 6:15 AM on September 15, 2017

my wrist tattoo stands for resilience. I have eight tally marks for the quote/proverb, "fall down seven times, stand up eight".
posted by gursky at 6:18 AM on September 15, 2017 [11 favorites]

Willow trees are resilient. They're known for bending, rather than breaking, in the wind. And they can come back even if they're damaged or uprooted in a flood (as they easily can be, since they tend to grow near water.) A single willow branch, if it finds itself stuck in the ground, can grow roots and become a new tree. So maybe a willow leaf or a bending willow tree?
posted by Redstart at 6:18 AM on September 15, 2017 [17 favorites]

The semicolon tattoo is something that's trendy but I've found that it really resonates with me as a person with depression. It represents a point where an author could have ended the sentence but chose to go on. Paralleling suicide prevention. It means a lot to me.
posted by TooFewShoes at 6:22 AM on September 15, 2017 [6 favorites]

For a small space, a lotus blossom is a great symbol of resilience since it grows from but rises above the muddy water.

If you want to go with a phrase, how about "Quocunque Jeceris Stabit". It's the motto from the coat of arms of the Isle of Man. It can be translated to "whithersoever you throw it, it will stand".
posted by jazzbaby at 6:23 AM on September 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

I also have a soft spot for willow trees. For extra resilience, how about a pollarded willow in the spring?
posted by heatherlogan at 6:25 AM on September 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

Thirding the willow as resilience.
posted by Ruki at 6:36 AM on September 15, 2017

Here is a description of resilience that I like, from Donella Meadows:
I think of resilience as a plateau upon which the system can play, performing its normal functions in safety. A resilient system has a big plateau, a lot of space over which it can wander, with gentle, elastic walls that will bounce it back, if it comes near a dangerous edge. As a system loses its resilience, its plateau shrinks, and its protective walls become lower and more rigid, until the system is operating on a knife-edge, likely to fall off in one direction or another whenever it makes a move. Loss of resilience can come as a surprise, because the system usually is paying much more attention to its play than to its playing space. One day it does something it has done a hundred times before and crashes.
The simplest symbol of this I can think of is a shallow curve or bowl with a ball inside. The ball can move or be moved, but it will always be gently returned to the same point. The needle of a compass is another example, always returning north. Or the disc of a gyroscope.
posted by rollick at 6:37 AM on September 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

Perhaps a phoenix.
posted by juliplease at 6:38 AM on September 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

I have a Keep Loving Keep Fighting tattoo, YMMV depending on how folk-punk you are willing to look.
posted by ITheCosmos at 6:52 AM on September 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

A coiled spring
posted by Tabitha Someday at 7:10 AM on September 15, 2017

I'm thinking of a strong warrior yoga pose. I feel really strong and resilient in the Warrior II pose.

But you can also find a reputable tattoo shop in your area and talk with the artists there. They may have good ideas that you can talk about and they can work with you to make it your own.
posted by jillithd at 7:30 AM on September 15, 2017

I have a resilience tattoo that is flowers blooming out of cracks - like cracks in concrete. Flourishing in inhospitable environs.

For a simple wrist tattoo, I would probably get the Gaelic word for resilience, since my family is Scottish.
posted by Medieval Maven at 7:40 AM on September 15, 2017

You could always have the words "And still I rise" tattooed. It would fit nicely.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:03 AM on September 15, 2017 [6 favorites]

Thistle has a long history of symbolizing durability and resilience.

If you're down with whimsy/silly options, "Weebles wobble but they don't fall down". Bonus points there for being highly accurate to the physical meaning of resilience, and the fact that anyone who knows the image will immediately think of the phrase, so it's sort of a two-fer.
posted by SaltySalticid at 8:47 AM on September 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

My tattoo for resilience and courage is a snake on my ankle.
posted by RaeVaughn1958 at 9:35 AM on September 15, 2017

A highland cow?
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 9:48 AM on September 15, 2017

Known to grow quickly where there has been a forest fire or a bombing.

Flowering Lantana
You can mow this stuff right into the ground, move it around the yard, or forget to water it and it comes right back. It also attracts butterflies.
posted by Crystal Fox at 10:32 AM on September 15, 2017

"Infidel" written in Arabic.
posted by Lord Fancy Pants at 10:51 AM on September 15, 2017

I recently discovered, in another AskMe, the poem Invictus. (You almost certainly know some of the quotes from it already.) It definitely represents resilience to me.
posted by asterix at 11:30 AM on September 15, 2017

I have this print from Bread and Puppet in my kitchen and I've always thought it would make a good tattoo. It's courage not resilience but to me in this image they are sort of the same.
posted by mygothlaundry at 12:19 PM on September 15, 2017

Nautilus shell.
posted by Iris Gambol at 2:09 PM on September 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

Is there something that symbolizes resilience to you, something that represents the positive result of your resilience? My tattoo is a California poppy to remind myself that I dreamed of moving to California for eleven years before I did it. To me it means "I had a dream and I made it happen."
posted by bendy at 8:35 PM on September 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

Dandelions are often used as symbols of resilience, for good reason -- they thrive in difficult circumstances and they just keep coming back. Are you familiar with the dandelion vs. orchid thing? If that speaks to you, perhaps an orchid on the other wrist would be a nice pairing.
posted by ourobouros at 11:44 AM on September 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

I think the phoenix is classic for this.
posted by windykites at 7:52 AM on September 17, 2017

Something related to the Charpy impact test for material resilience, like an incompletely fractured specimen?
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 10:05 AM on September 17, 2017

Response by poster: Thank you, everyone, for the thoughtful ideas! If I end up using any of these suggestions I will update the thread. :)
posted by We'll all float on okay at 6:58 PM on September 19, 2017

I saw someone today who had a flock of birds tattooed on her wrist, and it occurred to me that that is also a good symbol of a resilient dynamic system.

Flocks are stable even when there is wind, low light, loud noises, sudden insect availability, random perching opportunities etc. They naturally break into islands when disrupted too much, and come together after with an unthinking grace.

It's a common tattoo motif too, so there are lots of examples to look at.
posted by rollick at 10:33 AM on September 21, 2017

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