You may have heard the Japanese proverb, “Fall seven times, stand up eight.”
We will have many falls in our lifetimes – there’s no escaping it.
We will meet with challenges, failures, and tragedies.
We will feel lower than low and may even question why we exist.
But that’s only part of the story; the bigger part, the most crucial part, is how we respond to these situations.
Do we stay down?
Or do we get up and try again?
And what is it that allows us to stand up after seven or more falls?
In a word: resilience.
To honor the skill, we’re sharing mental strength and resilience symbols from around the world and throughout history.
- What Is Resilience and Why Is it Important for a Mindful Life
- 29 Empowering Symbols Of Resilience And What They Represent
- 1. Labyrinth
- 2. Triskelion
- 3. Coq Gaulois
- 4. Dragon
- 5. Wolf
- 6. Oak Tree
- 7. Akan Drum
- 8. Golden Fish / Goldfish
- 9. Borage Flower
- 10. Baobab Tree
- 11. Helix/Spiral
- 12. Boar
- 13. Plum Blossom
- 14. Maasai Shield
- 15. Horse
- 16. Monarch Butterfly
- 17. Griffin
- 18. Diamond
- 19. Bull
- 20. Lotus Flower
- 21. Wawa Aba
- 22. Eagle
- 23. Sankofa
- 24. Phoenix
- 25. Marianne
- 26. Turtle
- 27. Kokopelli
- 28. Medicine Wheel
- 29. Trishula
- How to Use These Symbols for Strength and Resilience
What Is Resilience and Why Is it Important for a Mindful Life
Do you want to succeed in life? Do you crave a balanced and mindful state of mind?
If so, you’ll need to cultivate resilience — because study after study shows it’s vital to building a happy and productive life.
But what, exactly, is it?
Definitionally speaking, resilience is the ability to cope with challenging situations and difficult emotions.
People with it bounce back from setbacks more readily than rigid folks, and they’re also better able to endure sustained pressure and stand strong in the face of adversity.
People with resilience usually have a growth mindset and are:
- At greater peace with life’s ups and downs
- More mindful and don’t cling to the past or future
- Better communicators and problem solvers
- Pros at regulating their emotions and managing stress
- Able to siphon lessons from difficult experiences
29 Empowering Symbols Of Resilience And What They Represent
We’ve established that resilience is an admirable quality that can do your mind, body, and soul a great deal of good.
It has the power to keep you emotionally balanced and facilitate healing.
With that in mind, let’s hop in a time machine and take a trip around the world to look at various symbols people have used to represent resilience throughout the ages.
Humans have been fascinated with mazes and labyrinths for millennia. Ancient cultures used them as a metaphor for the complexities associated with life’s journey, and they’re still viewed as such today.
Walking labyrinths was an old tradition undertaken to honor the resiliency of the human mind and an individual’s ability to overcome hardships.
The triskelion or triskeles is an ancient Celtic symbol featuring three interconnected spirals representing life, death, and rebirth. It signifies the never-ending cycle of existence, which, in and of itself, is a cycle of resilience.
Triskelions have rotational symmetry, and some traditions believe the spirals are three bent legs. In fact, the word comes from the Greek triskelḗs, meaning “three-legged.”
Versions of the symbol have been found on European artifacts dating back to the Neolithic, Bronze, and Iron ages.
During the Hellenistic period, triskelions became a standard artistic feature in works associated with Sicily and the Isle of Man.
3. Coq Gaulois
The Coq Gaulois, or Gallic Rooster, symbolizes France and its people’s strength and adaptability in the face of oppression.
The Coq Gaulois features on flags and other national symbols, representing power, courage, and resilience.
In western cultures, dragons are often depicted as dangerous. But in many Asian societies, it’s seen as a symbol of strength, intelligence, and resilience.
In these eastern cultures, dragons are known for their fierceness and ability to withstand the most arduous circumstances and situations.
Notably, cultures that follow lunar horoscopes, as first defined by the Chinese, consider it lucky to be born under the sign of the dragon.
Some people are so invested in the tradition that they plan pregnancies to ensure their children will be “fire breathers.”
Many indigenous cultures, especially those in the “New World,” have long praised wolves for their strength, loyalty, and courage — rendering the animal a symbol of resilience from Patagonia to modern-day Alaska.
Specifically, warriors from several First Nations societies would swaddle themselves in wolf skins before battle to infuse courage and resilience into their souls.
6. Oak Tree
Due to its strength, oak is a popular wood for furniture and construction.
The mighty trees are known for enduring the strongest storms, including tornadoes and hurricanes.
Ancient Celts, Slavic, and Norse peoples considered oak trees sacred and linked them to various gods and magical powers.
Today, oaks are the official trees of many US states due to their reputation for representing stalwart resilience.
7. Akan Drum
Ghana’s Akan people revere the drum as a symbol of community, strength, and resilience. The barrel-shaped percussion instrument is used in many of their traditions, and players adhere to strict protocols when caring for and playing them.
The oldest African-American object in the British Museum is an Akan drum transported from West Africa to North America during the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.
As such, the item is seen as a symbol of endurance and resilience in the face of extreme adversity for many people of African and Caribbean origin.
8. Golden Fish / Goldfish
Goldfish — called “golden fish” in some cultures — is a common symbol of resilience among Buddhists. Though small, they can swim long distances across vast oceans, making them the epitome of dogged stability.
That’s why you’ll often see ponds and small aquariums in Asian restaurants. It’s good luck to infuse a space with strong-souled species, like golden fish.
9. Borage Flower
Nobody is 100% certain how borage flowers — (also called “star flowers” because of their shape) — got their name, but some believe it derives from the Latin word “carago,” meaning “courage.”
How did the comparatively small flower become associated with courage and resilience?
In Roman times, soldiers ate the leaves before heading to war, believing it would bolster their strength. The Celts added it to wine before battle, too.
During medieval times, knights wore scarves woven with borage because they believed the plant made them more resilient.
Astrologically speaking, borage is linked to the planet Jupiter, and 17th-century British philosopher Francis Bacon once praised the flower as being “an excellent spirit to repress the fuliginous vapor of dusky melancholie.”
10. Baobab Tree
The baobab tree is endemic to Africa and revered in many of the continent’s cultures. Like the oak tree in the west, baobabs are known for their ability to survive and thrive in harsh environments.
As such, it symbolizes the indefatigable human spirit.
From snails to sunflowers, pine cones to pineapples, the helix, or spiral, is a natural symbol of resilience. Even the human DNA structure and hurricane patterns manifest as helixes.
Moreover, when plant roots encounter obstacles, they create spiral designs to get around the blockage.
As such, spirals are seen as a symbol of growth and evolution worldwide.
Notably, modern architects often use the form when designing new buildings for both its practical strength and soulful connotations.
In pre-colonial North America, many cultures used boars to teach children about courage and bravery. The Celts saw the animal as a symbol of strength, and Greeks often held games wherein warriors would fight the fierce creatures.
In certain Japanese traditions, families name their firstborn sons after the sacred animal as a nod to the resilience of their lineage.
13. Plum Blossom
Plum blossoms, Taiwan’s national flower, symbolize resilience due to their ability to weather harsh conditions and remain graceful.
Trees on which the flowers grow can live up to a thousand years, which is another reason they’re associated with stalwart toughness and adaptability.
14. Maasai Shield
The Maasai people hail from the regions of modern-day Kenya and Tanzania. Their distinctive shield designs, featuring patterns and colors that represent strength and bravery, are commonly considered symbols of resilience and resistance.
Sacred among Indo-Aryan peoples of South and Central Asia, horses have long symbolized beauty, endurance, and resilience. Europeans in Greece and
Rome adopted the idea during the Hellenistic period, and in some ancient Chinese legends, horses are seen as more powerful than the mighty dragon.
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16. Monarch Butterfly
Did you know that orange and black monarch butterflies are the only two-way migratory butterfly still in existence, traveling annually between North and South America?
They’re seen as an example of natural resilience among many Native American tribes and nations.
The delicate flyers face many obstacles on their long journeys, but they continually adapt to new environments, making the animals a symbol of consistent resilience.
Griffins — sometimes called griffons or gryphons — are mythical creatures with the tail, body, and back legs of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle.
In legends, they were celebrated for their bold and courageous natures, symbolizing resilience and strength.
The fictional animal first appeared in the 2nd millennium BC and is usually depicted with its wings spread. In ancient stories, they were cast as guardians of precious possessions due to their fierceness and discipline.
Diamonds are exalted because they’re one of the strongest and most dazzling stones produced by Earth’s natural forces.
Life for diamonds begins with a sudden disruption, and they withstand billions of years of extreme heat and pressure, emerging as a sparkling gem.
Scientists believe the first diamonds formed over 3 billion years ago, and today they’re considered precious stones that represent eternity, brilliance, and resilience.
Societies across the globe have long cherished the strength, will, and resilience of bulls. For instance, both the ancient Celts and Egyptians considered the animal one of the strongest on Earth.
Americans have also come to celebrate bulls as symbols of strength, success, and resilience. This is why an iconic statue of the animal adorns Wall Street, representing the durability of US economic markets.
20. Lotus Flower
The lotus flower is an iconic Buddhist symbol for resilience.
The beautiful plant starts life rooted in mud and slowly grows through the muck, resulting in a stunning blossom that sits gently above the water.
Even when up against strong winds and rains, lotus flowers flourish, so they’re seen as an emblem of hope and resilience.
According to legend, Gautama Buddha’s first steps were marked by the appearance of lotus blossoms, which is why the religious figure is often depicted sitting on one.
21. Wawa Aba
The Wawa Aba is an African Adinkra symbol of perseverance and resilience. Naturally speaking, it represents the Wawa tree seed, known for its toughness.
The symbol is an elliptical shape with a trunk overlay featuring two short branches on each end. To this day, people from the region wear it as a protection talisman that inspires the wearer to be strong and tough.
In North America, eagles are associated with courage, power, and resilience. Their massive wings and regal countenance have impressed humans for millions of years, and they’re seen as animals infused with the natural ability to overcome hardships.
Ancient Aztecs drew the animal on warriors who finished training to signify their strength and courage.
The Sankofa is a mythical bird symbol from the Adinkra tradition of West Africa that represents various concepts, including resilience.
Commonly, it’s linked to the idea of looking back to gain the type of clarity that allows you to move forward.
Stylistically, it’s often depicted with its head facing backward and is associated with a proverb that advises: “It is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten.”
Linguistically, the word Sankofa means “to retrieve.”
The phoenix is another mythical creature associated with rebirth and resilience.
According to legend, the bird-like animal journeys through perpetual loops of reincarnation, continuously dying in flames only to be reborn from its own ashes.
Symbolically, phoenixes gain strength from adversity and suffering, making them a universal symbol of resilience.
Marianne is the national personification of the French Republic, representing liberty, equality, and fraternity. She is closely linked with the French Revolution but remains a symbol of resilience today.
Many women celebrate Marianne as a goddess of liberty and strength and adorn their bodies with body art depicting the celebrated icon.
Of all the animals that represent resilience, the turtle is probably the least known in western cultures.
But many First Nations tribes see the animal as the epitome of strength and perseverance. They admire the species for taking life one step at a time and being self-sufficient.
Resultantly, turtles have come to represent the ability to overcome challenging situations because of their ability to draw on inner strength.
Kokopelli is a trickster and fertility deity in many Native American cultures, including the Hopi, Quechan, and Hohokam.
He symbolizes resilience due to his adaptability and ability to access joy and humor when challenges and obstacles descend.
Fun Fact: Kokopelli is depicted in art seen in the television series “Breaking Bad” as a nod to the indigenous peoples of New Mexico and one of the show’s underlying themes.
28. Medicine Wheel
Similar to dream catchers, medicine wheels are a Native American symbol associated with resilience and soulful balance.
It’s symbolic of the interconnectedness of all things and the importance of maintaining internal and external harmony.
The Trishula is a three-pronged spear associated with the Hindu god Shiva. The weapon represents the power of both destruction and creation and is seen as a symbol of resilience.
Specifically, it’s a reminder that we must sometimes break things to rebuild a stronger version.
How to Use These Symbols for Strength and Resilience
We’ve reviewed resilience symbols crossing continents and cultures. Now let’s look at how to incorporate these symbols into your life as a way to internalize the trait and attract resilient energy.
- Journaling: Researchers aren’t sure why journaling diminishes stress; they just know it does. It’s also a fantastic way to think about the world around you and your place in it. So as an exercise, consider one of the resilience symbols, then journal about how it resonates with you. Perhaps even make up a story to internalize the messaging.
- Meditating: Meditating is the pillar stone of mindfulness activities. People who engage in the practice enjoy increased cognitive function, less anxiety, and better moods. So consider doing an analytical meditation focused on resilience. Fix the symbol in your mind’s eye. When your thoughts wander — because they will — gently return them to the image.
- Art: Are you drawn to artistic endeavors? Do creative activities get your energies flowing? If yes, consider making a piece of art featuring one or more of the symbols of resilience. Channel your inner Picasso and create a Guernica-style mural or keep it simple and sketch in a book. Pottery and sculpture are also options.
- Body Art: Body art is a great way to help you stay focused and mindful of your goals and values. For instance, a symbol tattoo somewhere visible (to you) can be a reminder every time it catches your eye. Remember, too, that permanent tattoos aren’t the only option. Temporary body art is becoming increasingly popular.
We hope you found our list delineating symbols of resistance helpful and inspiring.
May you draw on them to conjure emotional and physical inner strength.