Building Mental Toughness
Mental strength is our ability to work with psychological stressors. There are a lot of different ways to be mentally tough, I think it can also be misunderstood as being someone who doesn’t express their feelings and be really cold. Mental toughness is not being cold and emotionless.
Building mental strength is the same as building physical strength, it takes time and effort and is all about forming good habits that serve you. Sometimes you must give up your bad mental habits, just like you have to give up other bad habits to be able to create the life that you want. When you’re really going through tough times, good habits aren’t always enough, it only takes a couple small poor habits that make you fall apart. This is where you counter unhealthy beliefs with healthy ones instead.
So what are some mental habits that are holding you bad and stopping you from becoming emotionally tough?
Not believing in yourself; it is so easy for people to compare themselves to others and this may feel like an innocent habit. Always comparing yourself, thinking why others are lucky and you aren’t, resenting other people’s success. These little subtleties can lead you down the road of anxiety and depression. They will also pile up to the point where you stop believing you are capable of anything. Stop playing the comparison game and remember you are your own person and other people are separate to that.
Thinking that the world owes you something; it is easy to feel like if you tough it out for long enough and go through enough hard times then the world owes you a reward. Believing that the world owes you something will lead you to disappointment. You can feel like you are under constant attack from the world and for some reason it has picked you out to deal all the bad cards to. There was a speaker once who started out by asking the crowd, “do they think life is fair?” There was a unanimous “no” shouted back at him. He said, “well it must be because you all agree it isn’t”. It means that life is always going to involve hard times. Expecting them to one day stop because you have served your hard times is only going to make you crumble more when the next tough time hits.
Not allowing your emotions: telling yourself you should not be feeling a certain way. Or, expecting that once you reach a certain level of emotional toughness that you will only ever feel happiness and you are immune to negative emotions. Mentally tough people are highly aware that varied emotions are a normal and essential part of life. Instead of allowing themselves to dwell on things, they allow themselves to feel it and then they move on. Mentally strong people acknowledge, accept and activity work through whatever is going on for them.
Giving away your power; not putting everything onto the people and environment surrounding you. Mentally tough people understand their life is 100% their responsibility and nobody else can have a power over that unless you allow them to. Instead of blaming everything outside of you, learning how to take control of what is in your power and what impact you can have on what happens, how you respond and how you allow others around you to treat you.
These are a few examples of traits that mentally tough people know and understand. Just like building your physical strength, at first it is difficult to practise. However, once you have some better mental habits in place, they will feel a lot more natural to you. Start really small, flip the way you think about one thing this week and work on that.