Although we spend a lot of time talking about physical strength, we devote a lot less attention to mental strength. As a result, there are a lot of misconceptions about what it means to be mentally strong. Here are the seven biggest myths about mentally strong people.
1. Mentally strong people were born strong.
Just like babies aren't born with hulk-like physical strength, no one comes out of the womb possessing incredible mental strength. Everyone has the ability to develop the cognitive, emotional, and behavioral skills that build mental muscle. Growing stronger takes practice and hard work -- as well as a commitment to giving up the bad habits that could hold you back -- but everyone has the ability to grow stronger.
2. Mentally strong people are cold and unemotional.
Mentally strong people experience emotions just like everyone else. They're acutely aware of how their emotions can influence their thoughts and behavior. They're able to behave contrary to their feelings when doing so helps them reach their goals, and they refuse to allow their emotions to control them.
3. Mentally strong people are bossy and aggressive.
Mentally strong people don't worry about pleasing everyone -- but they also don't try to control others in a bossy or aggressive manner. Instead, they accept personal responsibility for their behavior and they don't waste energy trying to manipulate others with harsh tactics.
4. Mentally strong people have never endured real hardship.
Many strong people have overcome incredible hardships, ranging from troubled childhoods to financial ruin. But, they don't use their misfortune as an excuse for not reaching their goals. Instead, they turn those experiences into learning opportunities that help them grow stronger.
5. Mentally strong people don't ask for help.
Mentally strong people have enough confidence to admit when they don't have all the answers. They're willing to seek assistance from others who have more experience, expertise, education, or resources. They seek personal or professional help when necessary, and they don't shame other individuals who seek to better themselves.
6. Mentally strong people don't have mental health problems.
Even though mental health and mental strength are two separate things, people often say things like "I can't be mentally strong because I have depression." But that's just not true. Some of the strongest people in the world have battled mental health problems. Just like people with asthma can choose to build physical strength, people with depression, anxiety, or other mental health problems can develop mental strength.
7. Mentally strong people pride themselves on ignoring pain.
Being mentally strong doesn't mean you have to compete in triathlons or walk across hot coals just for the sake of it. Mentally strong people tolerate discomfort--but only when it's for a greater purpose. They're interested in learning from their pain, not simply enduring it.
Choose to build mental strength.
Just as you can perform exercises that build physical strength, you can choose to do exercises that boost your mental strength. Practice regulating your thoughts, managing your emotions, and behaving productively despite whatever circumstances you find yourself in.
Increasing your mental strength is the key to reaching your greatest potential. Make building mental strength a top priority. If you do one thing every day to build mental muscle, positive results will follow.
Amy Morin is a psychotherapist, keynote speaker, and the author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do, a bestselling book that is being translated into more than 20 languages.