12 signs you’re mentally tougher than the average person, according to psychology

How mentally tough are you? 

It’s not about how much you can bench press or even how much you can influence or guide other people. 

Mental toughness has much more to do with your internal reality and reactions to people and situations that are out of your control. 

Most of us start improving our mental resilience, but fall short of our full potential in various ways. But there are some who stand out from the crowd. 

Are you one of them?

Let’s take a look at the key signs you’re mentally tougher than most.

1) You bounce back quicker than most

You have a way of bouncing back from outer events a bit quicker than everyone else. 

You still get down and get stymied by difficult situations and conflicts, but you don’t let them drag you down or continue to weigh on you long after the fact. 

You’re mentally resilient and able to internalize that everything is ultimately temporary. 

2) You’re optimistic in the face of setbacks

When you face a setback you do your best not to let it ruin everything or color your perception of the future. 

The present moment may be a rough time, but it won’t last forever. 

Furthermore, you know that your own positive attitude and determination in the face of obstacles will have a big impact on how you end up weathering the external events of your life. 

So you keep your chin up. 

“Remember that most circumstances are temporary, and even if they include a permanent change, you can find the strength and resources to grow and evolve,” advises clinical psychologist Carla Shuman, Ph.D.

3) You can keep intense reactions in check

You’re not only able to weather the storms of life better than most, you’re also able to keep discipline over the storm within. 

When people push your buttons, work gets stressful and relationships go off the rails, you don’t let it control you

You keep your reactions in check and choose to direct your energy to more productive endeavors. 

As Canadian psychologist Dr. Jordan Peterson memorably says:

“A harmless man is not a good man. A good man is a very, very dangerous man who has that under voluntary control.”

4) You adapt briskly to change and try to benefit from it

Change is the one inevitability in life, and the more we resist it the harder it gets. 

As a mentally resilient person at a far from average level, you adapt briskly to change even if it’s not what you would have chosen. 

But if at all possible you also try to benefit from change:

  • How could this disruptive new technology lead my business in a new direction?
  • How could this breakup lead me to find new directions I might not have previously considered?
  • Is there a way to use this time that I’m ill to learn a new skill?

This also ties into the next point: 

5) You learn from failure instead of complaining

When you fail in a relationship, a job, a new adventure or even physically in a new sport or challenge you have set for yourself, you don’t give up. 

You also don’t resort to whining or complaining. 

Instead, you do your best to learn what you can from your setbacks and apply these lessons to the next time you try. 

Failure is your teacher, instead of your enemy.

“Thinking about adversity as the means by which you grow stronger, build resilience, and learn how to problem solve will decrease your fear of struggles in the future,” notes Shuman.

6) You’re confident and believe in yourself despite your flaws

You’re highly self-aware and know that you’re far from perfect. 

But at your core, you believe in yourself and your value regardless of your outer success and failure, and regardless of what other folks think of you. 

This inner core of well-being stands you in good stead during difficult times and ensure that you have a reservoir of confidence to draw on. 

While working to improve your flaws, you have that fundamental confidence in yourself that takes you very far in life and fosters an atmosphere of respect around you. 

This ties into the next point: 

7) You’re assertive without being pushy

You stand up for yourself and assert your views and needs in a confident way. 

But you do so without being pushy or rude. 

You’re not in-your-face by any means, and in fact you may seem quite low-key to most who you come across:

But you do know how to get what you want and how to assert your needs when the situation arises. 

As licensed psychologist Jonice Webb, Ph.D. explains

“Think of assertiveness on a continuum: 

On one far end you come across too weakly and the message isn’t taken seriously, and on the other far end you come across too strongly and the other person may grow defensive. 

Assertiveness falls at neither end, but right around the middle.”

8) You have a strong sense of purpose and are mission-oriented

You’re very much “on-mission,” and are quite focused on hitting your goals in life. 

These may be personal, professional, spiritual or physical goals:

They are objectives which are deeply meaningful to you and areas where your talents and your dreams overlap and you are making real progress in your life. 

You weather the bad times in life and keep mentally resilient partly as a result of this focus on your purpose and trying your best to achieve your goals and live in accordance with your values. 

9) You aren’t afraid to say no and set your own priorities 

Whereas many folks around you can’t seem to say no, you have no problem with it. 

When people try to make you feel guilty or obligate you into helping them it slides off you like water off a duck’s back. 

You like helping others out, but it’s far from your only purpose in life. 

You have your own goals and your own priorities, and you’re fine with that. Saying no isn’t a problem for you, and even people disliking you isn’t how you measure your self-worth.

You never outsource your value to anybody! 

10) You cope with stress in healthy ways instead of escapism or addiction

When life gets extremely stressful, you have healthy ways to cope:

You go for a walk or cook a nice meal instead of smoking a lot or getting wasted. 

When you do get wasted it’s because you enjoy it, not because you’re escaping from something. 

Despite the adversity and roadblocks you face, you 

“Resilience is the ability to bounce back or cope successfully despite substantial adversity,” notes Marie Earvolino-Ramirez, Ph.D

11) You’re grateful for your blessings, but not mawkishly so!

You feel real gratitude for the blessings in your life, but you’re far from mawkish or corny about it. 

You understand that a lot of life just is. 

You aren’t on top of the world when things are going well, and you do your best not to descend to the depths of hell when you suffer disappointment and setbacks.

You try to stay generally quite grateful and see life as a blessing while also being fully realistic that life can also be quite brutal and sad. 

12) You’re not brought down or disempowered by gossip and chatter

You don’t find the gossip or trash talk of other people enjoyable, by any means, but it doesn’t fundamentally affect you. 

Let ‘em talk. 

You have a life to lead, goals to hit and a mission you’re pursuing. 

Plus, you realize that many of those who gossip and talk a lot in malicious ways are just, ultimately, very unhappy and insecure people. 

As psychology writer Mukti Masih points out

“Research has proven that people who spend a large portion of their daily conversation talking about other’s lives, particularly personal details or negative aspects of other’s lives, are actually suffering from a low self-esteem.”

The key to mental toughness

The key to mental toughness is twofold:

Practice and purpose.

Your belief in yourself is built around a purpose you care about quite significantly and pursue with a lot of your energy. 

And your progress toward this is honed through practice and learning to work with what’s in your control and have mental discipline and resiliency as much as possible through life’s ups and downs.

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