Mental strength, just like physical strength, is something we build.
Yet every habit that makes us stronger can be quickly undone.
Insidious behaviors or thought patterns can undermine our mental strength, and in the process our health and happiness too.
That’s why there are certain things that mentally strong women never do.
Here they are:
1) Talk down to themselves
Often we undermine ourselves in the most subtle of ways.
For instance, we can grow so used to the berating inner critic that we barely even notice it anymore.
Yet it chimes in throughout the day, putting us down, criticizing and critiquing everything we do.
The funny thing is, very few of us would allow others to talk to us in the way we all too often talk to ourselves.
Watching the way we speak to ourselves is so important for our own mental health.
When we feed ourselves disparaging thoughts, they turn into the negative and false beliefs we have about ourselves.
Mentally tough women do their best to speak to themselves as they would a friend or loved one.
2) Beat themselves up over past mistakes
There’s a world of difference between reflecting on the lessons of our mistakes and constantly reliving the pain.
Ruminating on what’s gone wrong only weakens us.
Reflecting on the other hand allows us to glean pearls of wisdom from any failures.
That way we can make changes that lead us toward a greater chance of success next time.
The irony is though, that focusing too much on our errors can make us get lost.
Instead of learning, we get stuck in recrimination.
A mentally strong woman knows that falling into the trap of beating yourself up can be a fatal error.
Instead, she learns lessons, forgives herself, and moves on.
3) Fall into the trap of overthinking
Hands up, I’m a total overthinker.
Thinking is a real strength, but overthinking can quickly turn into a mental weakness.
Rather than being a useful evaluation, as we’ve just seen in the point above, overthinking can turn into harmful rumination.
Mentally tough women discover the sweet spot:
They value problem-solving, which takes thought.
But they stop before it turns into second-guessing.
Once a decision has been made, they turn their attention to the doing, rather than waste energy on questioning themselves.
4) Let fear get the better of them
Fear is a perfectly natural part of life.
We all experience it. A certain amount is innate and designed to keep us safe.
A total lack of fear can be a risky thing. Imagine the scrapes we would get ourselves into.
But whilst some fear is good to keep us in check, other fear simply holds us back.
It stops us from going for that promotion, taking a risk on love, or saying yes to a new opportunity.
A mentally strong woman has not “conquered” her fear. But she has made peace with it.
In doing so she’s accepted that it might always come along for the ride, and it cannot be quickly banished.
Yet she knows that she can challenge it.
Her power lies in questioning her fear and looking at it objectively.
That way she can make sure her fear stays in the passenger seat, rather than becoming the driving force in her life.
5) Compare themselves (and their lives) to others
Shall we be honest?
I think every woman, in fact probably every person, on this planet has indulged in a little bit of comparisonitis at some point or another.
But mentally strong women know it’s best to nip that in the bud asap.
When we compare our own unique journey with someone else’s, it’s never a fair and equal comparison.
The reality is that it so often leads to feelings of lack.
Because rather than acknowledge all that we have, we’re too focused on what we think others have.
6) Burden themselves with unrealistic standards
Perfectionism is one of those sneaky habits that all too often gets mislabelled as a positive trait.
What do I mean by that?
Well, for example, it’s thrown around in job interviews as a “weakness” but with an underlying nod to the fact that deep down having perfect standards is really a good thing.
But sadly, it’s not. And the research backs that up.
Studies have noted how perfectionists have higher levels of stress, burnout, and anxiety. They’ve also shown that perfectionists set inflexible and excessively high standards.
So it’s probably no surprise that this attitude can lead to issues with self-worth and being overly critical.
A mentally strong woman recognizes that high standards are important, but perfection is an impossible goal.
Far from improving standards, this impossible bar will only mess with her mental health.
7) Let imposter syndrome hold them back
Imposter syndrome is rife.
Stats suggest that as many as 82% of us have experienced this confidence-knocking self-doubt.
According to clinical psychologist Audrey Ervin, Ph.D. imposter syndrome is characterized as:
“An ongoing fear that’s usually experienced by high-achieving individuals that they’re going to be ‘found out’ or unmasked as being incompetent or unable to replicate past successes”.
And there’s evidence to suggest it might hit women even harder.
Sadly self-doubt is a reality of life for most of us.
But mentally strong women know that they have to override this niggling voice in their brains that might question their abilities, strengths, or competency.
They don’t let it stop their ambitions or get in the way of them reaching for their goals.
8) Take things lying down
It’s going to come as no surprise that mentally strong women aren’t a pushover.
They put their strength to good use by speaking up for themselves and others.
The sad fact is that mentally tough women who are happy to use their voice can still be harshly judged by society.
Perhaps they are mislabelled as “bossy” or “feisty”. But what they really are is assertive and passionate.
Of course, every woman will decide what is important to her. She chooses the values and principles she wants to live her life by.
And that’s going to look different to everyone.
It’s less about being outspoken, and more about refusing to fearfully stay silent.
9) Mistake vulnerability as a weakness
The researcher and author Brene Brown has done wonders for giving vulnerability the status it deserves in recent years.
Because this sign of strength has been mislabeled as a weakness for far too long.
The tricky part is that displaying vulnerability can leave us feeling exposed. But that’s why it really is such a display of strength.
In the words of Brown:
“Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.”
On some level, it seems we do intuitively know the value of vulnerability, even if we’re reluctant to show it.
Because research has found that we find vulnerability appealing in others, despite fearing it makes us seem weak, inadequate, and flawed.
Experts call this phenomenon “the beautiful mess effect.”
Mentally strong women practice vulnerability.
They know that it is important in creating authentic relationships and showing up as our genuine selves.
10) They don’t dim their light
It can be tempting to hide away your talents and gifts for fear of outshining others.
Sure, boasting is pretty much universally viewed as ugly an quality to indulge in.
But the reality is that most of us have the opposite problem.
We find it uncomfortable to put ourselves forward and let others know exactly what we have to offer.
There’s a world of difference between bragging and downplaying your achievements and successes.
Humility is great. But mentally tough women allow themselves to feel proud of their efforts.
They feel confident and comfortable in taking compliments rather than trying to deflect or self-deprecate.
Feeling seen is a strange thing.
In equal parts, we can often be terrified by it, and yet deeply crave it.
It’s not that mentally strong women need the spotlight — largely because she has learned to look to herself for the bulk of her validation.
But neither is she afraid of it nor the attention it brings. She knows that she is deserving of it.
To conclude: Mental strength is about practice, not perfection
This article may highlight the things “mentally strong women never do” but the truth is that mental toughness:
- Doesn’t happen overnight
- Always has room for improvement and can be built up even more
So the truth of the matter is that mental strength is all about practice and not perfection.
There aren’t really things that mentally strong women have “never” done, because we usually learn through doing.
We figure things out by making mistakes.
It’s simply about becoming aware of the strong mental habits we all can cultivate for greater well-being.
And that involves staying away from the things that will ultimately harm us and drag us down.
That’s what mentally strong women really do best.
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