Before knowing How to be emotionally strong know this: Emotionally strong people do get hurt, but there is a difference.
In 2018, destiny waged war against me. Howling mournful winds didn’t, at all, favor — they didn’t only blow from North, South, East, West but from infinite directions.
That one call during my world history lecture flipped my life.
Carrying horrific news of my father’s sudden demise, that call posed a question — how was I still alive, didn’t even faint.
Reflecting on my current mental state, I can not promise I am a 100% mentally strong person — what I can promise is that I am striving ever since, hard, really hard.
And I qualify the researched traits fully.
Know that you are reading this post not because you desire to become a mentally strong person but because you want what all humans ultimately want: Happiness.
The wave of happiness splashes on mentally strong people frequently.
Because instead of passing a judgment, “Life is hard,” mentally strong questions, “Compared to what?”
Yes, losing someone is not easy. Failing is not easy — simply, handling pain isn’t easy.
But something decides being stuck in pain contrary to blossoming from it: the things you “do not do” — more than the things you actually do.
Let’s dive into How to be emotionally strong—the 3 behavior mentally strong people DO NOT adopt:
1. How to be emotionally strong: Do not wear the coat of self-pity
Self-pity is easily the most destructive of non-pharmaceutical narcotics; it is addictive, gives momentary pleasure, and separates the victim from reality.
— JOHN GARDNER
What is self-pity? It is excessive self-absorption of unhappiness over one’s troubles. It’s not a feeling but a judgment — not a temporary one but permanent.
It is a cycle of misery, an automatic defense mechanism, and addictive pleasure.
Research suggests it correlates with stigmas of lower self-esteem, hopelessness, and subordination.
Sadly, so far, scant empirical research has been carried out for this trait — a subject that reportedly promotes depression facets like loneliness and problematic behaviors.
Mentally strong ones never pity themselves; without question, they know it is self-destructive.
Let’s meet Mrs. Grinch.
With a hopeless expression, Mrs. Grinch shuts the alarm every day. The moment she swings the bristle of her toothbrush to and fro, ruminations attack her. Nodding in approval of how her problems are worse than anyone else’s, she sets the tone of the day. When sipping her espresso, she self-talks how her problems add at a much faster rate than anyone else’s and how others are oblivious to the harshness of life. She then scrolls through her phone and cancels all her outing plans, so she can stay at home — to think more of her problems. When night finally falls, she calls her loved one to tell what went wrong the whole day, to explain how the world is out to get her, and to blame others for her failed experiences.
Resonate with any of it? It is a sign of self-pity.
Causes of developing self-pity
- Self-pity acts as a defense mechanism against future dangers.
- It’s a great justification, liberating us from taking the blame upon ourselves.
- Self-pity guards one against others’ expectations — one gets least expected from, which is nothing but another way of avoiding responsibility.
- Self-pity prevents one from looking good in life, from dealing with messed-up emotions.
- Coming through as an unattractive characteristic, self-pity owns the capability of interfering with relationships — as victim mentality, without doubt, annoys everyone.
How to beat self-pity
A couple of years back, when life forced me to live by taking away my dad, I quickly fell prey to self-pity. But — instantly detested the feeling.
To remove it permanently, I verged on a new journey and took some measures.
1- Hunt worthy causes
I was not mentally-strong but strove to get rid of obsessive self-pity by volunteering.
I joined a non-profit organization near my locality, visited hospitals, random streets — what not?
I even sat on overhead bridges.
Talked to the less fortunate. Earned a significant realization — I was blessed. Wiping the tears of others helped me dry mine.
Refuse self-pity creeping into your life by performing small random acts of kindness because life is all about little things — small joyous moments that add meaning to casual days.
2- Spot behavioral acts
Interestingly, changing the “subject” when dealing with self-pity helps.
Ask yourself what advice will you give to others in trouble — trust me, you will be astonished by the encouraging words leaving your mouth.
I remember meeting an old lady on the street.
She was sitting all alone, lost in her thoughts. Sniffing the unusual, I opened up to her and, likewise, she did to me.
She had lost her brother a week before — terribly, last goodbyes were never said.
I kept telling her — this shall too pass, a piece of advice which I should have given, quite early on, to myself. So, remember you have all the wisdom within you.
3- Befriend gratitude
Did you ever frown when advised of “gratitude”? I did. It is hard — challenging to thank in the horrifying situation that pulled the ground off your feet.
But hearing from others reminded me of the areas which deserve gratitude in my life.
Ask others what they are grateful for and realize other unnoticed everyday blessings.
Practicing gratitude blew a fresh perspective in my mind.
As instead of complaining about why God took my father super early, I realized, at least, I got to live with the best person for 20 priceless years of my life.
So, remember to exchange self-pity with gratitude. See beyond the shadows of self-pity by keeping a gratitude journal.
To experience gratitude, one needs to put in an extra effort, acknowledge every microscopic generosity, identify small acts of kindness, affirm every goodness this world possesses — and, most importantly, appreciate every single breath.
In a nutshell
I know misery loves the company of self-pity.
But I also know what happiness loves — it loves when we make a conscious choice towards it.
Remember, living every day with joy is a conscious choice. Refusing to behave pitifully is a choice.
Embracing gratitude is a choice.
To assist such decisions, one needs to flip old behavior patterns and sink into some new ones.
Without question, sorrow spares none — and it is our reaction to such situations that make us mentally healthy.
2. How to be emotionally strong: Do not shy away from change
It’s not that some people have willpower and some don’t. . . It’s that some people are ready to change, and others are not. — JAMES GORDON
Mentally strong people never avoid the thoughts of change — neither do they allow emotions to dictate excuses to overpower and negative aspects of adaptation to overshadow.
Mrs. Grinch also shies away from making changes in her daily routine and behaviors. All her bad habits, according to her, aren’t that bad. The thought of even the slightest change alarms her of anxiety. The changes make her uncomfortable, as she thinks they won’t, anyway, last long.
Causes of fearing change
- Change is overwhelming, uncomfortable, and risky.
- We lack enough motivation for positive change.
- Giving up is easy; changing sounds like a commitment.
- Stagnancy in personal growth coupled with the toll on health.
- Lack of change invites monotony in life, welcoming the air of depression.
- One remains stuck in the loop of bad habits.
- Interestingly, others outgrow, leaving you in the same old rut–miles away from success.
How to change?
After my dad, I changed my career from computer science to communication and design. It did bring uncomfortable emotions — choosing to do something different required me to adopt new thinking and behavior.
But I tried my best not to shy away. What helped me manage such a change?
1- Ponder reasons to change
I deeply examined the reasons to change — the ultimate motivation. So remember, creating a list of pros to change can become a motivational pivot.
Analyzing the potential consequences to change compared to staying the same can help one make wiser decisions.
2- Act from the present
I acted from the state of my result, of being a successful designer, and mirrored an ideal future self in the present. Remember, behaving like the person you want to become can help you take a proactive lead in becoming that person.
For instance, if you wish to have more friends, ask yourself if you are ready to be more friendly?
In a nutshell
Mentally strong people invite behavioral and routine changes.
Any change is not easy to achieve — not because we are lazy, but because it fears us with the unknown. But if we affirm, no fear can overpower.
3. How to be emotionally strong: Do not fear alone time
“If you learn to really sit with loneliness and embrace it for the gift that it is…an opportunity to get to know YOU, to learn how strong you really are, to depend on no one but YOU for your happiness…you will realize that a little loneliness goes a LONG way in creating a richer, deeper, more vibrant and colorful YOU.” ― Mandy Hale
Mentally healthy people have alone time on their priority list — and to them, instead of being scary, such a time seems a fun outlet.
These people don’t fear alone time and feel the need to take time out of busy schedules and think.
Contrary to the prevalent association of alone time being unproductive, a 2000 study called “Cognitive Stimulation in Brainstorming” proved how spending time in solitude boosts productivity.
Mental strong people have their thoughts sorted, thus experiencing a lower depression rate. A 1990 study called “The solitary side of life: An examination of the time people spend alone from childhood to old age” proves how fifth to ninth graders who spent moderate amounts of time alone were less likely to exhibit behavioral problems.
Mrs. Grinch has been after her doctor to prescribe sleep medications. At night, waves of thoughts float across her mind. Her nerves explode and backaches, for she remains awake for hours, inspecting thoughts. Flashbacks conquer her mind, posing a question of what she could have done better instead. Following the flashbacks, the ghost of the future enters her thoughts, worrying her about milestones to conquer. She hates nighttime — as rumination awaits her.
Mrs.Grinch is not mentally healthy, as her night time overlaps with her alone time. Her ruminations at night are like that rocking chair that keeps swinging without reaching any destination.
Causes of fearing alone time
- Equating alone time with loneliness is a significant cause of fearing it. When growing their children up, parents lock their kids into their room and set a curfew of not letting them out to play — building up a negative image of being alone since then. Alone time becomes a punishment. No doubt assail that a long period of extreme isolation is unhealthy. However, due to its negative correlation, even the shorter period seems unpleasant.
- The overbooked calendar seems fancy and productive — offering a feeling of being someone important. The number of phone calls you receive and “things to do” you decide your spot on the success ladder.
- Thinking is dull. Mentally-less strong people consider thinking fruitless, so the tiniest escape from work to them means a mindless engagement on social media, text messages, or random calls.
- If you’ll consider alone time as a waste during the day, then it forcefully makes its way to your mind when you’ll crawl into your bed — at that particular instance, the thoughts, for sure, do nothing but waste your time. Not spending time with yourself, like Mrs. Grinch, steals your sleeping time and haunts you at night.
- Not spending time with yourself puts you under stress.
How to befriend alone time?
Dedicating thinking time during the day is the most empowering act one can perform to improve life quality. Here is what helped me:
1- Deconstruct yourself
I was sick of analyzing my surroundings and research papers in my studies. So, I journal away my thoughts to deconstruct myself and understand my emotions — it did wonders for my mental health.
Transferring all my thoughts on paper helped me with solutions — the ones no therapist would have given. Your brains know you, and you do not, yet, know this.
2- Plan a date
I intentionally plan out alone time — it is always on my to-do list. Interestingly, a 2011 research study titled “An Exercise to Teach the Psychological Benefits of Solitude: The Date with the Self” concluded a decent number of participants felt serenity and calmness in conscious solitude.
So intentionally schedule such an alone time to appreciate silence, at least once a month.
In a nutshell:
Tolerating alone time means conquering restoration, satisfaction, and happiness.
Creating time to be alone with your thoughts can be a powerful experience, instrumental in helping you reach your goals.
Get out of this perpetuating cycle of nighttime racing thoughts, like mentally strong people, by befriending alone time during the day. Remember, solitude is choosing to be alone with your thoughts.
Final words for How to be emotionally strong:
Having seen 3 strategies for How to be emotionally strong do this: If you were to use a mental toughness slider for yourself, where will you land up? You probably would not have an exact answer. And interestingly, you are not even supposed to have one.
Because every person is like a leg: some are stronger bones than the others — but apply enough pressure, they too break.
This example shows mental strength is not about the comparison of who is stronger but about self-realization.
Mentally strong people do self-pity, resist change, fear alone time — but they do not stay in the loop of these 3 characteristics for too long.
Jumping off at the right time is the key.
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