Build your mental and emotional muscles by giving up these patterns.
There has been a great deal of research in recent years about how positive emotions can build your resilience, help you bounce back from setbacks faster, and help you enjoy a better quality of life. However, similar to someone who adds vegetables to their diet, but refuses to give up all the sugary snacks, the full benefit of practicing positivity won’t be realized until some detrimental habits of thought are kicked to the curb.
Amy Morin, a licensed clinical social worker, psychotherapist, and author of 13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don’t Do writes that women especially have a tendency to buy into certain thought patterns that drain them. She describes mental strength as having three main parts: thoughts, feelings, and behavior; and they are all interrelated. Her list came out of interviews with women from across the country, and was inspired from the bravery of women speaking out as part of the #MeToo movement. Here are three ways to build your mental strength:
- Don’t compare yourself to other people. Oh, the pressure of trying to “keep up with Jones’ or your high school classmates on social media. Culturally, we are primed to compare ourselves to others—those we know, and those we see in commercials. Morin suggests “creating a rich-enough life that you won’t care what others are doing.” Minimizing exposure to media, social and mainstream, is a good way to start. Instead, focus on what you want to create in your life, and put that time and energy into creating it. It’s important to become aware of when you are comparing yourself, acknowledge your discomfort, and notice when your language includes “should”, “wish”, or “better”, and question those thoughts and ideas. Morin also suggests competing against yourself to become your personal best and “separating factual thoughts from judgements.”
- Don’t stay silent. Many women have started coming forward and sharing their stories of sexual abuse. This is an important step, and it’s just one example of what women have been silent about. Most women are raised to not speak up, to accept the status quo, and not to make waves. Many women fear not being believed when they speak up, or worse, being discredited, fired, or further attacked on other levels. We may also blame ourselves when something happens. Morin says an important first step is to “acknowledge what is happening.” She writes, “part of the reason we stay silent may stem from our inability to recognize when our rights have been violated or when we’ve been objectified.” From there, it’s important to tell someone, and also to speak up for others who aren’t able to speak for themselves.
- Don’t fear breaking the rules. There are so many rules, both seen and unseen in our culture. As girls, we “are taught to follow the rules,” and we are also generally more geared towards keeping the peace, which involves following the rules. Morin suggests “identifying the unwritten rules you follow” and then being accountable to yourself and own values. She cautions against “following the rules without considering whether they’re helpful and going with the flow even when you don’t want to.” The only way change will happen is if we are brave enough to question the attitudes that led us to where we are today.
We all have the capacity to build our mental and emotional strength. Many of Morin’s suggestions might feel scary or daunting. As we begin to explore the edges of our courage, and foster that in others around us, we can collectively move toward a future of greater opportunity and resilience.