13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don't Do: Own Your Power, Channel Your Confidence, and Find Your Authentic Voice for a Life of Meaning and Joyby Amy Morin
13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don't Do is a book that will help every woman cultivate their mental resilience. From addressing the pressing issues of sexual assault to tackling equal pay disparities and mastering negotiation skills, it equips women with the tools to build their mental fortitude while highlighting what they should avoid. By emphasizing that mentally strong women don't strive for perfection, refrain from comparing themselves to others, perceive vulnerability as a weakness, or let self-doubt hinder their aspirations, this invaluable guide empowers every woman to thrive and make meaningful contributions to society as a whole.
They Don't Compare Themselves to Others
Comparing ourselves to others can have detrimental effects on our self-esteem and overall well-being. When we constantly measure our worth against others, it often leads to negative emotions such as envy, insecurity, and a sense of insignificance. This unhealthy habit also fosters a mindset where life is seen as a competition, and we may start to feel that we are not progressing as quickly or successfully as we should be.
The rise of social media has significantly amplified the tendency to compare oneself to others. Platforms like Instagram and Facebook frequently feature carefully curated images of seemingly perfect lives, often using attractive individuals to promote products. This portrayal creates the illusion that these individuals are happier, healthier, and wealthier than us, further fueling the comparison trap.
Psychology professor Renee Engeln from Northwestern University has referred to this phenomenon as "beauty sickness." It highlights the ease with which people can become consumed by comparing themselves to others, particularly due to the cultural pressure to constantly strive for improvement. In our quest to assess our own progress, we often look to those around us for reference, using them as benchmarks to gauge our own success or failure. However, this practice rarely motivates individuals to strive for better outcomes; instead, it tends to weigh them down and impede their progress.
To break free from this trap, we need to do three things: first, try to reduce the likelihood of comparing ourselves to others; second, challenge the unfair comparisons we make by changing our thinking; and finally, deal with the discomfort we feel when others have more than us.
Most importantly, we need to shift our focus. Instead of worrying about what others are doing, we should concentrate on creating a fulfilling life for ourselves. When we have a rich enough life, we won't even care about comparing ourselves to others.
Actions to take
They Don't Insist on Perfection
Perfectionism, a tendency to strive for flawlessness and high standards, is a common but unhealthy habit observed in many women. This pursuit of perfection can have detrimental effects on various aspects of their lives, including physical well-being, financial stability, emotional health, and social relationships.
Research conducted in 2009 and published in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology revealed that a larger proportion of women, compared to men, often feel like they fall short of meeting their own lofty standards when it comes to their professional and family commitments. This suggests that women may be more susceptible to experiencing the negative impacts of perfectionism.
Even highly accomplished individuals, such as Gwyneth Paltrow, an Academy Award and Golden Globe Award winner, have openly shared their struggles with feelings of inadequacy and the constant pursuit of perfection. It only shows that even those who seem to have achieved great success can be affected by the detrimental effects of perfectionism.
Perfectionism can come from different sources. Some people think that being perfect will make them loved and accepted, so they push themselves to be flawless in the hope of gaining approval from others. Others might be more prone to perfectionism due to their biology.
The way we were raised by our parents can also play a role. If they were about achievement and didn't tolerate mistakes, we might grow up thinking we must be perfect. Moreover, the glorification and sensationalism of success in society can create unrealistic standards, fueling the desire for perfection. And if someone has experienced trauma in the past, it can make them even more prone to perfectionism as a way to cope.
When we constantly try to live up to perfectionist standards, it can lead to self-defeating behaviors like binge-eating and procrastination. It also increases the risk of burnout, makes us afraid of trying new things, raises the chances of mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, and even increases the risk of premature death. Plus, it's harder to be successful when we're constantly striving for perfection, and it can even increase the risk of suicide.
The good news is that there are ways to overcome perfectionist tendencies. It starts with recognizing the negative impact that perfectionism has on our lives. We need to accept our flaws and be kinder to ourselves, understanding that it's okay to be imperfect.
Actions to take
They Don't See Vulnerability as a Weakness
A lot of people think vulnerability is a weakness, but that's simply not true. Being vulnerable doesn't mean you're soft or weak. In fact, it's the opposite: it takes strength to put yourself out there and risk getting hurt.
People who see vulnerability as a weakness often struggle to form deep connections with others. They tend to keep conversations superficial and are afraid of getting hurt or rejected.
Unfortunately, many women feel afraid to be vulnerable, and there are different reasons for that. Some might have experienced trauma in their childhood that makes it hard for them to open up. Others might have faced judgment or criticism for showing their emotions.
To overcome this fear, there are a few things we can do. First, we need to find the courage to put ourselves in situations where we might be judged. This means taking risks and stepping outside of our comfort zones, despite the potential for pain or rejection.
Second, we need to identify the protective armor we have built around ourselves that prevents us from being vulnerable. This could be certain defense mechanisms or coping strategies we have developed over time.
Third, embracing vulnerability means accepting our own story. It's about acknowledging our experiences, both good and bad, and understanding how they've shaped us. By being authentic and owning our story, we can connect with others on a deeper level.
Lastly, it is important to exercise discernment and be conscious of when and with whom we choose to be vulnerable. Not everyone deserves to hear about our vulnerabilities. Building a foundation of trust is crucial before opening up to someone. Sharing our vulnerabilities requires a level of mutual respect and understanding in a relationship.
Throughout our journey of embracing vulnerability, it is essential to remember that we do not have to confront all our fears and vulnerabilities at once. Instead, we can take small steps each day toward becoming a little more vulnerable. This gradual approach allows us to grow at our own pace and be confident in expressing our authentic selves.
Actions to take
They Don't Let Self-Doubt Stop Them From Reaching Their Goals
The conversations we engage in with ourselves play a crucial role in shaping our confidence and determining whether we will take action toward our goals. It is natural for everyone to experience moments of self-doubt, but some individuals allow this doubt to impede their progress.
Self-doubt often arises when we dwell on negative past experiences or envision unfavorable outcomes in the future. However, it is important to recognize that these mental images or memories are often exaggerated or distorted, yet we tend to perceive them as reality.
When we are consumed by self-doubt, our behavior tends to differ from when we are filled with confidence. Over time, persistent self-doubt can have a detrimental impact on our mental well-being. A study published in 2002 in Personality and Individual Differences revealed that self-doubt leads to heightened discomfort with uncertainty, an increased need for approval from others, lower self-esteem, elevated levels of anxiety and depression, and a tendency to procrastinate.
What's even more troubling is that self-doubts can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Continuously convincing ourselves that we will fail is the fastest way to ensure that we won't succeed. Unfortunately, women often underestimate their own abilities.
A 2003 study conducted by researchers at Cornell University found that women tend to undervalue their abilities while men tend to overestimate theirs. This disparity may explain why women are less likely to apply for promotions. When women believe they cannot accomplish something, they are less likely to attempt it. Self-doubt may also contribute to women's hesitancy to negotiate higher salaries. If we lack faith in ourselves, it becomes difficult to advocate for better compensation.
The presence of self-doubt can lead us to make mistakes and conclude that we are destined for failure. This thought pattern makes it more difficult to make sound decisions, thereby perpetuating the cycle of self-doubt.
To break free from this cycle, it is essential to monitor our emotions, objectively examine the evidence supporting our doubts, consider the worst-case scenario, embrace a little self-doubt, and steadfastly refuse to let self-doubt impede our progress. By adopting these strategies, we can overcome self-doubt and confidently pursue our goals.
Actions to take
They Don't Overthink Everything
Self-reflection and self-awareness are good for us. They help us understand ourselves better and grow as individuals. But there's a point where thinking too much can become a problem.
When we overthink, we get caught up in destructive thought patterns like rumination and constant worrying. Rumination is when we keep thinking about our problems, their causes, and what might happen because of them. Instead of focusing on finding solutions, we just keep replaying the problems in our minds. It usually revolves around the past or things we can't change.
Overthinking isn't just an annoying habit. It can seriously affect our well-being. It increases the risk of mental health issues and makes existing problems worse. It's harder to bounce back from challenges because our thoughts get consumed by the obstacles we face. We end up getting stuck in a state of overanalysis, where we can't make decisions or take action because we're too busy overthinking. It can even lead to unhealthy behaviors and mess with our sleep. It can also put a strain on our relationships.
So, instead of overthinking our problems, a far better approach is to change the channel by doing something else. Get up and move, listen to music, call a friend, go outside, or dance around the room. Taking a break from the problem can help you make better decisions. You can also try changing the situation or the way you think to heal old wounds. Practicing mindfulness can also contribute to reducing overthinking and promoting a healthier mindset.
Actions to take
They Don't Avoid Tough Challenges
Tough challenges have the potential to be valuable learning experiences. They can teach us important lessons about ourselves and the world around us. In fact, they can even reveal our hidden strengths and resilience.
When faced with a difficult challenge, our natural instinct is often to try and minimize the negative emotions associated with it. We want to decrease feelings of fear, dread, and anxiety that may arise. While it's important to acknowledge and address these emotions, it is equally crucial to recognize the power of increasing positive emotions in such situations.
By consciously boosting our mood and cultivating positive emotions, we can empower ourselves to face challenges head-on. When we are in a positive state of mind, we tend to feel more confident and optimistic about our abilities. This optimism can provide the necessary motivation and belief in ourselves to take the leap and tackle the challenge before us.
Moreover, when we are happy and experiencing positive emotions, we naturally gravitate towards focusing on the positive aspects of moving forward. We become more attuned to the potential opportunities, growth, and rewards that can come from overcoming the challenge. This positive perspective enables us to approach the situation with a constructive mindset, seeking solutions and embracing the possibilities for personal development.
Actions to take
They Don't Fear Breaking the Rules
In our society, we often find ourselves inclined to follow the rules diligently, assuming that it is the best course of action. While being a rule-follower certainly has its advantages, it is important to recognize that there are instances when breaking the rules can actually lead to a more fulfilling life.
Some rules we adhere to are not explicitly written down but rather stem from fear or societal pressures. For example, there is an unwritten rule that advises against speaking up when being harassed at work. This guideline often arises from the fear of potential backlash and its detrimental impact on one's career. Despite the existence of legal protections for those who choose to raise their voices against harassment, many individuals, particularly women, have been conditioned to avoid making waves and conform to this unspoken norm.
Apart from being detrimental, such rules can sometimes hold women back from realizing their full potential. They may become so invested in doing everything "right" that they struggle to recognize the possibilities that arise from challenging social norms and unofficial regulations.
When you find yourself avoiding something you truly want to do because you fear it goes against the established rules, it can be tempting to give in and comply. However, it is crucial to acknowledge that societal expectations and norms can hinder your ability to make choices that are genuinely in your best interest. It is essential to remind yourself that conformity also carries consequences.
Breaking the rules, whether they are official regulations or unwritten norms, requires courage. Taking that initial step towards defying the status quo can be a challenging task. Nevertheless, it is often through this act of rebellion that you can pave the way for a better life for yourself and those around you.
Actions to take
They Don't Put Others Down to Lift Themselves Up
Respecting others is important for maintaining a positive and harmonious life and work environment. Unfortunately, some of us have this bad habit of putting others down for two main reasons: either we think it'll make us feel better about ourselves, or it's a way to deal with feeling put down by others. However, it is essential to recognize that this behavior only perpetuates a negative cycle and fails to yield any positive outcomes.
In clinical terms, putting others down in an "adult" manner is referred to as relational aggression. This includes engaging in activities such as rumor-mongering, sabotage, exclusion, public ridicule, and gossip. Regrettably, many people fall into the trap of indulging in these destructive actions.
When we participate in actions that belittle others, it can inflict long-lasting emotional wounds. The way we speak and act toward one another has the power to cause significant damage. The story of Kelly Valen serves as an example of this.
Kelly was a college student who joined a sorority during her university years. In her first semester, she eagerly accepted an invitation to a frat party from an attractive young man. However, after consuming excessive amounts of alcohol, she passed out when he led her upstairs. Shockingly, he proceeded to rape her while some of his fraternity brothers watched. Although a few tried to intervene, none were able to prevent the assault.
Tragically, in the aftermath of this traumatic event, Kelly's sorority sisters engaged in gossip and confrontation. Some even went as far as blaming her for bringing shame upon the sorority and holding her accountable for the assault. As a result, she was ultimately expelled from the sorority. The immense betrayal she experienced had a profoundly detrimental impact on Kelly's mental well-being.
Apart from the emotional harm it causes, putting others down can also hold them back from succeeding. Especially for women, there aren't many top positions available, so they feel threatened by other women who could be their competitors. That's why some women talk badly about their female rivals to keep them from succeeding. But the more they do this, the harder it becomes for them to progress.
Breaking the habit of putting others down may initially present challenges, but the rewards are significant. Over time, you will begin to witness the positive impact it has on the lives of others, as well as your own. Luckily, there are some helpful strategies to help you combat this destructive behavior.
Actions to take
They Don't Let Others Limit Their Potential
Rejection and harsh criticism can be tough to handle, whether it's someone telling you that you'll never succeed or being turned down for a promotion. However, it's important not to let these negative experiences hold you back.
In a study conducted in 2010 by researchers from Wake Forest University, it was revealed that when individuals criticize others, it often reflects more upon themselves than the individuals they are critiquing. This realization underscores the importance of not internalizing what others say about you.
For instance, the person who labeled you a loser online may feel like a loser themselves, or the coworker who complains about your communication skills might simply be expressing frustration at feeling unheard. Consequently, these criticisms are not necessarily a true reflection of your worth or how others perceive you.
So, instead of allowing the opinions of others to hinder your growth, it is crucial to take proactive measures and liberate yourself from such limiting beliefs. While it is impossible to alter past instances where you may have been affected by others' criticisms, you can always forge ahead with confidence and shape the life you desire.
Actions to take
They Don't Blame Themselves When Something Goes Wrong
Taking responsibility for our behaviors is an important aspect of personal growth and development. It allows us to acknowledge our role in the outcomes and consequences of our actions. However, it is essential to strike a balance and avoid excessive self-blame, as it can have several negative implications.
One significant consequence of excessive self-blame is its impact on our psychological well-being. When we feel overwhelmingly guilty or responsible for something, it can significantly affect our mental health. Research has shown that self-blame is associated with feelings of shame, self-disgust, and self-loathing. This emotional burden can lead to various psychological issues such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
On top of that, blaming ourselves too much can make us less empathetic toward others. If we think we're 100% responsible for everything, we start expecting the same from everyone else. So, when someone is going through a tough time or facing financial struggles, we may think it's their fault or that they should handle it better. This lack of self-compassion can strain our relationships.
In addition, toxic self-blame can lead to burnout. When we assume excessive personal responsibility, we may constantly feel like we are not doing enough, regardless of the positive impact we are making. For example, a person who blames themselves for being abused may exhaust themselves by attempting to change their behavior or becoming more submissive in hopes of ending the abuse. When these efforts prove futile, the cycle of self-blame continues, and they may eventually experience burnout.
What's more, self-blame keeps us focused on trying to fix ourselves, even when there's nothing wrong with us. Instead of recognizing external factors that contribute to our situation, we get stuck thinking we're the problem.
To deal with self-blame in a healthier way, we can do a few things, such as talk to a professional, change the story we tell ourselves, ask for forgiveness, and make reparations.
Actions to take
They Don't Stay Silent
We've all been in situations where we chose not to speak up when something was wrong. Maybe it was that time we didn't say anything when someone made a sexist remark or when a family member violated our rights.
But when we stay silent, the problem persists. Perpetrators continue their harmful actions, and they become even more deeply rooted in our culture. Plus, staying quiet takes a toll on our mental strength. It's exhausting to hide our secrets, suppress our opinions, and bury our ideas. Instead of wasting energy on silencing ourselves, we could channel it into more productive endeavors.
Sure, speaking up doesn't always bring immediate results. But that doesn't mean we should give up. Even if we don't see instant change, our voices have the power to inspire others to speak out and work towards positive transformations. Finding our voice means we no longer have to waste mental energy keeping secrets or stifling our opinions. We can redirect that energy towards something more purposeful.
Actions to take
They Don't Feel Bad About Reinventing Themselves
It's important to reinvent yourself every now and then to ensure continuous learning, personal growth, and adaptability in life. But it can be scary to change something about yourself, even if you believe it's for the better.
The good news is that reinventing yourself doesn't mean you have to completely transform your entire life. It can be as simple as making a few effective changes that enhance your own life or even someone else's. There are many ways you can reinvent yourself, such as by changing a habit, exploring spirituality, finding a new job, meeting new people, picking up a hobby, changing your appearance a bit, adjusting your attitude, reevaluating your priorities, learning a new skill, and so on.
Actions to take
They Don't Downplay Their Success
Failure is often perceived as an unpleasant encounter, yet surprisingly, significant turmoil can also arise from success, especially for numerous women. Several women struggle to embrace their accomplishments or worry about being labeled as self-centered, resulting in them refraining from acknowledging their own success.
When women are unable to acknowledge their accomplishments, they often feel like impostors or frauds. They never truly feel at ease with their achievements and, as a result, fail to reach their full potential. It is a pervasive issue that inhibits personal and professional growth.
Some women may adopt the strategy of downplaying their accomplishments, thinking that it will make others feel better about themselves or prevent them from feeling intimidated. However, this behavior does not reflect genuine humility. Instead, it is an act of self-shrinking driven by their own discomfort with success, coupled with the desire to avoid making others feel inadequate.
If you find yourself in a situation where your success seems to offend or upset others, it indicates that something is amiss. It could be a sign of a broken relationship, diminished self-worth, or unresolved past traumas. It is important to understand that minimizing oneself does not solve these underlying problems. Putting yourself down will not make someone else look better, just as belittling others does not enhance your own image. It is possible to express appreciation for someone or acknowledge their significance without diminishing your own worth.