We all want to be mentally strong to cope when bad things happen. But being mentally strong is not only for bad times, it’s for good times too. Being mentally strong is all about the way you interpret and explain to yourself the stuff that happens in your life. It’s an attitude you put into practice every day.

In previous Building Resilience Updates, I described what mental toughness is (here) and have also given the formula of how to be mentally strong (here). Now I am going to describe five things that mentally strong people don’t do and some give some alternatives.


1. Wallow in the past

Some people live their lives focussed on the past, not letting go of the “good old glory days” or even the more common “how awful it was”. While it’s important to acknowledge what has happened in the past and learn from it, it’s really sad if you are stuck in the past.

A mentally strong person works hard to let go of the past. They live their lives in the moment, striving to be as present as they are able. They say things to themselves like: “I cannot change the past but I can change my future” and “Tough times don’t last, tough people do.”


2. Over blame themselves

We all make mistakes and do things we later regret. Some people don’t take appropriate responsibility for what they have done. Other people take too much responsibility, and blame themselves for things that are actually beyond their control. They over blame themselves for what has happened. They continually beat themselves up, and are filled with self blame and guilt – “It’s all my fault and I am really stupid.”

A mentally strong person interprets what’s happened by frankly admitting to themselves the mistakes they have made. They don’t over blame themselves for what has happened, and don’t take responsibility for more than their role. They apologise and when appropriate try to make restitution. They say things to themselves like: “Stuff happens” and “How can I accept this, what can I learn from this and is there an opportunity?”


3. Allow negative emotions to spread

When something horrid happens to you, and you feel really bad about it, the negative feelings sometimes spill over into other areas of your life. When negative feelings bleed like this into other areas of your life, you interpret the impact to be widespread and pervasive, affecting all areas of your life.

A mentally strong person interprets the impact of the horrid things to specific areas in their life and their self worth. This enables them to prevent something negative in one area of their life negatively impacting throughout their life. They say things to themselves like: “I was criticised and blamed in that meeting, but I am loved at home” and “That which does not kill you, makes you stronger.”


4. Over dramatise the impact of negative events

Sometimes it feels as if the impact of something dreadful is going to last forever. The more you think and worry about it, the more you get caught up in how unfair it is, how awful it is, and the injustice of it all. We interpret the impact in our lives as being permanent and lasting forever.

A mentally strong person interprets the impact of a negative incident as having a temporary impact. They say things to themselves like: “This too will pass” and “Tough times don’t last, tough people do.”


5. Feel the world owes them something

When things don’t go well, it’s easy to inappropriately feel the world owes you something. In fact there are the three irrational beliefs which are guaranteed to cause misery (reference here):

  • I should do well
  • You should treat me well
  •  The world should be easy.

A mentally strong person understands that the world does not owe them anything. So they work hard to succeed on their own merits. They say things to themselves like: “It is what it is” and “I make my own luck.”


The challenge to you is to avoid these five things mentally strong people don’t do. If however you feel vulnerable in one of these areas, change your thinking and you will change your life.