Why You're Stronger Than You Think
... and how you can prove it to yourself.
Posted Apr 07, 2015
Whether you think you can’t handle being rejected by a love interest, or you’re convinced you can't deal with the uncertainty and discomfort associated with making a career change, second guessing your ability to tolerate distress will only hold you back in life.
In fact, the more you doubt your mental strength, the more important it is for you to prove to yourself that you're stronger than you know.
Allowing exaggeratedly negative self-talk to dictate your behavior will prevent you from reaching your potential. Just because you think you're not mentally strong enough to do or handle something doesn’t mean it’s true: You’re likely able to tolerate much more than you think.
The Mental Strength to Handle Discomfort
Choosing to avoid uncomfortable feelings offers immediate short-term relief, but avoidance can have long-term consequences:
- If you think, “I can’t stand being hungry,” you may eat to avoid the possibility that you’ll experience hunger, grabbing an extra snack before you head out of the house, or stopping to pick up an extra bite to eat before your commute home. Even when you don’t feel hungry, you may decide not to take any chances and eat as a preventative measure. Eventually, your waistline may suffer the consequences.
- Thinking, “I can’t deal with my job any longer,” will cause you to exaggerate your inability to tolerate stress. You may waste your evenings dreading going to work and spend your workday complaining about your stress level. As a result, you'll inadvertently increase your stress and reinforce to yourself that you're just not strong enough to handle it. Eventually, you'll likely quit—not because you really wanted to, but because you convinced yourself you weren't strong enough to handle the job.
- When you think, “I can’t give a presentation to the whole company,” it reinforces to you that you can't tolerate discomfort. Avoiding a public speaking opportunity, simply because you don't want to deal with your fear, embarrassment, or discomfort could prevent you from establishing yourself as an authority or getting a promotion.
Why Believing Your Self-Doubt is a Bad Idea
Just because you feel uncomfortable doesn’t mean you need to give up right away. Prove to yourself that you're strong enough to tolerate more than you think:
- Thinking you can’t stand something influences how you feel. You’re likely to feel a sense of dread, anxiety, or even anger as you approach something you think you can’t tolerate. As you experience more negative emotions, your thoughts can become exaggeratedly negative, creating a cycle of self-doubt.
- You'll struggle to reach your goals. Quitting because you don't want to be uncomfortable will prevent you from growing. The greatest things in life tend to happen outside our comfort zones. Doubting your ability to step outside of yours will keep you stuck.
- Giving up can become a habit. Quitting every time you face a new challenge can change how you view yourself. You may begin to believe that you’re weak or a failure because you can’t seem to stick with things long enough to see positive results.
When you think you're not strong enough, prove yourself wrong. If you think you can’t stand something for one more minute, stick around for two minutes just to prove to yourself that you can do it. If you think you can’t stand one more week at the office, resolve to work at least two more weeks. Make a conscious decision that you won’t allow negative thoughts to limit your potential.
This doesn’t mean you need to work at a job you hate for 30 years just to prove you can, but by working one day longer than you thought you could, you can prove to yourself that you’re mentally stronger than you gave yourself credit for. If and when you do choose to quit, then it will be on your terms, reflecting a decision based on a choice to improve your life, not made because you had to run away from uncomfortable feelings.
Conduct behavioral experiments that prove your self-doubt wrong and eventually, you'll change the way you think. You’ll begin to see that you have more mental strength than you ever imagined. You’ll be less likely to think about all the things you can't do, and more likely to recognize all the choices you have when you're your strongest and best self.
Amy Morin is a psychotherapist and the author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do, a bestselling book that is being translated into more than 20 languages. To hear her story behind the viral article turned book, watch the book trailer below.