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Mentally strong people can often seem like superheroes. Like winners of some genetic lottery, they seem bestowed with extraordinary abilities while the rest of us can only stand by in admiration – or envy. But actually, there are a lot of things that we misread about mentally strong people. For one thing, they are not superhuman, and while they may have talent, more than that, they have a work ethic that overrides any ability they may or may not have been born with. And they don’t escape the obstacles the rest of us face. Instead, they just look at them differently. But here are three things that will probably surprise you the most about mentally strong people:

 

 

They Are Not All Positive. There is nothing wrong with positive thinking. But thinking only in the positive isn’t thinking in reality. It’s called thinking in fantasy – or as those who study post-traumatic growth call it, illusory growth. Ignoring the fact that life isn’t all positive isn’t being mentally strong, it’s simply creating a fantasy. And no one knows this more than mentally strong people. Why? Because mentally strong people didn’t get to be the way they are by avoiding hardship. They got to be strong precisely because they had to face sometimes enormous setbacks. These setbacks didn’t diminish their strength, they revealed it. But they also taught them a valuable lesson, that life is not always easy, or positive. And ignoring the things that are not going well is just as dangerous as having never faced any hardship at all.

 

 

They Are Not Infallible. It’s so easy to focus on the accomplishments of great people and forget the years of practice, riddled with failure after failure. But, for mentally strong people, it is not in spite of these failures that they are strong, it is because of them. As one mentally strong person told me, “If you want to succeed more, fail more.” Why? Because for mentally strong people, it’s not a win or lose equation. It’s a win or learn equation. Failure is the necessary pressure that bends the learning curve in the right direction. Without it, you may not have mistakes, but you also won’t have progress. For this reason, mentally strong people don’t mind making mistakes, miscalculations, or having outright failures. Instead, they try hard, give their all, and bear the consequences – because the glory doesn’t come without it.

 

They Have Weaknesses. One huge difference between mentally strong people and everyone else is not that they don’t have weaknesses, but rather, that they admit them. Because what mentally strong people know is that hiding their flaws, only makes them that much more vulnerable. Why? Because when you don’t admit your flaws, you can’t do anything about them. But mentally strong people also know that getting strong, like most progress in life, is not linear. Some things get better, while others almost seem to get worse. That’s because that’s how growth works – it’s paradoxical in nature. While you may be feeling stronger, you are also more aware of the ways in which you are not strong. As you should be – because being strong isn’t about not having weaknesses, it is about not being shackled by your weaknesses.

Photo by MSVG