Psychological, intellectual, and emotional strength is, in many ways, the ability to perceive reality for what it really is, and then manage your emotions about those observations in a healthy, productive manner.
Mental strength is revealed by both what we do and, at other times, by what we don’t do.
Here are 14 signs of a mentally strong individual…
14. Self and self-sufficiency
You have a clear and strong sense of self. You are not codependent or manipulative or possessive or controlling. You know how to deal with your problems.
You don’t fear being alone, yet you are not afraid of people either. You don’t want others to save you, nor do you try to rescue or fundamentally change others.
You don’t rely on other people to manage your emotions, nor do you act your emotions out on them.
13. Healthy self-esteem
Sometimes high, healthy self-esteem is confused with narcissism (symbols of status: fake self-confidence, disrespectful behavior, looks, money, power, fame, ability to manipulate others)—and vice versa.
A mentally strong person is neither falsely self-confident nor timid.
You are aware of and accept your strengths and weaknesses. You have learned to accurately self-evaluate and self-validate, so that you are neither dependent on praise from others nor devastated by rejection.
12. Proactivity instead of passivity or reactivity
You recognize that you are responsible for your own life. If there is a problem, you can weigh your options and make a decision.
In comparison, a passive person usually feels overwhelmed or disconnected, to the degree where he or she feels paralyzed and incapacitated to take any action. Similarly, a reactive person simply automatically reacts to things instead of consciously making decisions.
Passive or reactive people are rarely aware that they are making decisions in their life. Proactive people are mindful of their emotions, thoughts, and motives. You enjoy living your life, even if it is challenging.
11. A rational, present mind
You see reality as it is. You are good at accurately conceptualizing reality by using reason, logic, observation, and common sense. In comparison, irrational people, even if they are highly logical, can only come up with conclusions or connections that kind of make sense to them but are objectively terribly short-sighted or simply ludicrous.
You are able to maintain a high level of awareness, where you can accept the situation as it is without deluding yourself or being unable to regulate your emotions.
You know how to be in the present moment without being stuck in the past or constantly worrying about the future.
10. Emotional literacy and self-reflection
You are in touch with your emotions. You are able to recognize what exactly you feel, for what reason, and what it means in relation to your existence.
You don’t rush through life. You take time to look back and reflect on what is going on in your internal and external world. You think about what happened to you in your life, or what is happening, and actively make decisions about your behavior based on your authentic emotions and reality.
You can effectively resolve your past trauma and grow as a human being.
9. Empathy and compassion
Mentally strong people have an acute sense of empathy for themselves and by extension feel empathetic towards others. Empathy doesn’t necessarily mean that you agree with other people or their actions, but you understand how others feel, think, and act, and why.
Another extension of self-empathy is compassion. Because you understand how you feel, and because you understand how others may feel, you have a lot of compassion for those who are legitimately hurting.
Adaptability is one of the most useful character traits to have. Mentally strong people are able to adapt to change quickly and stay reasonable in a problematic or unexpected situation.
It also means being able to adapt when things go wrong, as they tend to do in life. You have the confidence that you will be fine because you are adaptable; you think about situations, but you don’t obsess or worry about them because you know you will be able to deal with it when it happens.
7. Accepting what is and isn’t in your control
You understand that there are many things that are outside your control. Wanting to be in control of everything is a classic sign of chronic anxiety and existential insecurity.
You are able to differentiate between what you can and cannot control. Shifting focus from things that are not in your control results in feeling better, discovering new options and opportunities, and overall happiness.
6. Healthy self-focus
Instead of concentrating on what you can’t control or having grandiose or disturbing goals, you simply live your life as healthfully and as consciously as possible.
You don’t play social games and you don’t like to associate with people who do.
You don’t follow ideologies and don’t give into social, political, and philosophical narratives, agendas, and drama. You don’t try to change everyone around you to meet your tastes. You don’t worry about what your neighbor is thinking or may be doing wrong. You don’t stalk or pick fights with people on social media.
You actively create a better life for yourself, without aggressing against others, starting with your own self and your immediate environment.
5. Not feeling entitled
You accept that nobody owes you a thing. In fact, the universe doesn’t care about you.
If you want something, you have to take the initiative to get it. You also accept that sometimes life is not fair and not everyone starts with the same deck, including you. This, however, doesn’t mean that you should be unfair to others.
4. Helping others out of kindness
Fundamentally, everyone is responsible for their own life. There are no unchosen positive obligations. By default, you don’t owe anybody anything, just like others don’t owe you.
Mentally strong people are considerate and helpful. However, giving and helping others is an act of kindness, not an obligation.
You are helpful and caring, but you don’t feel responsible for other people’s well-being, just like nobody is responsible for yours. You can be helpful and generous, without feeling guilty or responsible.
3. Healthy relationships
The foundation of healthy relationships is boundaries.
You treat others fairly, which means you love and respect those who are worthy of it, and don’t waste your resources (time, money, energy) on toxic people or tolerate their disturbing behavior.
If you come across something that seems toxic or unhealthy, you make a decision about it instead of reacting emotionally or passively accepting it. You are reevaluating your relationships with others on a regular basis and coming to conclusions that will help maintain your boundaries.
2. Not trying to please everyone
The truth is that no matter who you are and what you do, there will be people who dislike you. You don’t like everybody, so it’s only natural that not everybody will like you.
Mentally strong people don’t aggress against or mistreat others but also accept that social rejection is unavoidable—and that’s okay.
1. Saying ‘no’
Mentally strong people know when to say ‘no’. They know where their emotional responsibility ends and another person’s begins, and vice versa.
They feel comfortable standing up for themselves, and have learned that saying no to boundary violations, aggression, and unjust behavior benefits them in the end. They don’t feel shame or guilt about it, and instead feel liberation and freedom.
Did you notice any of these signs in yourself or others? Is there anything you would add to the list? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below or in your personal journal.
Photo: Eileen McFall
For more on these and other topics, check out the author’s books: Human Development and Trauma: How Childhood Shapes Us into Who We Are as Adults and Self-Work Starter Kit.