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Last Updated on November 25, 2019

5 Ways to Help Yourself Advance Your Mental Strength

5 Ways to Help Yourself Advance Your Mental Strength

When life knocks you down and leaves you feeling battered and bruised, how do you help yourself get back into the game?

The natural reaction is to spiral into panic and worry. Let’s face it, a knockdown can be emotionally and mentally exhausting.

I think we can all agree that life can be a roller coaster ride at times. The way that I see it is that you can either scream your way through it or strap yourself in and move with the mess.

I believe that the core difference between those who thrive through life, versus those who fall apart at the first sign of struggle, is their mental strength.

Mental strength refers to the resilience and strength that people possess to soldier through struggles and succeed.[1] It is the secret sauce that allows you to push past exhaustion when everything in your body says just quit, but your mind refuses to give up.

The Importance of Advancing Your Mental Strength?

Mentally strong people decide from day one that they will not allow their circumstances to define or destroy them. When something doesn’t go their way, they don’t curl up in a ball and give up.

Instead, they stand back up, wipe away their tears, and use the challenges as opportunities to prove to themselves and the world that they can overcome anything and everything.

I’ve got great news. Mental strength isn’t a superhuman trait. Instead, it’s something that you can develop and master, through trial and error. I believe that all of us have the capacity to conquer life’s greatest challenges.

Take a moment and think back to a challenge that you had to overcome. What traits did you have to pull upon in order to get through that difficult time?

We don’t give ourselves enough credit for how far we’ve come, and what it took for us to get to where we are today. I’ve faced countless setbacks in my life, one of which was a car accident that almost left me paralyzed.

At the time, it’s fair to say that being “positive pam” wasn’t on the top of my list. There were countless times when I just wanted to give up, but I didn’t. That’s all that matters.

I was committed to doing whatever was required of me in order to come back stronger than ever before.

Let’s face it… life doesn’t always like your plans.

Sometimes you’ve just got to roll with the punches. When life hits you, why not hit back harder? You’ve got nothing to lose by trying. By no means do I have it all figured out. None of us do.

However, I do know that the tough times have made me a stronger and more resilient human being. The train wreck moments when my life felt as if it was falling apart proved to be signs that better things were actually falling back together.

Why Is Mental Strength Hard to Achieve?

Your mind is a powerful tool. It can be your best friend or your worst enemy. Here’s the kicker… we all have that voice inside of our heads, otherwise known as your inner critic.

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Rather than empathize with you, this voice basks in the enjoyment of beating you down and trying to convince you that you are not the CEO of your life.

You aren’t strong enough

You’re messed up.

You can’t get through this.

You aren’t worthy of happiness.

Unfortunately, a lot of people allow this voice to dim their light and dictate every decision in their life. The bottom line is that your inner critic robs you of your mental strength. However, it’s important to not silence this voice without understanding where it comes from.

A lot of people fall into the trap of assuming that, because they are thinking awful things about themselves, they must be true. Right? Wrong.

In actuality, your inner critic is your inner child. Psychologists believe these voices are residues of childhood experiences. We become so used to living in accordance with these narratives that we don’t even notice or question them.[2]

Ironically, your inner critic just wants to help you. Talk about mind games at their finest! I want to propose a different perspective. Instead of fighting with this critical voice, what would happen if you reframed the intention behind it?

Help yourself by transforming your inner critic into your inner coach. Whereas a critic knocks you down, a coach challenges you to find solutions and gives you the confidence to face new obstacles with courage, grace, and determination.

For example, you could say out loud to yourself, “Critic, thanks for trying so hard to keep me safe but it’s time for you to step aside now. I’ve got this.”

The beauty of life is that, at any given moment, you have the power to rewrite your story and unleash the strength that has always been a part of you.

5 Ways to Help Yourself Advance Your Mental Strength

So, where do we go from here?

Well, I want you to think of your mind as if it were a muscle. Just like you go to the gym and work at building your physical strength, you’ve got to commit to flexing your mental muscle as well.

At the end of the day, success is a mindset game. As Tony Robbins says,

“80 percent of success is due to psychology—mindset, beliefs, and emotions—and only 20 percent is due to strategy—the specific steps needed to accomplish a result.”

Whether your goal is to become a professional athlete, overcome an injury, or be a more emotionally resilient person, mental strength is the ticket that will help you get there.

Let’s explore 5 ways that you can help yourself advance your mental strength.

1. Develop Unshakeable Confidence

Nobody is born with unshakeable confidence. Anybody that you’ve come across who possesses this trait has it because they have worked tirelessly to build it.

When life knocks you down, it can take your confidence plummeting with it. If you don’t believe in your ability to overcome the odds that are stacked against you, you will give up at the first sign of failure.

As Maxwell Maltz once said,

“Low self-esteem is like driving through life with your hand brake on.”

Mental strength is the thing that allows you to take the hit and bounce forward so that even though you are bruised, you are not defeated.

Anyone can strengthen their confidence muscle. The question is, “How do you practice being confident when you don’t feel like you have anything to be confident about?”

All of us experience self-doubt at some point in our lives. However, successful people don’t allow themselves to become overpowered by negative emotions.

Being successful in life is all about developing and conditioning positive core beliefs each and every day. This is why I’m a big believer in the power of reciting positive affirmations.

You have to trust that you are better than your limiting beliefs. When in doubt, fake it until you feel it. Once you start believing that you are amazing and capable of achieving anything, you naturally start to embody that feeling.

Take a look at this guide if you’d like to boost your self-confidence: How to Be More Confident (the Definitive Step-By-Step Guide)

2. Take Responsibility for Your Life

When it feels like the world is caving in on you, it’s easy to blame the world for your problems. However, adopting this mindset only serves to disempower you.

If you constantly say, “Bad things always happen to me”, life will constantly feel like a struggle. The Universe listens, so be careful of the words that you speak.

You cannot wait for someone to come along and make your life better. You have the power to take responsibility for your life – this includes the good, the bad and the ugly.

No dream or goal is going to save you. The sooner that you accept and start living that truth, the sooner that you step into your power.

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If you somehow believe that you’re always the unlucky one, you need to check this out: Why Do I Have Bad Luck? 2 Simple Things to Change Your Destiny

3. Reframe Setbacks as Signposts for Growth

Setbacks aren’t fatal or permanent. In actuality, there are times when getting knocked down by life is very much needed. I know that this sounds counterintuitive, but let me explain.

Sometimes you’ve got to hit your emotional threshold or rock bottom before you are finally ready to change your life. If you feel like you are the bottom now, the good news is that you can’t go any lower. The only way is up!

I believe that hitting rock bottom can be a catalyst for personal transformation and the foundation upon which anyone can rebuild their lives.

I like to think of setbacks as signposts that exist to shake me awake. Whenever I feel stuck, I’ve either been getting too comfortable in my environment or I haven’t been listening to my intuition.

Setbacks offer great opportunities to redirect and refocus your life, but it’s up to you to see them that way. I encourage you to reframe your challenges as opportunities for growth.

The next time that nothing seems to be going your way, step back and ask yourself the following questions – “What is this challenge teaching me about myself, and what opportunity is hidden amidst the pain?”

Every problem has an advantage. It’s up to you to find it. When you learn how to embrace your challenges, you are better able to look every future challenge dead in the eye and give it a wink.

This article give you some good reasons to stop be afraid of failure: 6 Reasons It’s Okay To Fail

4. Master Your Emotions

When things fall apart, how do you react? Do you panic and lose control, or do you sit back, assess the situation and take action?

You can’t always control how you feel. Feelings are meant to be felt in their totality. The only thing that you can control is how you respond to your feelings.

You may be able to influence a certain outcome, but everything else is out of your hands. If you don’t master your emotions, they will end up mastering you.

Psychologist, Lisa Feldman Barrett suggests in her book How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain that emotions do not happen to us without our volition. Rather, we construct our emotions by making predictions using our past experiences.

This line of thinking supports the belief that you are the creator of your own reality. This means that you are, and will always be, in control of your life and your emotions.

The best way to have more control over your emotional responses is to move throughout your days more mindfully. This comes down to being present and more aware of yourself, your experiences, and how you participate with them.

The next time that you feel yourself getting overwhelmed, take a deep breath and calm your emotional centre. Give yourself time and space to choose how you will respond.

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When you learn how to separate your emotions from your emotional responses, you are able to proactively instead of reactively face and tackle life’s challenges.

You can learn more about practicing mindfulness here: Meditation Can Change Your Life: The Power of Mindfulness

5. Step Outside Your Comfort Zone

I believe that comfort is the enemy of progress. Your comfort zone is a safe place to hang out, but nothing ever grows there. Don’t get me wrong, uncertainty doesn’t necessarily feel good.

However, if you have the desire to become mentally stronger, you’ve got to be willing to try and be okay with the possibility of failing.

New research from Yale University shows that uncertainty sends a signal to the brain to kickstart the learning process.[3] This means that those unstable situations that make you feel uncomfortable are critical to your ability to grow and succeed.

Do you think that some of the most successful people in this world got to where they are today by sipping apple martinis and sitting on a beach? Absolutely not.

They worked tirelessly and risk a lot in order to turn their dreams into reality. In short, they took massive action, in spite of their fears. What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

You are not here to sit on the sidelines of life and watch everything and everyone pass you by. You have gifts that the world is waiting for. The only way that anyone will benefit from your inspiration is if you get comfortable being uncomfortable.

I challenge you to do one thing every day that stretches your mental muscle. That is how you become the driver of your destiny.

Still wondering how to step out of your comfort zone? I strongly recommend you read this: Is It Really Better to Step Out of Your Comfort Zone?

Final Thoughts

Starting today, commit to helping yourself become mentally stronger.

Your mental strength is bigger than any obstacle or adversity. You can either choose to stay on the ground and play the victim, or you can rise up and transform your pain into possibility.

As someone once said,

“The biggest wall that you’ve got to climb is the one that you build in your mind.”

Whatever you do, keep moving, and don’t stop until you reach the top. I promise that the view will be so worth it.

Are you ready to show life who is boss?

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More About Mental Strength

Featured photo credit: Jonas Verstuyft via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Ashley Elizabeth

Psychologist and Motivational Speaker

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Last Updated on February 25, 2020

11 Killer Ways to Gain Confidence and Boost Your Self-Esteem

11 Killer Ways to Gain Confidence and Boost Your Self-Esteem

Have you ever been making great progress only to get stuck and find your confidence disappears? Or perhaps you’ve achieved a big success that’s been quickly followed by a crash of confidence? Or maybe your confidence just evaporates away slowly over time?

Regardless of how robust we might appear on the outside, we are all vulnerable. We can be especially vulnerable when we’re ambitious and striving to achieve big goals.

Our confidence can easily be knocked by a passing comment from a friend or colleague. Or when we’re working hard to deliver a project quickly or make a change happen and are faced with blockers and negativity. I’ve also known confidence to disappear for no apparent reason. That’s why knowing practical tips for how to gain confidence is a crucial skill.

Then there’s the critical voice in your head that tells you ‘you’re not good enough’ or ‘you’re going to get found out’. The little voice nags away, becomes louder, more insistent and more toxic until you just want to stick firmly with what you know, and stop pushing forward and getting things done fast because it feels safer to stand still. Only when you stand still does the nagging voice stop chipping away at your confidence and self-esteem.

It turns out that the little nagging voice is a thing. It’s called Imposter Syndrome. It’s a term first coined in 1978 by psychologists, Pauline Clance, and Suzanne Imes.[1] It describes the psychological phenomenon which is characterized by intense feelings of not being good enough, negativity, being a fraud and that you are going to get found out – even though all the evidence suggests otherwise.

Gaining your confidence back once the little nagging voice takes hold is hard. I see it like this. Every day, you have a bucket of confidence. Every time you get push back from someone, every time you get a negative comment, or even a disparaging look from the right person, a little bit of your confidence leaks away.

To gain your confidence and increase your self-esteem, you have to put habits in place to keep your confidence bucket full. Every day. I don’t believe that some people have confidence and others don’t. It’s simply that successful people are more accomplished at managing their feelings of self-doubt and silencing that little internal voice before it has a chance to jeopardize them.

“If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.” Vincent Van Gogh

Gaining confidence is about keeping your bucket topped up on a daily basis. Here are 11 tips to gain confidence and really boost your self-esteem:

1. Log Your Achievements

Get yourself a physical notebook or create an online file and log your achievements. Log them all, especially the small ones because they add up.

Keep the good feedback you receive from other people; a thank you from a friend, the well done, good job email from a manager, or the time your colleagues went the extra mile for you.

Write them down. Writing them down helps you to acknowledge them, which makes you feel good.

In addition, seeing your achievements written down helps you realize how far you’ve come, the positive impact you have every day and how much you’ve achieved overall. Instead of your ‘to do’ list – it’s your ‘I did it!’ list.

2. Call out Your Imposter Syndrome

It’s actually rather common. 70% of people have had feelings of being inadequate and getting found out at one time or another.

When that little nagging voice telling you that you’re not good enough and anything good that happens to you is luck – call it out. For example, acknowledge that it’s happening and disconnect that annoying voice from the real you and tell it to shut up.

Your task is to find your own way to change the negative story that your inner critic is telling you. Look for evidence to prove what your inner critic is saying is wrong. For example, if you think that you’re a failure, ask yourself, “What evidence is there to support the thought that I’m a failure?” and “What evidence is there that doesn’t support the thought that I’m a failure?”

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3. Become a Mentor

Being a mentor isn’t just for very senior and experienced people, there’s always someone that you can help.

Helping someone else can be a very rewarding experience. You’ll learn a lot and you’ll also realize how much value you can bring to others which in turn can help you to gain confidence.

Many industries have some form of mentor programme or scheme. If yours doesn’t, why not just go for it and put yourself out there? For example, you could post on your intranet or on LinkedIn that you are looking to mentor someone.

4. Accept Compliments

If someone says to you, ‘great job,’ or ‘you look wonderful’ or ‘well done excellent event,’ do you say ‘thank you’ and feel good or do you shy away and give someone else credit?

If you shy away from compliments, then stop. Own it and feel good about it. Next time someone pays you a compliment, smile, say thank you and own the good feeling that goes with that acceptance. (And note it in your achievements log!)

5. Fake It Until You Make It

How you look and behave and how you feel are closely linked. Dress like you mean success.

If you turn up to the office or a meeting looking smart (and smart will mean different things in different contexts), you’re perceived differently than if you turn up looking ready for a casual Sunday afternoon.

I used to work with someone who always wore a suit to work because they were always ready to step up and impress. One day, he had to stand in for his boss at a board meeting. He wouldn’t have been given the opportunity if he hadn’t been dressed for it.

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In addition to what you wear, to gain confidence, notice your body language and stand tall, smile and speak slowly.

6. Ask Why

Get to the root cause of your lack of confidence by asking ‘Why?’ ‘What is causing it?’ When you have identified the ‘why?’ you can start to tackle it.

Often, lack of confidence connects to a lack of or perceived lack of knowledge, so stop focusing on what you don’t know. Concentrate on the things you do know and the value you bring if you want to gain confidence.

7. Look after Yourself

Looking after yourself helps you gain confidence. It’s fundamental to success. Make sure you get more than enough sleep, do regular exercise and eat healthy food. Make it a habit.

If you feel good, you gain confidence, which inspires you to look after yourself and you create a positive cycle.

8. Be Kind and Generous

Being kind and generous to others makes us feel good; and feeling good helps us to gain confidence.

Linked to this, focus on being grateful for what you have and what has gone well that day. I’d suggest that you start by writing down the things you are grateful for every day and make a deliberate effort to be kind and generous to others at every opportunity. And again, over time this becomes a habit.

9. Be Prepared

The more you practice, the more successful you get. Funny isn’t it?

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Gaining confidence is borne out of practice. Be prepared, practice the presentation, read the meeting minutes, research the person you are meeting.

In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell talks about the practice required to be the master of your skill being 10,000 hours. So start putting the hours in and you will gain confidence.

10. Visualize Your Success

Skip forward to when you have achieved success. Play it out in your mind. The applause and how you feel after that excellent presentation, the phone call after a successful job interview or fitting into those smaller jeans.

Choose a positive mindset and visualize what you are aiming for. Tell someone else about your goal. As well as helping you to gain confidence, focusing on your success AND telling someone else holds you accountable which means it’s more likely to happen.

11. Get Yourself a Positive Affirmation

Tell yourself that you can do this. Whether you look in the mirror and tell yourself that you ‘can do this’ ‘are amazing’ or ‘going to rock it today,’ find your positive phrase to tell yourself every day to keep your confidence bucket topped up.

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” — Dale Carnegie

And finally, conquer the knowing-doing gap. You’ve now got a stack of practical tactics to gain confidence and boost your self-esteem. Every action you take will add up but it starts with you.

If you want to gain success, take action today. Let me know how you get on!

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Featured photo credit: Eye for Ebony via unsplash.com

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