11 signs someone is mentally tough, according to psychology

How mentally tough are you? 

Mental toughness is primarily about how you handle your internal world and respond to situations beyond your control. 

It’s how willing you are to get up and dust yourself off after disappointment, heartbreak and unexpected U-turns. Life tends to throw curve balls: how do you respond?

While many of us strive to improve our mental resilience, few reach our full potential. However, there are those who excel. 

Are you one of them? Let’s explore the key indicators that distinguish individuals with exceptional mental toughness.

1) You keep your chin up when the chips are down

You have a knack for bouncing back from setbacks faster than many of your peers. Though you may still face difficult situations and conflicts, you refuse to let them linger or weigh you down. 

Instead, you focus on the road ahead. 

Your mental resilience allows you to recognize that everything is temporary, fostering an optimistic outlook even in the face of adversity.

You understand that tough times are fleeting and maintain a positive attitude, knowing that your resilience and determination shape your response to challenges.

As the American Psychological Association explains:

“Resilience is the process and outcome of successfully adapting to difficult or challenging life experiences, especially through mental, emotional, and behavioral flexibility and adjustment to external and internal demands.”

2) You avoid lashing out or responding impulsively to hardship

Not only do you navigate life’s storms adeptly, but you also manage your internal reactions effectively in most cases. 

You don’t give in to the anger that swells during a disagreement, and you resist the urge to behave impulsively when you’re tempted in a way that goes against your ethics. 

Outer forces are always going to be pushing and pulling, but by building a strong core and orienting it around your mission, you avoid being a victim of those forces.

Despite external pressures and conflicts, you remain composed, channeling your energy into productive endeavors rather than allowing emotions to dictate your actions.

3) You adapt swiftly to change and seek growth opportunities

Recognizing change as inevitable, you embrace it readily. Even when it’s unexpected or not the type of change you want, you do your best to adapt and face it with realism. 

Moreover, you endeavor to derive benefits from change, exploring new possibilities and opportunities for growth.

Your life may not be going how you hoped, but what can you do about it? That’s your focus, rather than all the parts of what’s happening that you dislike. 

Even when life is unfair, you avoid seeing yourself as a victim, but instead envision yourself as the captain of your own ship.

As psychology writer Kendra Cherry, MsEd. puts it:

“Resilient people avoid thinking like a victim of circumstance and instead look for ways to resolve the problem. While the situation may be unavoidable, they stay focused on a positive outcome.”

4) You view failure as a learning opportunity

Whether in relationships, work, or personal pursuits, you view failure not as defeat but as a chance to learn and grow. 

It hurts and angers you, of course, just like it does for anybody. But as a mentally strong person you don’t let failure define you. 

Rather than dwelling on setbacks, you extract valuable lessons to inform your future endeavors.

It may take some time to get back up, but eventually you’re going to do it and be even stronger than before.

Psychology Today puts it well:

“Rather than letting difficulties, traumatic events, or failure overcome them and drain their resolve, highly resilient people find a way to change course, emotionally heal, and continue moving toward their goals.”

5) You possess self-confidence despite imperfections

While acknowledging your flaws, you maintain unwavering self-belief and value regardless of external success or criticism.

You could be told you’re amazing at your job but know deep-down that there’s much more improvement needed to get where you want to be; you could be told you’re doing poorly at your job and brush it off in the knowledge you’re actually excelling. 

You don’t outsource your well-being to other people, nor do you let your emotions and sense of self be dictated by them. 

This inner confidence sustains you through challenges and fosters a sense of respect in those you meet.

“While we may be able to put some blame on external causes, it is important to feel as if we have the power to make choices that will affect our situation, our ability to cope, and our future,” notes Cherry.

6) You assert yourself without being overbearing

pic2549 11 signs someone is mentally tough, according to psychology

You assert your needs and opinions with confidence but without aggression. 

Balancing assertiveness, you communicate effectively, ensuring your voice is heard without alienating others.

Your ego isn’t attached to being right and you feel no shame or desire to hide when you’re wrong. 

You assert yourself when you know that you have something worth saying, but it’s more about competence and getting the job done than about being in charge or any sort of thrill of authority. That doesn’t matter to you, because you’re secure in yourself enough to be confident without being a jerk. 

7) You are purpose-driven and have strong goals

As a mentally tough individual, you are able to let your goals and mission lead the way. 

You don’t get caught up in petty squabbles or infighting, because you have a larger mission in mind. 

You are deeply committed to achieving your personal, professional, or spiritual goals, aligning your actions with your values. 

This sense of purpose fuels your resilience during difficult times, motivating you to persevere despite obstacles and not to get sidelined by the judgments (or praise) of others. 

“Psychological resilience is a powerful tool for personal and professional growth and achievement,” notes Jones. 

“By cultivating adaptability, emotional regulation, optimism, self-efficacy, and social support, individuals can successfully navigate life’s challenges and emerge stronger and more capable.”

8) You prioritize self-care over escapism

In times of stress, you prioritize healthy coping mechanisms over avoidance or indulgence. 

You resist the urge to engage in addictive behaviors, substances or habits. And you don’t let yourself go and begin living in a lazy or slothful way, either. 

Whether through exercise, hobbies, or mindfulness, you actively manage stress without resorting to harmful or negligent behaviors.

This is part of the journey to becoming a more mentally tough person: a lifelong process of growing and adapting. 

As therapist Katie Hurley, LCSW, writes:

“Building resilience takes time, strength, and help from people around you; you’ll likely experience setbacks along the way. It depends on personal behaviors and skills (like self-esteem and communication skills), as well as external things (like social support and resources available to you).”

9) You cultivate gratitude without sentimentality

You genuinely appreciate life’s blessings without succumbing to saccharine sentimentality. 

This isn’t about Instagram hashtags or livestreaming Oprah pep talks 24/7. 

You may dabble in a bit of that, sure, but at heart it’s about recognizing your blessings in a realistic way and taking stock of all the great resources, people and talents you have on your side. 

Things may be middling right now, but they can always change… 

Maintaining a realistic perspective, you acknowledge both the joys and challenges of life, fostering resilience in the face of adversity.

10) You remain unaffected by gossip and negativity

You neither engage in nor are swayed by gossip or negativity, recognizing it as a distraction from your goals. 

Instead, you focus on your mission and empathize with the insecurities driving such behavior in others.

Ultimately, mental toughness hinges on living a purpose-driven life to the utmost of your ability and letting the rest fall into place. 

Gossip, trash talk and getting caught up in pop culture trends or the latest fads of the day have no place in that mindset. 

You just don’t have time, energy or interest in it and you don’t participate in such things. 

11) You network and build bridges with others to survive and thrive

Another key sign of mental toughness is that you fully recognize that no man (and no woman) is an island. 

Reaching out to others and asking for support while building a strong support network is your natural instinct. 

You are able to offer support in turn as well. It’s a circle of networking and sharing that helps you live your best life both professionally and personally. 

As the Mayo Clinic explains:

“When something bad happens, you still feel anger, grief and pain. But you’re able to keep going, both physically and psychologically. 

Resilience isn’t about putting up with something tough or coping on your own. In fact, being able to reach out to others for support is a key part of being resilient.”

Picture of Paul Brian

Paul Brian

Paul R. Brian is a freelance journalist and writer who has reported from around the world, focusing on religion, culture and geopolitics. Follow him on www.twitter.com/paulrbrian and visit his website at www.paulrbrian.com

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