You build mental muscles the same way you build physical muscles--exercise. Good habits (like lifting weights) will help you grow stronger. But giving up counterproductive bad habits (like eating too much junk food) is key if you really want to make progress.
While the exercises that build mental muscle are the same for both men and women, gender can play a role when it comes to the counterproductive bad habits that can keep you stuck. It only takes one or two bad habits to hold you back from reaching your greatest potential.
My newest book, 13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don't Do, outlines the bad habits that women are more likely to adopt. Cultural expectations, societal pressures, and the subtle differences in the way we raise girls are just a few of the factors that encourage women to engage in these unhealthy habits.
Recognizing your unhealthy habits is the first step in creating positive change. Here are 13 things mentally strong women don't do:
1. They Don't Compare Themselves With Other People
Whether you're looking at Instagram photos of a celebrity's vacation, or you're hearing your friend talk about her latest raise, comparing yourself with others is tempting. But every minute you spend comparing your life with someone else's life is 60 seconds you aren't focusing on your goals.
2. They Don't Insist on Perfection
Perfectionism has a cruel ironic twist; It'll cause you to experience such high levels of stress that your performance will actually become impaired. Establish high expectations for yourself, but don't set the bar impossibly high.
3. They Don't See Vulnerability as a Weakness
Your game face definitely serves a purpose--it shows people you're serious. But asking for help, acknowledging your weaknesses, and admitting you don't have all the answers aren't signs of weakness.
4. They Don't Let Self-Doubt Stop Them From Reaching Their Goals
Your brain will try to convince you that you're not good enough, capable enough, or smart enough. But don't believe everything you think. Your brain will underestimate you.
5. They Don't Overthink Everything
Rehashing the same things over and over again and worrying about everything that could go wrong wastes precious time and mental energy. And it will take a toll on your psychological well-being. Commit to problem solving and productive action, rather than ruminating and overthinking.
6. They Don't Shy Away From Tough Challenges
Whether it's a promotion to a leadership position or it's an uncomfortable conversation you need to have with a friend, avoiding tough challenges will keep you stuck. Face your fears one small step at a time and you'll gain confidence in yourself.
7. They Don't Fear Breaking the Rules
From a young age, many girls are taught the importance of being polite and well-mannered. But it's the rule breakers who change the world.
8. They Don't Put Others Down to Lift Themselves Up
It may be tempting to try to elevate your own status by pointing out someone else's flaws. But genuine cheerleaders are the ones who really succeed in life.
9. They Don't Allow Others to Limit Their Potential
Whether someone told you that you'd never amount to anything or you got turned down for a promotion, other people can limit your potential if you let them. Build the belief in yourself, and you won't let criticism or rejection stop you.
10. They Don't Blame Themselves When Bad Things Happen
While it's important to accept personal responsibility when you make a mistake, toxic self-blame does more harm than good. Saying "I made a bad choice" is much more productive than thinking "I am a bad person."
11. They Don't Stay Silent
From business meetings to social gatherings, studies show women don't get nearly as much airtime as men. Speak up and find your authentic voice so you can be heard.
12. They Don't Hesitate to Reinvent Themselves
As you mature, your personality, priorities, and values will shift and so should you. Whether you make a complete career shift at age 40 or you decide to embrace your spirituality at 60, reinventing yourself is key to personal growth.
13. They Don't Fear Owning Their Success
Women are afraid of looking arrogant or too ambitious. Even when complimented, they're likely to pass the credit onto someone else or give an immediate compliment back. Practice giving a simple "Thank you," and own your achievements.
Build Your Mental Muscle
Fortunately, everyone has the ability to build more mental muscle by changing the way they think, feel, and behave. And the best way to grow mentally stronger is to work smarter--not just harder--by giving up the unhealthy habits that are holding you back.