Whether you think you can't handle being rejected by a love interest, or you're convinced you can't deal with the discomfort associated with making a career change, second guessing your ability to tolerate distress will only hold you back in life. In fact, the more you doubt your mental strength, the more important it is to prove that you're stronger than you know.
Allowing your exaggeratedly negative self-talk to dictate your behavior will prevent you from reaching your greatest potential. Just because you think you're not mentally strong enough to do something, doesn't mean it's true. You're likely able to tolerate much more than you think.
Examples of Self-Doubt
Choosing to avoid uncomfortable feelings offers immediate short-term relief, but avoidance can lead to long-term consequences. Here are some ways that doubting your ability to handle discomfort becoming problematic:
• If you think, "I can't stand being hungry," you may eat to avoid the possibility that you'll experience hunger. You may grab an extra snack before you head out of the house, or you may stop to pick up an extra bite to eat before your commute home. Even when you don't feel hungry, you may decide not to take any chances and eat as a preventative measure. Eventually, your waistline may suffer the consequences.
• Thoughts such as, "I can't deal with my job any longer," will cause you to exaggerate your inability to tolerate stress. You may waste your evenings dreading going to work and you may spend your work day complaining about your stress level. As a result, you'll iinadvertently increase your stress and reinforce to yourself that you're just not strong enough to handle it. Eventually, you'll likely quit - not because you wanted to, but because you confinced yourself you weren't strong enough to handle your job.
• When you think, "I can't give a presentation to the whole company," it reinforces to you that you can't tolerate discomfort. Avoiding a public speaking opportunity, simply because you don't want to deal wtih your fear, embarrassment, or discomfort could prevent you from getting a promotion.
Believing Your Self-Doubt is a Bad Idea
Just because you feel uncomfortable, doesn't mean you need to give up right away. Here are the reasons why you should prove to yourself that you're strong enough to tolerate more than you think:
1. Doubting your mental strength could become a self-fulfilling prophecy. You're likely to feel a sense of dread, anxiety, or even anger as you approach something that you think you can't tolerate. As you experience more negative emotions about something, your thoughts are likely to become exaggeratedly negative, which creates a perpetual cycle of self-doubt.
2. You'll struggle to reach your goals. Quitting because you don't want to be uncomfortable will prevent you from growing. The greatest things in life tend to happen outside our comfort zones and doubting your ability to step outside of your comfort zone will keep you stuck.
3. Giving up can become a habit. If you quit every time you face a new challenge, giving up can change how you view yourself. You may begin to think you're weak or that you're a failure because you can't seem to stick with things long enough to see positive results.
Prove Yourself Wrong
When you think you're not strong enough, prove yourself wrong. If you think you can't stand something for another minute, stick around for two minutes just to prove to yourself that you can do it. If you think you can't stand one more week at the office, resolve to work at least two more weeks. Make a conscious decision that you won't allow your negative thoughts to limit your potential.
That doesn't mean you need to work at a job you hate for 30 years just for the sake of it, but by working one day longer than you thought you could, you can prove to yourself that you're mentally stronger than you give yourself credit for. If you choose to quit, recognize that your decision was based on a choice to improve your life, not because you had to run away from uncomfortable feelings.
Conduct behavioral experiments that prove your self-doubt wrong and eventually, you'll change the way you think. You'll begin to see that you have more mental strength than you ever imagined. You'll be less likely to think about all the things you can't do, and more likely to recognize all the choices you have when you're your strongest and best self.
Amy Morin is a psychotherapist, keynote speaker, and the author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do, a bestselling book that is being translated into more than 20 languages.
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