Pin it:

Being Mentally Strong Isn’t For Sissies—But It’s Worth It

Focusing on yourself instead of others helps train your brain for happiness


by Janice Holly Booth

Pin it:

If anyone has a right to feel sorry for herself, it’s Amy Morin who lost her mother, husband and father-in-law all in a span of 10 years. Dreading the emotional tsunami she knew was about to overtake her, Morin, a licensed clinical social worker, decided she would not let sorrow drown her. Instead, she created her buoy, posting “13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do” on her blog. It went viral. Now she’s based a book (same title) on her list. She talks with Life Reimagined about how relationships can chip away at our mental underpinnings.

You say that mentally strong people don’t resent other people’s success. Why is that so bad for you?

Morin: Every second we spend feeling resentful about someone else’s success is a second that we’re not sharpening our own skills. Too often, we feel jealous over things that don’t line up with our values anyway. For example, if you claim to value time with family over money, resenting a neighbor for his wealth is irrational. Develop a clear definition of success and focus your time and energy on reaching your goals, rather than resenting people who are working toward their goals.

You say that mentally strong people don’t feel the world owes them anything. What’s the problem with having a sense of entitlement, which seems very common these days?

Morin: When we feel the world owes us something, we waste time keeping score and justifying why we deserve better. A sense of entitlement causes us to focus on what we want to take, rather than what we can give to the world. We can give up our air of superiority by shifting the focus to our efforts, rather than our importance. When we develop a healthy self-image, instead of demanding the world owes us more, we’ll feel inspired to share our gifts with others.

Why does pleasing others diminish our mental strength?

Morin: If we always try to please others, we’ll quickly lose sight of doing what’s right. Instead of behaving according to our values, we’ll only focus on what we think will make others happy. Not only is people-pleasing ineffective—we can’t make anyone feel anything—but it can be downright destructive. The first step to changing our people-pleasing habits is to recognize that we can tolerate the discomfort we feel when someone is angry or disappointed with us. Then, replace irrational thoughts like, “People won’t like me if I don’t do what they want,” with more realistic thoughts like, “My role isn’t to make people happy. My job is to do what I think is right.” Offering a contrary opinion or refusing an invitation can feel uncomfortable at first, but with practice, it gets easier.

To learn more about Amy Morin’s story and her new book, visit her website at

Photo credit: Daniel Guerin/Courtesy Amy Morin