post written by: Angel Chernoff

16 Things Emotionally Strong People Don’t Do


16 Things Emotionally Strong People Don’t Do

You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, smarter than you think, and twice as capable as you have ever imagined.

When you add up nearly a decade worth of online conversations with our community of readers, the live events we’ve hosted in support of our book, and thousands of one-on-one coaching sessions with clients, Marc and I have a lot of experience when it comes to helping people find and resolve the pain points that have been holding them back.  But I am still frequently surprised by the interesting ways people frame questions about their challenges.

Last night a reader named Karla sent me an email that caught my attention, simply because the subject of her email was: “Things Emotionally Strong People Don’t Do” (An interesting title for an article, I thought.)

Part of Karla’s email read:  “I love your book.  It has helped me get through some seriously tough times.  But even though I’ve made progress, I often struggle with emotional weakness.  I persistently resist what I know I need to do for myself.  So I was wondering, what do emotionally strong people NOT do?  The reason I ask is that I’ve spent a lot of time implementing positive habits in my life, but I haven’t really focused on removing any (parallel) bad habits.”

There are a million ways to answer this question (especially as it relates to Karla’s unique life situation), but since emotional weakness is something all of us struggle with at times, I figured I’d take a stab at answering Karla’s question in a general sense, for all of us.

Here are some things emotionally strong people don’t do:

  1. They don’t let negativity and drama get the best of them. – Your brain is a radio transmitter.  It broadcasts thoughts, directions and vibrations into your life – you get to choose the station it’s tuned to.  Emotionally strong people understand this and tune out negativity to make room for positivity.  Be wise enough to follow in their footsteps.  Walk away from the nonsense around you.  Focus on the positives, and soon the negatives will be harder to see.
  2. They don’t waste time feeling sorry for themselves. – Emotionally strong people don’t sit around feeling sorry about their circumstances or how others have treated them.  Instead, they take responsibility for their role in life, work on changing what can be changed, and keep in mind that life isn’t always easy or fair.  In the end, happiness is not the absence of problems, but simply the ability to deal well with them.  So look at what you have, instead of what you have lost.  Because it’s not what the world takes away from you that counts; it’s what you do with what you have left.
  3. They don’t think they need more to be happy. – Emotionally strong people know that happiness is a mindset of appreciation.  In other words, happiness doesn’t start when “this, that or the other thing” is resolved.  Happiness is what happens now when you appreciate what you have.  (Read Authentic Happiness.)
  4. They don’t compare their journey to everyone else’s. – Social comparison is the thief of happiness.  Do YOUR best and don’t compare your progress with that of others.  They aren’t YOU.  We all need our own time to travel our own distance.  Emotionally strong people know this is the truth, and they live by it.
  5. They don’t envy and resent other people’s success. – Emotionally strong people can genuinely appreciate and celebrate other people’s success.  They don’t grow envious or feel cheated when others achieve something they are trying to achieve.  Instead, they recognize that success comes with hard work, and they are willing to work hard for their own chance at success.  True confidence has no room for envy and resentment.  When you know you are great, you have no reason to hate.
  6. They don’t expect everything to be easy. – Emotionally strong people don’t view failures and delays as reasons to give up.  Instead, they use failure as an opportunity to grow and improve.  They are willing to keep trying until they get it right.  Whether they are working on improving their health or getting a new business off the ground, emotionally strong people don’t expect immediate results.  Instead, they apply their efforts and skills to the best of their ability and understand that real change takes time.
  7. They don’t say, “I can’t.” – As Henry Ford put it, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you are right.”  Emotionally strong people know this is true.  If you really want to do something, you can and you will find a way.  If you don’t, you will surely find a long list of excuses.  So stop saying “I wish” and start saying “I will.”  Turn your “can’ts” into “cans” and your dreams into plans.
  8. They don’t let fleeting temptations distract them from their dreams. – Don’t let the temptations of today distract you from what you deserve.  Stay emotionally strong.  Do what you have to do now so you can do what you want to do later.
  9. They don’t get impatient and settle. – Good things don’t come to those who wait.  Good things come to those who are patient… while working hard for what they want most in life.  If you know what you want, if you can see it, feel it and move toward it in some small way every single day… it has to happen.  Be patient and keep working.  That’s what emotionally strong people do.  (Read Awaken the Giant Within.)
  10. They don’t make the same exact mistakes over and over again. – You can’t make the same mistake twice.  Because the second time you make it, it’s no longer a mistake, it’s a choice.  Emotionally strong people accept responsibility for their behavior and learn from their past mistakes.  As a result, they don’t keep repeating the same mistakes over and over.  Instead, they grow and move on to better decisions and new lessons.
  11. They don’t resist change. – Emotionally strong people don’t try to avoid change.  Instead, they welcome positive change into their life and are willing to be flexible.  They understand that change is inevitable and believe in their abilities to adapt.  Change happens for a reason.  Roll with it!  It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.
  12. They don’t waste time and energy on things they can’t control. – You won’t hear an emotionally strong person complaining over traffic jams and rainy days.  Instead, they focus on what they can control in their lives.  And above all, they recognize that sometimes the only thing they can control is their attitude.  After all, inner peace begins the moment you choose not to allow an uncontrollable event or person to control your emotions.
  13. They don’t hang on every word other people say about them. – Emotionally strong people listen to their own heart and intuition, not the peanut gallery.  So try not to take things other people say about you too personally.  What they think and say is a reflection of them, not you.  Ultimately, you can’t change how people treat you or what they say about you.  All you can do is change how you react and who you choose to be around.
  14. They don’t think everyone is out to get them. – Emotionally strong people choose to see the good in others.  Because the truth is, the world is full of good people.  Whoever says otherwise hasn’t looked around.  So look around.  Appreciate them.  Connect and smile together.  When you choose to see the good in others, you end up finding the good in yourself.
  15. They don’t worry about pleasing everyone. – Emotionally strong people recognize that they don’t need to please everyone all the time.  They’re not afraid to say no or speak up when necessary.  They strive to be compassionate and fair, but can handle other people being disappointed if they didn’t perfectly live up to their unfair expectations.  The bottom line is, pleasing everyone is impossible.  May the bridges you burn light your way.  (Marc and I discuss this in detail in the “Relationships” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
  16. They don’t think it’s too late to start over. – Let go of the idea that it’s too late to start over.  Remember, it’s always better to be at the bottom of the ladder you want to climb than the top of the one you don’t… even if it means beginning anew.  Just because some things didn’t work out as you had expected, or didn’t happen as fast as you thought they would, is no excuse to give up on yourself.  Time passes one way or the other.  Do what you need to do so that, at the very least, you can look back someday and say, “I gave life my best shot.”

And remember, it only takes one idea, one second in time, one relationship, one dream, one leap of faith, to change everything, forever.  So hang in there.  Keep exercising your emotional strength.

The floor is yours…

What’s one habit or belief that has slowed you down and weakened your emotional strength?  How have you coped?  Leave a comment below and share your thoughts and insights.

Photo by: RelaxingMusic

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47 Comments

  • Number 6 hits home with me right now. Perfectly stated. The idea that things should be easy is something I hear others talking about too often these days. Success in life is about personal responsibility and effort. Too often, I think, we find that telling everybody that they are special makes people think they have a right to success in this world, when in reality success is something you have to fight for and achieve every single day.

    This is something I actually used to struggle with. And I’m glad I’ve switched gears.

  • Good article. 10 and 11 are the ones that I struggle with sometimes but all of them present challenges from time to time. Do you think most people get stronger with age or do we just become more resilient?

  • The belief that has held me back and robbed me of emotional strength (until now!) was that I wanted full approval from my family and close friends before I made certain changes I knew I had to make to be more successful and happy. This was really foolish on many levels, as they can’t possibly see the positive future I see until I make a little progress and show them. So that’s what I’m doing now

    PS: Your newsletters and book have been quite helpful in changing my mindset. Thanks for that.

  • I think #15 is most likely the one I had trouble with for a little while. In ‘06 my husband of 27 years was KIA in Iraq. In ‘08 our son committed suicide. I’ve had my share of struggles in life, but I refuse to let these two things define who I am. I will not let my circumstances dictate how I live my life. But #15 was hard for me to let go. Finally, I just said screw it and now I don’t give a darn if anyone is happy with me or what I do. I can’t please everyone, so I don’t even try anymore. Now I don’t care what others think, I”m not here on this earth to please them. I’m so glad I figured that one out.

  • All of these points are fantastic. Thanks for these articles. They are very motivational.

  • I knew I had to read this post as soon as I read the title. I think you’ve covered all the bases! I would only add that this list creates quite high standards to live up to - good and high! It seems almost like a pathway to greater happiness, in which one could focus on each step for awhile and once it’s accomplished move on to the rest.

  • An extremely helpful set of reminders. This post is just the dose of medicine I needed! I have been very down on myself lately regarding #4 and #5. And truthfully, several of the other above points have been weighing me down in some way over recent years. I have a lot of work to do, but I’m thankful I get a chance to do so.

  • Overheard a conversation tonight about worry.

    The two people involved mentioned that, if they don’t have anything to worry about, they feel weird and start LOOKING for something to worry about.

    I think it’s safe to say this is something we should try to avoid.

  • Number 13 hit home with me. I have a friend that I met 7 months ago. She is an accomplished Christian author and speaker. At first our friendship was strong , but now she is starting to pull away from me. I get the feeling my friendship was smothering her. I really want this friendship to last, but now I am allowing her to control my emotions. I need to figure out how to control my emotions. It isn ‘t easy because we go to the same church and attend the same couples group.

  • Thank you so much for this post. I’ve been exercising my emotional strength these days.

    The thing that weakens me is that I resist change. Especially if I’m used to being in the comfort zone most of the time. But I realized that nothing grows inside that zone. I have to be willing to get out of it and welcome change with open arms. Change is good when it’s for the better. I have to accept the changes. To deal and flow with it. It’s part of life. And I have also struggled with the #16. It’s a hindrance for me to strive harder. With the thinking that it’s too late. The kind of mindset that I have can really affect how I live my life. I remind myself now that it’s never too late. No matter where I am in life. I can do it.

  • I know all of these points and I live this way too, but every once in a while I get lost in this world and need to be reminded of the basic principles of happiness…so thank you.

  • Inspiring! Love it!

  • Good reminders!

    I’m like a sponge and can absorb other peoples’ energy. Whenever I’m feeling off, I ask myself, “Are these truly your feelings? Or have you picked up energies from the people around you?” This helps. I’ll meditate and listen to music to shake off the negativity.

  • I like this article very much. It is very very true and I want to add another point. Emotionally strong people feel real fear but face it squarely as they move out of their comfort zones in pursuit of their dreams. They use their fear to spur them on to personal growth into a place of new options and possibilities. They conquer their fear and keep moving forward.

  • Absolutely the truth in every way! But to add I would say as you grow (not age) you become emotionally stronger and smarter. Something for you younger people to look forward to! Got your book and am already loving it. Hello from Dracut, MA. :)

  • Staying focused on your goals and having the ability to internally validate yourself are strong characteristics to achieving a high level of success. I like this article because it gives voice to the little traps that people get themselves into as they explore their potential. By following your own path and not fearing that you may fail and have to start over you will not only learn skills but build strength of character. Great Article.

  • Great post! I want to add that emtionally strong also allow themselves to be emtionally weak sometimes, but will not use that as an excuse to hang on it.

  • Here’s one thing that I have been working on not doing.
    “Emotionally strong people don’t allow toxic relationships to persist.” Nip it in the bud, whether that be confronting the issue head on or ‘unfriending’ the individual. It takes an increased level of self awareness but it really is worth the decreased stress.

  • I have a hard time with #14. Though I don’t believe everyone is out to get me, I do believe a lot, if not most, people these days seem so self absorbed that they totally disregard other people’s feelings. This may be an effect of today’s technology and the parenting culture of “my child can do no wrong”. Definitely something I have been having a hard time with over the past few years.

  • Bravo Angel,
    Once again you and Marc provide such spot-on insight into what really if you think about it is just a common sense approach to happiness. My struggle for the longest time was wrong too much about what others thought I should do or how I lived my life especially after losing my husband to cancer. But I realized they where only capable of viewing my life through thief own filters and would never fully understand my life or decisions and ultimately it didn’t matter what they thought cause they are of me or living my life. I have my friends to be more supportive and nonjudemental then family at times. Friends that are just willing to listen and be there when you need them are invaluable. I am thankful to have such friends in my life they have helped me through some of the harder times in recent years and always with smile.

  • Oh my gosh, I love your reflections! I am taking notes and going to email to my daughter who started working her first job as a rehabilitation tech.

    I am a member of a 12 step program for many years with very dated literature, but it is good we don’t change it. I am going to apply what emotionally strong people which will really help me focus for daily living suggestions on what to do versus not to do. Number one is really clever explaining the brain as a radio transmitter and it’s a choice to control our thoughts. Unfortunately doctors today prescribe anti-depressants too readily and the patients are getting younger and younger. I was prescribed paxil after my father passed away and it numbed my feelings and only delayed the grieving process after I was finally able to get off of them. I am experiencing menopausal hot flashes now and of course my doctor suggested I try the anti-depressants again, I was unable to sleep for two weeks and am glad I it didn’t work out. I’m still living thru the hot flashes, but that’s okay.

    Thanks for these wonderful email uplifts!

  • Another great list! Very good responses as well.

    Some other thoughts about emotionally strong people:

    1. They work through negative change more quickly. No one wakes up in the hospital thinking “WOW, what a great chance to learn something GREAT!.” They work through it, and get to the recovery side more rapidly.

    2. They do not accept full responsibility for another’s emotional state. They have realized that they have enough to handle controlling their own emotions.

  • Point #16 is the greatest point for me on this list. I’m about to do something that will change the entire course of my life but for a time, I convinced myself I was too old to make such a change. The opportunity to do just that is almost at hand. I’ve been working up the courage to make the change but your advice just pushed me over the edge. I will try and if, I fail, I fail. But I could also succeed!

  • Hi there guys, I’m a Counselor and a Blogger. An interesting list. As I sat there reading it, certain thoughts went through my mind. I don’t think it means you are emotionally weak if you feel sorry for yourself - it’s how you deal with those feelings when you get up again. Other people need to see strength and resilience in a different way - through humanity’s eyes. Resisting change tells you something about yourself - everyone resists something somewhere - none of us are infallible. I think there are many ways to view life. Some are just more socially acceptable.

  • Emotionally strong people don’t “guess” what priorities they are focusing on. They know what is important and in order of importance.

    Where I have struggled in the past is having the concepts of what was important but not defining them clearly and aligning my actions to meet my goals. If you can’t say with clarity and detail what is important, how can you support it?

  • A mental exercise I find helpful when toxic people impact my life: I take the time to honestly think about why they anger me. Are they too much like the dark side of me, etc.? Once I face the truth, I ask myself why are they this way and usually the answer appears rather easily. Often I feel compassion for them by this stage, but I accept that I cannot change them but neither can they change me or my life, so I have to disconnect. I do so with no regrets or anger, just sadness, but there is an underlying sense of well being knowing I am taking care of and protecting myself.

  • “The bottom line is, pleasing everyone is impossible. May the bridges you burn light your way.” That is awesome, I have always been told don’t burn bridges you never know we you may need them again. However, after reading this I have realized that some bridges you really do want to avoid and find another route to where you want to get.

  • I spent 10 years in an emotional quagmire. I let weakness suck me down and I thought I would never see the light of day again. One day I caught a glimpse of the light and from that point onward I determined to get free and stay free. I found that my emotional strengths had never left and were only waiting for me to call on them again. Those emotional strengths are now the catalyst for tremendous change, a new focus, and new plans for the future. Thank God that allowing emotional weakness is a choice not necessarily a character flaw. I chose to resurrect my emotional strengths and am finding them stronger than ever before!

  • I’ve been feeling like I’m not emotionally strong, i’m facing a part of my life where i need to make a change to make my life more positive, yet I’m struggling with how it makes me feel.

    I read this and realized I am stronger than I thought. I don’t worry about things I have no control over, and I put the past where it belongs - in the past. I try to always look forward. Where I struggle are 10 and 15. I have ingrained responses that I am working to change. Its a slow process, but I’m working on it. I also try to help everyone - yet sometimes I have to put myself first. Again, something I am working to change, slowly.

    Todays article helps me to realize, I am headed in the right direction - one baby step at a time - and I will get there, because I am more emotionally strong than I give myself credit for. Thanks!!

  • I think there are too many of these that I have been doing lately. I am a single Mom and use my son as an excuse to not get things done for myself. I don’t have extra help. My son’s Dad lives in another province (I’m in Canada). It’s so easy to just use that as an excuse. I can hide behind him and not have to deal with the world. I am seeking help. I work for a great company and I’m accessing their benefits for therapy. I plan to be a “doer” not and “excuser”..lol :) Thanks for posting such great topics. I look forward to them every time I get one of your emails. I also forward them to my co-workers. :)

  • As I read this list, I was reminded that years ago I was told that I was not emotionally strong and as I reflect back on the years since then, this list hits every milestone on the head. :). I am in a much better place these days.

  • I believe there is a definite difference between being emotionally weak and true depression. It is not always just a matter of ‘deciding’ to be better, it is much more involved and complex. To a depressed individual this could come across as judgmental and drive them even further into the cycle of self-hate they are already struggling with. Torn on this.

  • I used to think of myself as a strong person, but have many doubts now. At this point in my life, I am not an emotionally strong woman at all. And I know the main reason - self doubt. It’s like 1 step forward, and 2 backward. You both had advised on baby steps, and am trying to follow that advice. Some days are better than others, if I could just keep going forward, I would settle for that. Once a setback gets in the way, I just try and start over.

    Thanks so much for these posts. Again, right in my face!

  • Thank u for your wonderful posts. Every time when I’m feeling down and I would come here to read your posts. And the words you said help me through most of the time!

    I’m having trouble with #11 #16. I was so in love with a guy who was 5 years younger than me. I thought we were perfectly fine with each other but he would try to break up with me time to time, due to my age problem cuz he didn’t want to get married so soon. But I never asked him to married me, he also said he had to try to like me cuz I was treating him so well and he felt guilt. He was not happy. I always talk him through that I don’t want anything from him and I just love him so much and want to spend my time with him. He will feel better and apologize to me. This will happen again and again. And just happened again last night, I’m really sad. He just wants us to be friends. I really like him and I’m so happy when I’m with this him! I don’t know what to do anymore.

  • Trying to be modest about it.
    More trying to show people it is possible.
    All those 16 points fully apply to me.
    You can be that person and its not difficult.
    I will sound like a shoe brand but its so true…

    Just do it !

    I dont believe in luck btw…. i make my own life and create my own happieness.

    I do believe it is very difficult to achieve all these 16 points and more without doing a sport.
    Mind & Body are conected by your heart and spirit. It is a must in life these days to make both strong!

    Happy travels ;)

  • #10 really hits home for me. I really tend to worry about making the same mistakes in life, but what really irritated me is how some people constantly kept reminding me of how I failed in the past over and over again.

    As for #15 I had to remind myself of the quote by Bill Cosby “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.”

  • Amazing Post
    Points 2, 6, 11, 12 Really resonated with me. It is all about accepting the truth and letting go of your resistance.

    I have found this to be one of the fundamental pillars for happiness & fulfillment. Here is another perspective on this: gameligit.com/letting-go-attachments-holding-back/

  • This is deep & helpful - thank-you!!

  • Exactly what i need right now … but i always find it hard to do number one … what can we do when the negativity is coming from our family and close friends who are in position to help us … thanks.

  • I love this article. I used to straggle with #10 but thanks to God, things have changed now. I’m fully aware of my weaknesses and working hard to change for the better. Life sometimes is hard but in the end you end up loving it coz that’s the excitement in living it and not merely existing.

  • Awesome list! It’s hard to find the bad when you stare at the good.

  • Raziuddin Shaikh
    June 18th, 2014 at 12:16 am

    What excellent post, great motivation for a person like me, who is going through some tough time in life . More valuable than gold . Thanks a lot !

  • Thank you so much for this article. I really needed to read this.

  • @Izzy: The wisest, most loving, and well rounded people I have ever met are those who have known misery, known defeat, known the heartbreak of losing something or someone they loved, and have found their way out of the depths of their own despair. These people have experienced many ups and downs, and have gained an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, understanding and a deep loving wisdom. People like this aren’t born; they develop slowly over the course of time. So to answer your question… I think people get stronger and more resilient with experience regardless of age.

    @Cait: You are an extremely strong woman that inspires many, including us. Be proud of yourself! =)

    @Amandah: Great questions. We forget how contagious attitudes and feelings can be.

    @Kathyh: I agree, I think life experiences not age make you stronger and smarter emotionally. Glad you’re enjoying the book!

    @All: So happy to hear that most of you came to the realization that you are emotionally stronger than you originally thought. Realize that it’s not the experience of today that holds you back and drives you crazy, but the regret and resentment about something that happened yesterday or the fear and dread of what tomorrow might bring. It’s necessary, therefore, to let yourself live just one day at a time – just today – just right here, right now. As always, thank you for the enlightening comments.

  • This is exactly what I needed to see today! Lately there has been a lot of drama/negativity/ uncertainty in my life, and it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel, when it constantly feels like I’m just waiting for the other shoe to drop. Good points on being in the “now’ and realizing that even at 30 yrs. old, it’s okay to start over with a new job and embrace change. Thank you :)

  • Great article. The only tiny suggestion I have is to turn all of those statements into positives. For example, instead of ‘They don’t think they need more to be happy,’ how about ‘They are content with what they have.’ I believe a big part of being emotionally strong is a positive outlook. So even simple statements can make a difference.

  • Oh boy, some here struck home with me! And while I know that eventually most people will have an opportunity to experience every and each point, it is how they deal with them what makes the difference - obviously.

    I know this, intellectually, but I find it hard to get out the toxic mindset when I’m feeling sorry for myself or someone else achieved something I wanted. It is so maddening…! I get lost in the labrynths of my head, trying to find a way to smother or push away those feelings (because added to the self pity or jealousy I also feel angry and/or guilty with myself for experiencing them), but those two seem to be my greatest character fails.

    And I simply don’t know what to do with myself to get better at dealing with them. I’m just grateful when I’m free from them, even if temporarily.

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