8 Tiny Shifts That Will Make You Emotionally Stronger Than 98% Of People

Becoming emotionally strong starts with you.

Woman snuggling in a comfortable blanket Andrej Lisakov | Unsplash

Emotionally strong people learn how to deal with emotional setbacks, life difficulties, and traumatic experiences in a way that helps them recover more quickly. How? At the end of the day, it's all about mindset. And this mindset can be adopted by anyone, including you. Take it from someone who gets called emotionally strong a lot. Because I wasn't always this way.

Once upon a time, I was full of self-doubt and inner demons that were eating away at me from the inside. I felt unworthy and wrapped myself in a blanket of misery. But, over time I realized that this made my life more difficult and brought me yet more unhappiness. And I recognized that I had a choice. I could continue as I was and be miserable. Or I could use my experiences to develop mental and emotional strength and move past them. Allowing me to drop my misery and live a happier life. I chose the latter.


Through trial and error (and a lot of living), I've discovered the mental and emotional shifts needed to develop an emotionally strong mindset. And guess what? What it takes to develop emotional and mental strength also increases happiness. And who doesn't want that? Below are some internal shifts that, if adopted, will help you learn how to become emotionally strong and happy.

RELATED: 4 Ways To Put The Least Amount Of Life Effort In For The Max Amount Of Benefits

Here are 8 tiny shifts that will make you emotionally stronger than most people:

1. Understand yourself on a deep level

Understanding who you are is the foundation for developing emotional strength. And you need to understand yourself on a deep level. So, who are you? It all starts with your internal needs and values. Get to know your core needs and how to get them met. And clarify what you value and how you must live to honor them. When I talk about needs, I’m not talking about your physical needs or material wealth. Your core needs are those internal needs you must fulfill to feel content with yourself and your life.




If your needs aren't met, they'll hijack you and you won't be able to think about anything else, which means that you're more likely to get stuck when tough times occur. As for your values, they're what give you purpose. They are the essence of what makes you who you are. Your values help point you in the right direction when making decisions for yourself and your life, which is especially valuable during difficult times. And why it's so important to understand them and how to honor them.

To help you clarify your core needs and personal values, begin by looking to your past. Recall those times when you've felt most fulfilled and happy. Ask what needs were fully met and how you may have been honoring your values during those moments. Next, think about when you've felt most exposed or hurt and ask yourself why. What needs weren't getting met? And look to moments when you've been extremely upset with yourself because of something you did (or didn't do). 

What values were you dishonoring that made you so upset? This exercise will reveal some common themes. And those commonalities will point to your core needs and personal values. If you have trouble differentiating between your needs and your values, remember that needs must be met (either by others or through your actions and choices) and values can only be honored by you in how you choose to live your life.


2. Accept who you are and love yourself (warts and all)

Once you gain clarity around who you are, you've got to practice some self-acceptance and self-love. Understanding isn't enough. Accept that you're as worthy as the next person. Because you are. And don't feel embarrassed by your needs or what you value. Own up to them by meeting your needs and honoring your values in your day-to-day living. Accepting yourself requires you to live in complete alignment with who you are on the inside.

This also means that you don't worry about what others think or whether they approve of who you are and what you value. You don't need anyone's approval to be yourself. Besides, if you accept yourself for who you are and love yourself accordingly, you'll attract the right people. People that you mesh with and who will accept you for who you are.

Now, I want to make an important point. Owning up to who you are does not mean that you've deemed yourself perfect or that you don't want to continue to learn, grow, and change things about yourself. If you love yourself, you'll strive to continue to learn, grow, and change. And part of why you're able to accept yourself for who you are is because you know that you're always striving to learn and grow.

RELATED: 7 Rare Personality Traits The Most Emotionally Strong People Share


3. Embrace that life is unpredictable

Life and people are unpredictable. And you can't control everything that happens to you. It's time you accept this — even embrace it. Because this unpredictability makes life more interesting. To develop mental toughness, you can't over-personalize when bad things happen or believe that you're entitled to a particular outcome. Accepting the unpredictability of life will help you drop any feelings of entitlement and your urge to personalize when bad things occur. 

Besides, life's difficulties aren't personal insults sent straight to you from God or the Universe. Ever notice that you don't hear "why me" statements from folks you consider to be emotionally strong? It's because they've accepted what is and have moved on to figuring out what can be done.



And that's the real benefit of embracing life's unpredictability. It's about accepting that you can't control everything that happens to you, but you can control how you respond to everything. This will help you learn to quickly re-focus on what you can do to move forward. And to stay away from a pity party. This doesn't mean that you should adopt fake positivity or try to see a silver lining every time something bad happens. On the contrary, I'm talking about being real about what's going on in your life so you can begin moving forward productively.


4. Stop the blame game

Emotionally strong people don't seek to blame others for bad circumstances. Instead, they own up to whatever role they played in creating them. So, if you want to become emotionally strong, you'll need to take responsibility for any part you play in causing something to go wrong. And taking responsibility is more than saying, "I admit I made a mistake." It means that you:

  • Seek to learn what you can from the experience (so that you can learn how not to repeat your mistake).
  • Apologize if needed.
  • Figure out what you can do about it and go do it.

It also means that you appreciate that you can't always "fix" everything. But you still seek to rectify your mistake or bad deed as best you can. It's all about being honest with yourself and the rest of the world and taking full ownership of your behavior.

5. Get in touch with your emotions, but don't dwell on them

To become emotionally strong, you've got to learn not to ignore, discount, or invalidate your feelings because you need to feel everything. When you hide or mask your feelings, you're hiding them from yourself (not just the world). And you'll never know what needs healing within yourself unless you feel everything. Moving on requires healing.

When you let your emotions bubble up to the surface, be curious about what they are and what they mean. And pay attention to what they're telling you. So that you can heal yourself and move on from the trauma. But be careful not to question your emotions in a way that belittles them. Remember that emotions aren't always logical. Besides, if you feel something it's because you need to.


Emotionally strong people know that they can't allow their emotions to take them hostage because that's just as bad as ignoring them. So, once you've allowed yourself to fully feel and acknowledge your emotions, don't wallow in them. Instead, refocus on healing yourself and use the knowledge you've gained about who you are to help you determine what you need to do.

RELATED: Only The Smartest People Know These 10 Special Self-Love Tricks

6. Start seeing the bigger picture

Life is a journey. I know this is a cliché, but that doesn't make it less true. Life is full of heartache, sadness, anger, embarrassment, and fear. And it's hard, depressing, terrifying, and messy. But life is also full of joy, happiness, wonder, and beauty. Life is a roller coaster. This is something that emotionally strong people accept.

So, when difficulties in life occur, focus on the big picture and the journey you're on. And stay away from hyper-focusing on the bad. The key to adopting this mindset is to admit that the best lessons in life (and hence the most growth) come from life's messiest moments. Understanding and focusing on the bigger picture will help simplify life and make it a bit easier to live, including when difficulties arise. Because you'll know that you can get through them and move forward to something better.


7. Develop a grateful heart

Admittedly, this one can be tough. As a cancer survivor (who was diagnosed when I was 38 years old and had two young boys at the time of diagnosis), I get how hard this is to do. Yet it's necessary nonetheless. But learning to be grateful (even in difficult times) isn't the same thing as being grateful for the bad things that happen in life. And it's not about putting a positive spin on these things either. 

What does it mean? It means that you learn to find gratitude in the everyday moments, in the beauty that shows up, and in the lessons learned while going through your difficult times. For example, when I went through my cancer treatment I was grateful for my kids. They helped put joy in my day-to-day living that I needed to get through my not-so-pleasant moments. And I focused on this gratitude a lot, especially on my roughest days.

And during this time, a special friendship developed that wouldn't have happened had it not been for my cancer. A friend took me to almost all my chemotherapy sessions (most of which were 4-5 hours long). And, although we were friends before my cancer, going through this process developed a special bond between us. One that I'll never have with anyone else and can't be broken. And I'm extremely grateful for it.

Don’t get me wrong, I would love to have never had cancer in the first place. My cancer was super-aggressive and I still fear that it could come back. But that doesn't mean that I'm not grateful for this special bond. And I don't ignore that the bond was created because I had cancer.


When going through your most difficult life moments, learn to stop and reflect. Reflect on what you're grateful for at the moment (which will help keep you from indulging in self-pity). And as you learn from the experience (and you will learn something from it), practice gratitude for that too. This will give you some of the resilience you need to recover from the tough times more quickly.

8. Ask for help

Out of all the shifts that are required to become more emotionally strong, this is one of the hardest. For me, this was hands down the most difficult thing to learn to do when I had cancer. Asking for help requires complete vulnerability. Not only do you have to admit to yourself that you need help, but you're telling the world how vulnerable you are by asking for it. And, to your horror, you'll be admitting a weakness.

But it's time you admit something to yourself. You aren't perfect. Which is why you'll need help from others when times are rough. Just like everyone else in the world and throughout your life, you'll have times of strength and times of weakness. And when you're at your weakest, it's time to allow your friends to use their gifts to help lift you.

Isn't this what life is really about? One of the main purposes of life is to connect with others and to love. And that not only means loving others but allowing others to love you.  Otherwise, you're not truly connecting with anyone. Besides, by allowing others to help you, you're helping them too. Because, just as you need to love and connect with others, so do they.


But guess what? Although asking for help shows that you're human, it also shows how strong you are. It's courageous and shows mental fortitude, which means that by asking for help you'll be increasing your emotional strength. By incorporating the mindset shifts outlined above into your life, you'll become emotionally stronger and happier.

All you have to do is commit and get started. They may seem scary, but they aren't complicated. They're simple and you will make progress by adopting just a few of these shifts, which will create momentum and make it easier to continue. So, pick one or two and get started because you're worth it.

RELATED: 5 Ways To Be 10 Happier With Your Life, According To Research

Heather Moulder is a career and life coach and founder of Course Correction Coaching. She specializes in helping professional women have both a successful career and happy home life with real work-life balance.