Emotional strength can seem like an abstract term. It’s an essential part of responding to difficult situations, but many of us don’t know we have it.
When times get tough, it can sometimes feel like we can’t handle it. Emotional strength is an essential skill that most of us don’t see ourselves as having.
Sometimes it can be hard to even know what ‘emotional strength’ even is. For some, emotional strength may be a high level of control over your emotions. For others, it is being able to show your emotions confidently.
There are so many different interpretations of emotional strength floating around that the actual definition is not so well-known. To understand emotional strength, it’s important to know what it actually is and how you know you have it. There are a number of traits of emotional strength which may surprise you. You probably have more emotional strength than you think you do.
Emotional strength helps you to navigate difficult circumstances and can influence so many areas of behavior. However, it doesn’t come easy. Emotional strength is something we all must practice and, well, strengthen. The first step to emotional strength is understanding what the term really means.
What is emotional strength?
Emotional strength encompasses so many areas of life, making pinning down one definition a difficult task. Emotional strength is a type of response and disposition when reacting to emotional events. It is defined as,
“the ability to respond in an open and vulnerable way in the face of intense emotional experience, feeling one’s way deeper into the emotion which allows access to implicit functional processes driving action”
With four key indicators of emotional strength are:
- Openness and vulnerability;
- Emotional responsiveness;
- Self-description with ease us using vulnerable language;
- Continuing engagement in action.
Emotional strength is very different from other forms of psychological practices such as mindfulness and emotional regulation. It is not the point to turn a negative experience into a positive one.
Instead, the core focus of practicing emotional intelligence is to truly and deeply feel an emotional experience and allowing oneself to be vulnerable. This skill helps us to open up our emotional responsiveness and change the way we understand our emotions in daily life.
There are many ways in which we can do this, but there are certain traits and practices which we may not expect to show our emotional strength.
These five traits show your emotional strength, and also how to practice making it stronger.
Not shying away from pain
The key aspect of emotional strength is leaning into pain rather than shying away from it. Being able to accept pain and dealing with it head-on is something which shows great emotional strength.
By being able to feel pain more deeply, they are also able to feel other emotions much stronger, such as happiness and pleasure. This is a difficult trait to practice and takes a lot of work, but if you can accept and feel pain without fear, you are amongst the emotionally strongest.
Focusing on solutions over problems
Facing obstacles is a natural part of life, but many focus on the problem rather than finding a solution. Those with emotional strength understand that problems come from all different directions and it is more important to find answers than stress about the problem itself.
It is easy to get distracted by problems. However, to practice your emotional strength, try to concentrate on how to solve them.
Seeking respect, not attention
It is human nature to seek acceptance from our peers, but emotional strength comes from seeking the right kind of acceptance.
It is much better to seek respect from your peers with strong personal characteristics than it is to seek attention with small actions. Building respect from others brings greater satisfaction to those who understand the power of being respected.
Letting go of grudges
Emotionally strong people know that it is more detrimental to hold grudges than it is to let them go. It doesn’t mean you forget those who have done wrong, but forgiving them and moving on takes much less energy.
In the long run, it is less toxic and more fulfilling to let go of grudges than to hold onto them. Forgiveness is never easy, but with time, it will come and prove to be all the more freeing.
Comfortable in themselves
The most important trait of someone with emotional strength is complete comfortability in who they are and what they enjoy. The ridicule of others means very little to them, they don’t take criticism because they know what is important.
To practice comfortability in yourself, try to pay little mind to the critiques of others. It may not be easy but understand that it comes from a negative place and is never constructive.
Emotional strength can be difficult to practice at times because it forces us to face and even lean into the difficulties humans face. It is a skill we must learn to feel more confident and settled in ourselves but also feel the pleasures of life at a much greater level.