There’s a common misconception that mental toughness means the same as “cowboys don’t cry.” That people who are mentally tough don’t have emotions, or at least that they don’t show them. However, while it’s true that sometimes, mental toughness and a “stiff upper lip” go together, that’s not always the case.

Here’s what you need to know about what mental toughness really means.

Being Able to Feel and Express Emotions


Emotional intelligence is a big part of being mentally tough, and people who are emotionally intelligent are able to feel and express the full range of emotions. They can recognize when they feel angry, sad or afraid. They can also work through those emotions and articulate and express them.

In fact, people who are mentally tough understand that finding healthy ways to express emotions is the best way to deal with them and still be able to function. So instead of keeping them pushed down and pent up, they find healthy ways to express and work through their feelings.

Able to Continue Living In Spite of Their Feelings


Everyone feels sad sometimes. Everyone gets angry, and we all feel depressed when things are going wrong.

Mental toughness is about being able to feel those things, and still continue living your life and doing the things that need to get done. It’s understanding that you can feel emotions without letting them consume every moment of your day.

Having the Feelings and Doing It Anyway


Whether you’re afraid, angry or something else, mental toughness is about realizing that things need to get done, and that you need to do them.

It’s about finding the mental and emotional reserves to do the hard things that you think you can’t do, because you know you have to. As they say, true courage is feeling the fear and doing it anyway and being mentally tough is the same thing.

Understanding Your Weaknesses and Accepting Them


If you want to be mentally tough, you also have to recognize that no one is perfect. We all have flaws and weaknesses. We all do things that we shouldn’t, and sometimes, our choices and actions might hurt others.

If you are mentally tough, you are able to recognize those flaws and weaknesses and face them head on. Find ways to work around them, and make sure that you’re not letting them stand in your way.

Never Shying Away from Challenges


People who are mentally tough know their own abilities and have faith in them. This allows them to view challenges that arise in their lives as something to be conquered, rather than something that is standing in their way.

When someone who is mentally tough discovers a problem, they don’t deny that it’s a problem. They just start looking for ways to overcome it.

It takes an enormous amount of mental strength to face problems head on, and to keep working on them until you have beaten them.

Taking Personal Responsibility


Perhaps one of the most important traits of mentally tough people is that they are able to take personal responsibility. Instead of blaming others for things they don’t have, or for things that have gone wrong, they take the time to analyze how their own choices have affected the outcome, and what they might have done differently.

It takes a lot of mental toughness to acknowledge the part you might have played in things that have not worked out the way you wanted them to, and to make the changes necessary to address the problem.

Rolling with the Punches


People who are mentally tough know that even though they might plan their lives carefully, sometimes, things still go wrong. Mentally tough people aren’t happy when life throws them a curveball, but they also know that just because things have changed, they don’t have to give up completely.

Instead, they adjust their plans, change their tactics, and plan to work towards their goals with the new factor accounted for.

They Accept Help


Perhaps the most important part of being mentally tough is acknowledging that you can’t always do things on your own, and you need help.

Being able to acknowledge that you need help and being able to accept it graciously is a huge factor in mental toughness that many people never master. However, if you can do that, and everything else on this list, you would be equipped to handle nearly everything that life throws at you.


Mentally strong people often don’t look as strong as those who are not. They’re more likely to bend under pressure, and to show their emotions when they have them. But they’re also more likely to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and get back into the game, even when things don’t go their way.