By Olivia Schmid | | Layout Assistant
This week, I am really excited to be discussing 13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don’t Do, beautifully written by Amy Morin (and for the next several weeks at that, but more on that later). With personal development books getting more and more popular, I find it crucial to talk about books that not only address self-help but do so from different perspectives. This book focuses on women, although I would argue that every person, regardless of their gender, ought to read it.
Each chapter is formatted in the same way, and perhaps that explains why I feel so inspired by it; it’s not just saying “women overthink,” but “women overthink, and here’s why.” Every chapter begins by helping the reader determine if they’re guilty of the highlighted habit, why they might do it, why it’s bad, and then what to do about it (in their career, family, and social life). If that seems like too much, Morin summarizes the chapter at the very end with a bulleted list (which I love) distinguishing helpful and unhelpful habits.
Yeah. It’s a lot to think about.
Because of this, I’ll be doing a mini-series shindig, where I talk about a few chapters at a time each week. This week we’ll be talking about Chapter 1: They Don’t Compare Themselves to Other People. Let’s dive in!
Morin outlines the two goals of 13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don’t Do (13TMSWDD) at the beginning of her novel. First, it’s meant to empower women to “build their mental muscles so they can become the strongest and best versions of themselves”, and second, to encourage them to “create a ripple effect that will inspire others to become mentally strong,” This column is merely my attempt to do the latter: to create awareness of the legitimacy of self-help and maybe even a ripple effect of the content.
First, what does it mean to be mentally strong? There are primarily three components of mental strength, including your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Internally, you want to work towards developing a realistic inner dialogue with yourself. I say “work towards” because we’ll never be perfectly nice to ourselves. This advice is aimed at addressing that over-critical, little voice inside our heads (you know what I’m talking about) that beats us up more times than lifts us up.
Feelings play a large role in this, too. You can’t allow your feelings to dictate your life 200% of the time (although I’m hardly one to talk), but the more you focus on your thoughts and the way you treat yourself, the more aware you’ll become of your emotions and how they affect your behavior. Our choices guiding our behavior have the power to change our lives, so take positive action despite the circumstances.
Let’s talk about comparison, the habit discussed in Chapter 1 of 13TMSWDD.
COVID-19 is no exception; if anything, I think it’s elicited more social comparison than what was present in normal circumstances. Keep in mind that everyone feels differently about the pandemic, it’s affected people in different ways. Because of this, social media lets us into very select parts of people’s lives—it’s not the whole picture. It’s not fair to compare the reality of your life to the way you merely perceive someone else’s life.
Similarly, you can’t keep comparing your current level of happiness to the level of happiness you assume other people have. According to Morin, this is considered “upward social comparison.” You look at people who seem wealthier, happier, and healthier than you, which only feeds into feelings of depression and anxiety.
It should be noted that social comparison is a two-way street. Just as we can compare ourselves to those who seem superior, we also commit downward social comparisons when we intentionally look at people who are less fortunate than us (less attractive, less wealthy, etc.) for a temporary self-esteem boost, whether intentionally or not.
What should we do instead?
Morin offers some advice:
1. Reduce the likelihood that you’ll compare yourself to others by creating a rich-enough life that you won’t care what others are doing. “Rich enough” is what you make of it—whatever this looks like for you.
2. Address the exaggerated and unfair comparisons you make, and pay attention to the judgmental words you convey to yourself that make their mark. Morin outlines some popular words in our vocabulary that are detrimental to mental strength:
“Should” and “shouldn’t”: These words outline the difference between reality and your expectations. Morin suggests practicing acceptance and appreciation of what is, rather than insistence that things be different.
Words that end in “-er”: Morin cautions the reader to be aware of when they are drawing clear comparisons and ask themself whether it’s a fact or an opinion.
3. Deal with the discomfort that you experience when other people have more than you. Think of people as opinion holders, not competitors. After all, people have different ideas on how to live their own best life (thanks, Amy Morin, for shedding light on that!).
I didn’t dive too deep into the science of the “why,” but I’ll leave that to you for when you go to Target and buy the book. As college students, it’s natural to deal with social comparison; however, don’t allow it to consume you.
Next week, I’ll be focused on perfectionism and vulnerability, so stay tuned!
First-year Olivia Schmid is a Layout Assistant. Her email is email@example.com.