There's a difference between being mentally strong and simply having a big ego — here's how to tell the two apart

Undrey/ShutterstockThere are distinct differences between being mentally strong and being overly arrogant.
  • Amy Morin is a psychotherapist, licensed clinical social worker, mental strength coach, and international bestselling author.
  • She says that some people can conflate false confidence and arrogance with mental strength, despite being very distinct traits.
  • Morin explains that mentally strong people aren’t afraid to ask for help or admit when they’re wrong, whereas people with big egos are often defiant and refuse to acknowledge mistakes.
  • To develop mental strength, allow yourself to experience difficult emotions and don’t let other people sway your personal convictions.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

As the author of “13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do,” I hear a lot of myths about mental strength. And a common misconception involves mistaking a big ego for mental strength.

Courtesy of Amy Morin

A big ego is about arrogance, not confidence. It’s usually a coat of armour meant to protect one’s fragile sense of self. It definitely doesn’t involve big mental muscles.

Here’s how to tell the difference between being mentally strong and just having a big ego:

A big ego refuses to ask for help

A big ego insists on being completely self-reliant. It will cause you to think you know more than everyone else, and it will prevent you from asking for a helping hand.

Being mentally strong, however, involves a willingness to ask those with more expertise, skills, or resources for assistance. You’ll have the humility to acknowledge you don’t have all the answers, and you’ll graciously accept support from friends, family members, and professionals.

A big ego denies weakness

When you have a big ego, you’ll avoid being vulnerable at all costs. You’ll dodge anything that might expose a perceived weakness.

On the other hand, mental strength allows you to acknowledge areas where you struggle, whether you’re not good at maths or have difficulty with public speaking. Rather than waste energy trying to hide your weaknesses, you can choose to accept them or get help with them.

A big ego declares that failure isn’t an option

A big ego will cause you to think you can’t fail. You might insist you are going to forge ahead no matter what – and at any cost.

Mental strength will help you recognise that there’s always a chance you might fail. But you’ll know that you’re strong enough to handle failure.

A big ego hides mistakes

Mistakes are embarrassing. And when you have a big ego, they can affect your self-worth. So you’ll put your energy into hiding them.

Being mentally strong makes it easier to own your mistakes. You’ll be able to admit what you did wrong. And this is key to learning from your mistakes so you don’t repeat them.

A big ego insists on never quitting

When you have a big ego, you’ll refuse to quit. You’ll think that quitting is a sign of weakness.

When you’re mentally strong, you’ll recognise that sometimes it doesn’t make sense to push forward. Whether your business is losing money, or you’ve injured yourself halfway through the race, you’ll have the strength to walk away from things that aren’t good for you.

A big ego focuses on what others think

When you have a big ego, you’ll spend a lot of time worrying about what other people think. You’ll do just about anything to be held in high regard – even if it means compromising your values.

When you have mental strength, you’ll be more concerned with your character rather than your reputation. You’ll want to live according to your values even when your decisions aren’t popular.

A big ego denies pain

When you have a big ego, you’ll insist that nothing ever bothers you. You’ll deny feeling sad, hurt, or scared.

When you have mental strength, you will acknowledge normal human emotions. You’ll recognise that emotional pain isn’t a sign of weakness – it’s proof that you’re human. And allowing yourself to experience difficult emotions can help you heal emotional wounds and give you more appreciation for the good times in life.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.