Friday Fix: The Difference Between Acting Tough and Being Strong

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Verywell / Julie Bang

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Every Friday on The Verywell Mind Podcast, Editor-in-Chief Amy Morin, LCSW, shares the “Friday Fix”—a short episode featuring a quick, actionable tip or exercise to help you manage a specific mental health issue or concern.

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Friday Fix: Episode 202

There’s a big difference between acting tough and being strong. But, these terms are often confused.

When people want to act tough they say things like, “I’m not scared!” even when they are or “That didn’t hurt!” even when it did. 

Sometimes, the desire to act tough stems from a belief that showing vulnerability is a form of weakness. So people act as though they don’t care or that they aren’t bothered by anything.

People are often applauded for acting tough too. Someone might say, “I’m so impressed you got this report done even though you’re sick,” or “I’m so impressed you didn’t even cry at the funeral.” 

The truth is, we all act tough sometimes. There are times when acting tough can serve a purpose. There will be times when you need to set your feelings aside and push through something difficult. 

It’s OK to acknowledge that you feel uncomfortable, to ask for help, and to be vulnerable with other people. In fact, it often takes more strength to acknowledge your feelings or to admit to your mistakes.

It can be helpful to stop and ask yourself, “Is what I’m doing right now an example of being strong, or am I just acting tough?”

So, in this episode, I explain the key differences between being strong and just acting tough. Once you recognize those differences, you can choose to start doing the things that help you grow mentally stronger.

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Editor’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript does not go through our standard editorial process and may contain inaccuracies and grammatical errors. Thank you.

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By Amy Morin, LCSW
Amy Morin, LCSW, is the Editor-in-Chief of Verywell Mind. She's also a licensed clinical social worker, psychotherapist, and international bestselling author. Her books, including "13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do," have been translated into more than 40 languages. Her TEDx talk,  "The Secret of Becoming Mentally Strong," is one of the most viewed talks of all time.