This article was originally published on Ms In The Biz on September 18th 2018.
Wanna do a fun little activity?!?
Grab a pen… Make two columns…
In the first column, write down 5 traits you like about yourself, things you’re good at, things you consider to be strengths.
In the second column, write down 5 traits that you don’t particularly like about yourself.
Do you notice anything about what you’ve written? Maybe about how the two columns relate to each other? It’s likely that your strengths and pain-points are more closely related than you might have realized.
Think of it this way: our pain-points are just our strengths turned way up. That wonderfully sensitive, empathic part of your nature? In the extreme can be over-sensitivity and a tendency to overreact or snap. That steadfast discipline that has gotten you so far in life? In the extreme can look like obsessiveness, anxiety, maybe even narrow-mindedness.
And our strengths? Those are like our superpowers. The things that come easily and naturally to us. Maybe we were born with them, maybe we’ve integrated them to be second-nature, won from years of learning. Regardless of how they came to be, they are gifts we have at our fingertips, right now, that we can use to create more happiness and fulfilment. And, yes, like any good superhero, they can make the world a better place.
In the growing area of positive psychology – a branch of psychology that focuses on enhancing wellbeing rather than on pathology (what is not working) – researchers have been investigating the relationship between strengths in our character and how we can use those strengths to flourish in our lives.
When you think about the average day, do you spend more time thinking about those traits you wrote down in the second column or the first column? When you think about how you want to grow/change/be a better person, do you think about eradicating the traits you wrote in the second column? Or do you think about how you can cultivate and share the traits you wrote in the first column?
If you close your eyes and think about eradicating those not-so-pleasant traits, how does that prospect feel in your body? If you close your eyes and think about leaning into your strengths, how does that feel in your body? There is no right or wrong answer here, just a reminder to check in with your body, full of wisdom as it is.
I’m certainly not advocating for ignoring our shortcomings. What I’m suggesting is quite the opposite. This little exercise is about seeing those shortcomings and becoming aware of how, with a shift of the volume dial, they could be some of our greatest gifts.
If you did the exercise above, bring those natural strengths to mind. How can you give more real estate to them in your inner world and in your outer world? Are there areas of your life where you’re not applying those strengths to their fullest? Here is your permission to shine a light on those strengths, from the inside out.
There is a fantastic test that’s available free online that identifies your strengths. It was developed by pioneers in the field of positive psychology. You can try the test here! It’s free to register and they don’t spam.
I learned that my top 5 strengths are:
★ Appreciation of beauty and excellence
★ Curiosity and interest in the world
★ Judgement, critical thinking and open-mindedness
★ Fairness, equity and justice
When I saw these strengths highlighted, it gave me a greater appreciation of who I am. I felt a sense of permission to be those things, wholly. It also taught me to respect the darker projections of those characteristics, not to give them free reign, just the awareness to spot them – and turn down their volume.
Give your strengths your attention, own them and nurture them. Let the energy you expend in your life be fueled by them.
Go learn about your strengths. Please share them! They are part of who you are. They are part of what makes you the fabulously unique, never-to-be-repeated… you. And the world needs more of that.