I much prefer living a life that seeks out others’ strengths and helps them positively capitalize on them. I believe this nature of being has always been at the core of who I am. From as far back as I can recall, I have almost immediately been able to spot people’s positive qualities and possibilities, whereas it generally takes me some time to see the limits and weaknesses. As a child, I considered myself as someone who wasn’t part of a clique, but more so friends with everyone, because I saw value in everyone relatively equally. Throughout my life, I have found myself in conversations where people tell me about someone they don’t care for, and I respond with a surprised, “I thought she seemed so nice.” And in work settings, I have often found myself defending the skills and talents of others, and figuring out where they can best utilize them.
While I have primarily considered this ability to be a personal strength and gift, the reality is that from time to time, all strengths have their dark side. I have experienced some disappointments in personal and professional relationships when someone I saw as a Dr. Jekyll surprised me by showing their Mr. Hyde. These experiences have taught me that while I will always easily see and seek the good in the people, organizations, and situations I encounter, I must also ensure that I am aware of the whole picture in order to be most effective and resilient.
While seeing others’ strengths has always come easily, it took me a long time to see and effectively utilize my own. Particularly in high school and college, I had a hard time fully recognizing my own worth and struggled with my self-esteem and self-efficacy in a number of areas, particularly in relationships and in school. For this reason, I allowed myself to be in unhealthy romantic relationships frequently and for too long, walked away from good relationships, and had a tough time with a number of my college courses. I constantly compared myself to others and wondered why I couldn’t be like people I thought had the “right” personality characteristics and skills. I felt flawed and spent time trying to fix the things I thought were wrong with me so I could be happy. But over and over, it never worked, and I just kept feeling broken. It was only when I made a conscious effort to value myself authentically for who I am and stopped trying to be what I’m not, that I was able to fully understand and use my strengths to live a personal and professional life filled with passion and purpose.
It is in what is right with us, that we find our purpose and can live and work with passion. It in embracing our quirks and idiosyncrasies that we can give up the time we waste telling ourselves we aren’t good enough and need fixing. It is in letting go of trying to make other people be how we want them to be, that we can finally see how awesome others are, as they already are. And, it is in synergizing our collective strengths that we can do amazing things within our families, workplaces, communities, and through life’s challenges.
This is the first piece in a series that will focus on leveraging our strengths, passions, and purpose in all areas of our lives. There is a wealth of incredible research that supports how we can boost our personal and professional performance and satisfaction by doing so. There are also wonderful testimonies from people I have had the pleasure of interviewing, who are living and working strongly, passionately, and purposefully. Additionally, there are a multitude of strategies and tools we can utilize to create lives, relationships, and organizations that are built on the foundation of strengths. I love this topic so much that I decided to build my own career around it (unknowingly at first) and center my parenting around it; now I am immensely excited to be writing about it. So, let’s change the language and thus the trajectory:
What’s right with YOU and how are YOU going to use it?