August 18, 2015
Strengths connect us to life, plain and simple, while anxiety, self-consciousness, and feelings of less-than alienate us from it.
Before the strengths, we may have invested a great deal of energy into getting “better” at things that we felt we were “bad” at. Understandably, we learn to look outside of ourselves for validation, avoiding vulnerability and situations that risk rejection and criticism.
Indeed, most of us have spent time and resources on pursuits aimed solely at pleasing others or impressing them. Even though it may have left us feeling empty, we thought, “If I could just change this about myself…” or “If only I were XY or Z…”
Through this worldview we found our true expressions muted, misunderstood, or taken for granted. Hoping to be accepted, we met resistance at every turn. It was exhausting to try to predict who others wanted us to be. In extreme cases, we may have hid as much of our true selves as possible, grappling and hoping to become someone else entirely.
Fear of feeling rejected for who we really were kept us from opening ourselves up to others and feeling vulnerable. While fear creates, perhaps, an illusion of protection, it also keeps us from connecting with the world around us. We live like kittens among wolves.
The strengths don’t ask us to change anything about ourselves. In fact, they ask us to let go of that notion completely and embrace what is already there. Oftentimes, this only requires us to get out of our own way.
Sounds easy enough, but how is that done? Learning how to embrace vulnerability is one place to start.
Author Brené Brown offers this, “Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
By naming the strengths, we shine a light on parts of ourselves that we may have quarantined to the shadows. The strengths give us all a language and a suite of resources that we can build on.
Having a light and a language, our inner-qualities are no longer amorphous. We move away from abstraction and toward concreteness. The strengths provide us with terms that have real-world, actionable steps. No longer do we need to feel defined (or define others) by vague, broad strokes—“serious type”, “artsy-fartsy”, “sensitive”, “over-the-top”, etc.
And, why? Because when we identify our strengths we become a part of a strengths community, one with a shared language. While it might be rare to have the same exact profile as someone else, we do find others with whom we share one or two strengths. And, there, we find those who share our intimate worldview.
When we get specific about who we are—and the strengths allow us to do exactly that—we can begin to name and identify when and where our best qualities arise. Having at our disposal words like Intellection, Input, Empathy, and Maximizer, we can feel safe in telling the truth about ourselves because there is a wealth of concrete information available to us, which describes in great depth exactly what this means. The strengths provide us with objective language that we can all agree on. Try saying that for “artsy-fartsy”…
Vulnerability takes a little nerve and a lot of practice, right? And practicing “being your true self” with someone whom you share strengths with is one way to ease into this type of paradigm shift.
Who are the people in your life that embrace, compliment, accent, and highlight your strengths? What does vulnerability look like in your world? Who is your life’s number one fan?
Be your greatness. Start. Do. Go.