“For a person to be truly happy and live a meaningful life, that person must recognize their personal strengths and use these strengths for the greater good”
Many of us struggle at times with low self-esteem, and can find it challenging to see our strengths. Instead we may shift our focus to our perceived weaknesses. Others may find it easy to list their strengths, but may be reluctant to think or talk about them in fear of seeming arrogant or vain . However, in order to maintain a balanced view of ourselves, it is absolutely okay to acknowledge what we do well. Knowing your strengths and living a life more focussed on them, whether at work or in our leisure time, is a key to finding happiness and maintaining positive self-worth. So let’s think about strengths in more detail in this blog.
Firstly, it’s important to make a list of your strengths, no matter how big or small. This list can contain positive personality traits, achievements, skills and talents; from any area of life or aspect of yourself. You may have strengths as a friend, parent or as a community member. Or maybe in relation to a hobby or with your work. If you get stuck, ask yourself;
- “What adversities have I overcome?
- What do other people say they like about me?
- What are some attributes I like in others that I can see in myself too?
Or you can ask a trusted member of your family or close friend to help you. Sometimes they can see your strengths more readily!
Some examples you could put on your list could be (adapted from Centre For Clinical Interventions list):
- Active/eat healthily
- A good listener
- Good emotional intelligence
- Environmentally conscious
- Good cook
- Praise others
- A good friend
- Able to quote every movie ever made
- A lover of the outdoors and nature
Once you have made your list, ask yourself if you’re living a life in which you regularly utilise your strengths. Studies have found that people who use their strengths more at work and during leisure time:
- Are happier, report lower levels of anxiety and depression and have good mental health overall
- Feel more positive about themselves and others and therefor, treat themselves and others with kindness
- Feel healthier and have more energy, leading to an active lifestyle, healthy diet, increased vitality and concentration and being more open to new activities
- Feel a greater sense of job and life satisfaction and resilience to both to stress and illness
- Feel more confident, have higher levels of self-esteem and are more likely to tackle difficult tasks with a positive attitude
- Experience faster levels of intellectual growth and development
- Are more able to adapt to challenges and changes at work
- Are more engaged in their work
Shifting attention to your strengths over perceived weaknesses can take time, but is very achievable and can greatly improve our sense of self-worth and outlook on life, the people around you and the future. When you are more accepting of your strengths, you tend to think more positively. It can be helpful to learn to challenge negative thinking about perceived weaknesses; e.g “I can’t cook”, might be challenged with “I can cook quite a few basic meals, but I don’t ‘love’ cooking, so I am happy to just leave it at that.”
Remember too that a perceived weakness can actually hold a hidden strength. I remember doing a counselling course early in my career, and in the first session the teacher asked us to reflect on a strength as a counsellor and a weakness. For most of us, it turned out that these were two sides of the same coin e.g. being empathetic and understanding had a flip side of sometimes being overly sensitive about things in life.
It can be helpful to ask yourself if your choice of work is bringing out your strengths, and if not, it is never too late to seek a change for the better. Acknowledging your strengths daily can help lead us to a more fulfilling life for yourself, with a greater sense of purpose.
Acknowledging Your Positives, Centre For Clinical Interventions, Updated 2019, https://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au/~/media/CCI/Mental%20Health%20Professionals/Self%20Esteem/Self%20Esteem%20-%20Information%20Sheets/Self-Esteem%20Information%20Sheet%20-%2004%20-%20Acknowledging%20Your%20Positives.pdf
 Ten Reasons to Focus on Your Strengths, McQuaid, M, Updated 2014, https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/blog/functioning-flourishing/201411/ten-reasons-focus-your-strengths
Acknowledging Your Positives. Centre For Clinical Interventions. Updated 2019. https://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au/~/media/CCI/Mental%20Health%20Professionals/Self%20Esteem/Self%20Esteem%20-%20Information%20Sheets/Self-Esteem%20Information%20Sheet%20-%2004%20-%20Acknowledging%20Your%20Positives.pdf
Ten Reasons to Focus on Your Strengths. McQuaid, M. Updated 2014. https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/blog/functioning-flourishing/201411/ten-reasons-focus-your-strengths