For most of my life, my focus on my weaknesses has driven my perfectionism and my need to prove my worthiness over and over again. Applying a deficit approach to my life highlighted what I was lacking, or that I was less than in some way, and constantly setting myself up for failure. It reinforced that I wasn’t good enough. It made it harder for me to cope with changes and challenges, and I believe it also contributed to my anxiety and depression. Instead of focusing on what was wrong with me, I truly wish I’d been able to identify and value my strengths and capacities earlier and learnt how to harness them.
A strengths-based approached allows a person to see themselves at their best, and see they value they bring just by being themselves. Developing a mindset focused on positive capacity building gives us a better understanding of and control of our skills and strengths, which enable us to survive and flourish through adversity, no matter how great. Understanding and applying our strengths can help in all areas of our lives, including relationships, career, and parenting, as well as increasing happiness, improving wellbeing and building a life of purpose and meaning.
"A strength is a pre-existing capacity for a particular way of behaving, thinking or feeling that is authentic and energising to the user, and enables optimal functioning, development and performance." Dr Alex Linley
There are many tools available to help identify strengths, and I’ve recently completed two inventories as part of my Diploma of Positive Psychology and Wellbein the VIA Character Strengths Profile and the Cappfinity Strengths Profile. This process was both informative and affirming, identifying strengths I was not as aware of, categorising and applying a name to others, and confirming strengths I was already conscious of.
A follow up task was to create a strengths canvas with the only instruction ‘use your strengths to show your strengths’. As my top strength on both profiles was Growth / Love of Learning, I used a photo of a tree I had taken, with my first attempt at a sunburst – representing both growth and learning. I then used my strengths of writer, authenticity, honesty, and mission to share my journey and highlight values that are important to me.
The next steps for me are to analyse the results in order to make the most of my realised strengths by developing them further and dialling them up and down as needed, and to learn how to utilise my unrealised strengths to support potential and growth for future success.
I would strongly encourage everyone to invest time into identifying your strengths and energy into learning how to capitalise on your greatest qualities and use them to build your best life. And if you decide to create your own 'Strengths Canvas', I'd love for you to share it with me!
"You will only excel by maximising your strengths, never by fixing your weaknesses." Marcus Buckingham