Although we often think about strengths in terms of skills and tasks or activities that you feel you are good at, the broader idea of Strengths, or Character Strengths, comes from Positive Psychology. They are described as “built in capacities for particular ways of thinking, feeling and behaving”. Identifying your relative strengths and weaknesses can help you develop more self-confidence and self-awareness.
Let’s think about strengths in the broadest sense: Think about someone you admire – a friend, family member, colleague or anyone that you know reasonably well. List all the personal and / or skills-based strengths that you believe this person has (are they brave, wise, funny, caring, loud, a team player, take charge, great with numbers). Now list their weaknesses.
Now repeat this exercise thinking about yourself.
Did you list a similar balance of strengths and weaknesses for yourself as you did for the other person?
Most people find it easier to list strengths for other people and weaknesses for themselves.
Listing your strengths and weaknesses can:
• Build your self-awareness
• Help you understand other perspectives
• Allow you to identify areas for improvement
• Increase your positive vocabulary and positive self-talk
• Bring greater appreciation for areas you may have previously undervalued.
So let’s focus a little more on your strengths. Positive Psychology theory (Seligman, 2002) suggests that we all possess distinct character strengths that are associated with one of six “virtues” as shown in the figure.
Actually finding your Strengths can be done in several different ways. One way is to use an online toolcalled the VIA Character Strengths Inventory. It is a short questionnaire, made up of a series of statements to which you respond. Your results then rank the character strengths in order of your strongest to your weakest. Try to answer with your “gut instinct” – don’t overthink it.
Find the VIA Institute on Character at viacharacter.org You’ll need to “Take the Free Survey”. Now, it does ask you to register to do this but you can opt out of the newsletter etc. There is a screen at the end of the survey where they ask for more information about you but this is optional so skip through and get your results. They will try to sell you a detailed report – YOU DO NOT NEED THIS!
- What is unique about your profile is the position of each strength. Strengths near the top are likely to be those most representative of the “real you”.
- Everyone has all 24 strengths, just in different amounts.
- In this context, the strengths near the bottom of the profile are not weaknesses. They are strengths that come to you less naturally and require more effort to use.
What did you come up with? Do they make sense? Are there any surprises? Do you utilise those strengths in your life?