What are your greatest strengths? You’ve probably heard this question enough times during job interviews. Perhaps, you have a well-rehearsed response. But if you were asked that question on a date or in the middle of a casual conversation, how quickly and confidently would you be able to answer?
Most people need a few moments to think about their strengths before reluctantly sharing them. In a society that fixates on flaws and urges people to continuously seek improvement, it becomes easier to identify your weaknesses rather than your strengths. We’re encouraged to be hard on ourselves. While it might take some time to shift your focus from the negative to the positive, it’s important to see your own best traits and natural talents. By identifying and leveraging your strengths, you give yourself the best chance of reaching your full potential.
In this article, I’ll explore the importance of identifying what you’re good at, why it’s often easier to focus on your weaknesses, and how to recognize your own strengths.
Why it’s important to identify your strengths
The way we perceive ourselves matters. Research on leadership reveals that leaders who perceive themselves to be effective leaders are more likely to demonstrate good leadership.
Self-perception and self-awareness are crucial to actual performance. Those who embrace their strengths and acknowledge the opinions of those they lead are more likely to become better leaders.
Finding and harnessing your strengths bring you closer to a more fulfilled life. A case study shows that those who discover their strengths interact with the world differently. Focusing on the things we do well allows us to get the most out of life.
Studies on strengths-based development training found that harnessing your strengths improves confidence and a sense of direction in life. In addition to gaining a better understanding of their life purpose, people who focus on their best traits are more likely to believe in themselves and their abilities.
Moreover, research on authentic happiness found that people who have identified the things they’re good at and actively pursue them experience more positive emotions, increased engagement, and higher levels of well-being.
Why it’s easier to identify your weaknesses
As human beings, there’s no doubt that we thrive better under positivity rather than negativity. Despite this, we tend to cling to criticism and hurtful words more than we hold on to praise and compliments.
Numerous surveys have shown this bias toward negativity pervades the workplace as well. Just as people tend to focus more on their weaknesses rather than their strengths, employers do the same. During performance reviews, employers tend to discuss weaknesses and suggestions for improvement instead of developing an employee’s existing strengths.
Meanwhile, some people struggle to acknowledge their strengths out of fear of sounding arrogant or conceited. If this is the case, it’s important to remember that there’s nothing wrong with embracing the things you excel at.
Own your strengths. You deserve praise and recognition.
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How to identify your strengths
If you’re not sure what your strengths are, it’s never too late to discover them. Here are 5 tips to help you identify and harness your best traits and natural abilities.
1. Expand your definition of strength
When we think of our strengths, we often narrow the definition of this concept to skills and traits that could impress a hiring manager. While you should be proud of skills such as critical thinking and great communication, you are so much more than your resume. Expand your concept of strength to encompass all areas of your life.
Some incredible talents and characteristics that are often overlooked, but should be considered as strengths include:
- Emotional intelligence.
- Kindness and compassion.
- Resilience and refusing to give up in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
- Seeing the good in other people.
- Being a reliable friend.
- Stubbornly following your own path.
2. Improve self-awareness through journaling
It’s no secret that if you want to discover your strengths, you have to increase your self-awareness. One of the best ways to get to know yourself better is to journal.
Self-discovery occurs gradually when you freely express your thoughts and feelings on paper. If you’re in a bit of a rush and want to discover your strengths as soon as possible, journaling prompts could help speed up the process.
Here are some prompts to consider trying the next time you journal:
- What activities come naturally to me?
- What abilities do I lack training in, but excel at anyways?
- Which subjects in school did I achieve the highest marks on as a kid?
- When people turn to me for help, is it usually for anything specific?
- What can I spend hours doing and never get tired of?
3. Take personality and strength tests
A more direct solution to identifying your strengths is to take strengths-based quizzes. These quizzes are designed to help you discover your natural gifts and talents.
Here are two of the most popular self-assessments to help you find your strengths:
Another great way to improve self-awareness and identify your strengths is to take some personality tests.
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator or MBTI was developed based on Carl Jung’s psychological types. It identifies 16 distinctive personality types, each with its own preferences, strengths, and weaknesses.
The MBTI quiz specifically identifies the strengths and weaknesses of each type. For example, I’m an INFP. According to my MBTI, my strengths are empathetic, generous, open-minded, creative, passionate, and idealistic. Since we’re making the conscious decision to focus on our strengths in this article, let’s just skip the part about my weaknesses.
As popular as the MBTI is, most psychologists prefer to test personality based on the Big Five. People are tested based on how high or low they score according to five traits:
4. Ask people who know you well
If you’re too humble to identify your strengths on your own, enlist the help of people who you know best. Ask your partner, friends, and family members what they believe your biggest strengths are. You’d be surprised at how many strengths you actually have but never paid attention to.
Gather this data from your loved ones and analyze it. If a particular trait or skill comes up often then that’s probably a significant strength of yours.
In the event that you’re too shy or self-conscious to ask the people you love for compliments, just ask one person. Ask someone who knows you better than anyone else on this planet what your strengths are, and believe them when they tell you how amazing you are.
5. Pay attention to praise from others
You might not have been paying attention to your own strengths, but chances are, lots of other people have. There is probably a trail of clues to finding your greatest gifts and traits from both your past and present employers, co-workers, partners, friends, and complete strangers.
If you want to find your strengths, it’s a good idea to listen to others when they notice positive things about you.
Pay attention to positive feedback from your supervisors or co-workers. Believe your partner or your friends when they compliment you about something you do well. Thank strangers when they praise you for a trait you often overlook.
Focusing on positive words from others is not only a great way to discover your strengths, but it’s also a much better alternative than ruminating on the negative.
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Despite what you may have been taught to believe, identifying your strengths as a human being is not vain or narcissistic. It’s actually essential to growing and fulfilling your potential in life. Instead of spending all of your energy on trying to fix your weaknesses, focus on how to build on your strengths as well. A life based on your natural gifts and talents is typically a life based on happiness too.
What do you think? Did this article help you determine your strengths? Can you list 5 of your strengths? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!