Have you ever been accused of not being kind, compassionate, creative, or enthusiastic enough? Well I have. I’ve been accused, and I’ve accused others. Someone once told me that I’m not very compassionate, which might be true. I tend to say things directly without thinking about how this could affect the person I’m talking to. And some may associate this directness with a lack of compassion or kindness.
Many times we wish our friends or loved ones were as loving, kind, or enthusiastic as us. And sometimes we wish we were as creative, brave, or perseverant as them. The truth is, we all come with a very specific set of strengths.
We could try to be all the things others want us to be. But at the end of the day, what we do best is to be ourselves.
Studies in positive psychology have found that we all possess 24 character strengths to various degrees. In other words, each of us has a unique combination of strengths. In one of my previous posts, I talked about how we can recognize our superpowers (or character strengths). One way to figure it out is by taking the VIA survey. Once you take the survey, you’ll get a list that will reveal what your top character strengths are.
Personally, I’m high in hope, love, creativity, zest, and curiosity, while my partner is high in humor, love of learning, forgiveness, kindness, and honesty. It’s funny how well we know each other. Before he took the VIA survey I predicted his results, and it turned out I had guessed four of his five top strengths.
Also, it’s interesting to see how our lists differ; he ranked 20th in zest, while I ranked 4th. This means that my partner might not start his day with the same enthusiasm as I do, but I’ve learned to accept and respect that. I admire how kind he is to others, and he admires the creativity I put into my projects. Isn’t it great to know we can complement our partners in a relationship, despite being so different?
Our character is determined in part by genetics, and in part by the people around us. If we could just understand and accept how unique we all are, we would be able to show more respect towards each other. And perhaps we would even start demanding less of others. Just imagine how boring life would be if we all had the same combination of character strengths.
When we focus on what we have, we become happier. And by getting to know our top strengths, we are embracing our uniqueness.
So, when someone tells you “You’re not brave/creative/perseverant enough” be confident enough to say, “I might not be all that, but I’ve got zest/humor/appreciation for beauty,” or whatever your top strengths happen to be.
However, don’t be discouraged if you rank low in some strengths. The good news is that contrary to fixed traits (like the color of your skin or hair), character strengths are something we can develop or work on. For instance, you can become more optimistic by simply hanging out with optimistic people. Or you can cultivate gratitude by making a habit of writing down the good things that happened to you during the day.
I believe that cultivating certain strengths such as hope, kindness, and love can make this world better, but we can only do this by being the example – a reflection of what we’d like to see in others. Just think about it. The people in your life might even just be a reflection of you. If your children act kind, it’s because you’ve shown them kindness. Or if you have a loving partner, it is because you’ve given him love.
So what about you? What strengths do you admire in others? Do you know what your top five strengths are? Take the VIA survey and find out!