Are you over-focusing on your weaknesses as an attempt to fit in? ?
It probably wouldn’t surprise you if I said that many of us focus on our weaknesses rather than our focusing on our strengths. We’re so eager to fit in, we want to eradicate anything in our lives that we feel doesn’t measure up.
We try to fix even the slightest thing that does not feel right. We nit-pick about the clothes we wear, because we think we’re not as fashionable as others. We worry about the way we communicate, because our friends seem so much more eloquent. We are afraid that we’re not as talented as our colleagues who seem to have skills we simply don’t possess.
If you can relate to this, you are not alone. Today I’m going to share my personal experiences with you because I think you’ll be able learn from what I experienced without enduring all the pain and heartache that I went through.
There Was a Time I Focused on Fixing Myself and Eliminating My Weaknesses
Not too long ago, I obsessed about fixing myself so I could just fit in. It was exhausting. I behaved how others wanted me to, did what would bring me more money even if I hated my job, and constantly worked on eliminating my weaknesses because I was certain they were preventing me from advancing in life.
Because I was questioning myself all the time, my confidence got completely shaken and the only question I would ask myself was, “What is wrong with me?”
If you have ever been to that place, you probably know that it is not a cool place to be. In truth, now I can look back and say I am glad I have been there, even if you think I am totally out of my mind. You see, getting to this point made me question what brought me there in the first place, and set me on a course to discovering how I let myself become so miserable.
The answer did not come to me overnight. I spent months reading blogs, exploring different academic sources, self-help books and seminars and then one day I came across this article that talked about personal strengths.
It’s funny, I never even considered thinking about my strengths. In fact, the last time I thought about my strengths was during a job interview when they asked me, “What are your greatest strengths?”
This ‘revelation’ became the turning point of my life.
I was so absorbed in my weaknesses that I did not even notice my strengths. Armed with new knowledge, I decided to switch my focus and shift my paradigm by concentrating on my top character traits instead of beating myself up for my weaknesses.
Four years later I am writing this article to share with you how leaning into my strengths helped me improve my confidence and made me who I am today.
How Focusing on My Strengths Changed My Life
#1 I stopped comparing myself to others
Part of why I was so depressed and hit the rock bottom was because I always compared myself to others – my ambitions, my drawbacks, my personal or professional accomplishments … everything. I took comfort in having benchmarks to depend on; others seemed to have the answers, so comparison just made sense.
When I used to compare myself to others, there was no time to explore what I was good at because I was too busy fixing what seemed to be wrong.
Today, I focus on my best character traits and that has helped me realize what I am good at and accept my strengths as my unique success factors.
Now when I look at myself I see somebody who has both strengths and weaknesses but who prefers focusing on my strengths because they give me self-confidence.
The strong person I am does not need any other comparison. I am not perfect but I am good at certain things and so now I play to my strengths.
Ditching the “comparison game” has made a huge difference in my life. I highly recommend you stop comparing yourself to others and start focusing on the many strengths you possess that make you unique.
“Comparison is the thief of joy.” – Theodore Roosevelt
#2 I stopped trying to escape what I hated about my life, and switched my focus to what I truly enjoyed
Work can sometimes be dreadful. We all know that. When I was constantly trying to fix what was “wrong” with me, I ended up hating my job not just sometimes but all the time. I really wanted to quit my job, but that would have been a shame, because the problem really wasn’t the job itself, it was how I was approaching my job.
When I rediscovered my top personal strengths, I started to look for ways to use them more often at work. And when I started doing more of what I was good at, I started to enjoy the work I once hated.
The reason is obvious: When we concentrate on our weaknesses and want to fix them, we never feel accomplished at anything because we have a constant need to become better. When we focus on our strengths, we feel better about ourselves. Studies have shown that when we utilize our top strengths at work, we are on average 74% more engaged and 31% more effective.
Applying my strengths also led to stronger relationships with my colleagues because it helped me better understand their decisions and actions. It also provided me with more insights on how to work more effectively together because I started leveraging the strengths each person brought to the team.
“By doing what you love and finding how to serve, you add a very special joy to your life.” – Abhishek Kumar
#3 I stopped shutting myself down because of limitations
In the past, every time something would go wrong, I would shut myself down because I knew I was not competent enough to overcome problems. I ruled out countless opportunities both at work and in my private life.
Acknowledging and appreciating my strengths helped me answer many questions and doubts I had about myself. This, in its turn, gave me a clearer understanding of who I am and what I am good at. When I started to make decisions based on my strongest qualities and character traits, my entire life changed.
When we concentrate on negative thoughts, we limit ourselves and our opportunities. Research has shown that when we have positive thoughts and feelings, our brain sees more possibilities in life, which also helps us resolve problems more efficiently and build new skills.
Understanding my top character traits helped me take control of the developments that were happening in my life. It taught me to learn new skills so I can adapt to different life situations. I now know I don’t have to limit myself anymore.
“You can’t put a limit on anything. The more you dream, the farther you get.” – Michael Phelps
How Can You Discover Your Strengths So You Can Start Focusing on Your Strengths?
Studies have shown that fewer than one out of three people can accurately name their top five strengths. If we cannot name them, we cannot leverage them.
Here are the most common ways of finding out your top strengths:
- Strengths Finder Test: There are several tests that can help you identify your major character traits. I personally used HIGH5 which is a free strengths finder that helps you discover your top 5 strengths and helps you understand how to use them on a daily basis. Other famous alternatives are CliftonStrengths and VIA Character.
- Friends and Colleagues: Asking friends and colleagues about your top strengths can help you understand how others see you (but note, they may or may not be able to see all your strengths, depending on their experiences with you). This can help you verify if you are able to leverage well enough what you are good at.
- Personal Coaches: Another way of finding out one’s top strengths is by consulting with a professional coach who will help discover what makes you unique and what your success factors are.
Focus on Your Strengths to Build Your Confidence
If you’re hoping to boost your confidence, then discovering your strengths is not quite enough to get you where you want to be, though, knowing how to utilize your strengths is key to improving your self-esteem and self-assurance.
We underestimate the power of our strengths because we have concentrated on fixing our weaknesses in order to be happy. It never works.
The greatest thing that happened to me in my life happened is when I started to appreciate what I was good at and stopped the self-sabotage that was ruining me.
Focusing on my strengths did not mean forgetting about my weaknesses and hiding from them. It helped me adopt a different approach to problems based on what I was naturally good at and enjoyed doing.
I continue to be a learner, because there are always new ways to employ your strengths and learn new skills. Learning is a natural confidence booster.
Focusing on my strengths eventually recovered my long-forgotten confidence by showing I was strong the way I was.
You’re strong, too, and we you start focusing on your strengths, you’ll start to see your confidence and happiness skyrocket, too!
About the author:
Anatoli Chernyaev is a content marketing manager born in Armenia and currently living in France. A strong believer in the power of strength-awareness and strengths use, he writes about various topics such as self-awareness, positive thinking, personal development, and career advice. In his free time, he travels around the world in search of inspiration and positivity. Connect with Anatoli on LinkedIn.