Who are you and what are your strengths?

February 28, 2012

Journaling, Self-improvement

Next time you’re alone, start a journal and jot down some questions. Let the answers flow from within you.

by Irene Conlan — 

Recently I saw part of an interview with Kevin Spacey by James Lipton, of “Inside the Actors Studio.” In the segment, Spacey did impersonations of other actors and was quite good. As an actor, Spacey’s job is about acting as someone else. But who is he — really?

I am sure the audience got to see some of the “real” Kevin Spacey on the rest of the program, but what I saw compelled me to ask, “Who are we really?”

Who are we imitating, and why? If we let ourselves be authentic, what would that look like? How do we know who our authentic self is? A starting place is to determine what our strengths are and how they can help us achieve happiness and satisfaction in life. After all, isn’t that what we want?

Let’s grapple with the question, Who am I? It is difficult in these days of ever-present media to define your own, unique identity. If you really want to find happiness and contentment, however, it is a question you must answer. I invite you to strip away the influences of the media that tell you to walk a certain way, talk a certain way, dress a certain way and “be” a certain way. Take those false accoutrements off — like you would shed layers of clothing — and get to the place where you are alone with you — not needing or trying to please anyone but yourself.

This takes courage.

Next time you’re alone, start a journal and jot down some questions. Let the answers flow from within you. This is not a one-stop exercise. You may spend the rest of your life asking and answering the same questions: Who do I believe I am? What do I believe? Why am I here? What do I want out of life? What do I want to do to help the planet and its inhabitants? How do I want to be remembered? What makes me happy? What does happiness look and feel like to me? What are my strengths?

Today, we will work with that particular question — what are my strengths?

Signature strengths

  • Curiosity/interest in the world
  • Love of learning
  • Judgment/critical thinking/open-mindedness
  • Ingenuity/originality/practical intelligence/street smarts
  • Social intelligence/personal intelligence/emotional intelligence
  • Perspective
  • Valor and bravery
  • Perseverance/industry/diligence
  • Integrity/genuineness/honesty  Kindness and generosity
  • Loving and allowing oneself to be loved
  • Citizenship/teamwork/loyalty
  • Fairness and equity
  • Leadership
  •  Self-control
  • Prudence/discretion/caution
  • Humility and modesty
  • Appreciation of beauty and excellence
  • Gratitude
  • Hope/optimism/future-mindedness
  • Spirituality/sense of purpose/faith/religiousness
  • Forgiveness and mercy
  • Playfulness and humor
  • Zest/passion/enthusiasm

(From Authentic Happiness. Seligman, Martin (2002) New York: Free Press, pp. 137-161.)

What are my strengths?

Try not to get judgmental and falsely humble here — thinking that you don’t have any strengths. You definitely do. What are they? If you have trouble identifying your strengths, get a copy of the book Authentic Happiness by Martin Seligman. He lists 24 signature strengths and helps you determine yours. Look at those listed in the box and make a self-assessment of each one to the best of your ability. List the ones you can claim as your own.

Now ask yourself:

  • How can I use my strengths to achieve personal happiness and satisfaction?
  • What occupation or profession best utilizes my strengths? If I am in the wrong one, and I know it is wrong, how can I change to something that gives me enthusiasm and satisfaction?
  • Which recreational activities best utilize my strengths? Do the friends I have now allow me to demonstrate my strengths, or do I have to hold back?

Formulate your own questions. I know this article does not give you any answers. It can’t. I do not have them for you; I am working on my own. Your answers will come from within you.

So go on an amazing adventure of discovery and find the strengths that make you uniquely you. Have fun doing it.

Bon voyage!


Irene Conlan has a master’s degree in nursing, is a certified hypnotherapist and a certified past-life regression therapist at The PowerZone in Scottsdale, Ariz. www.theselfimprovementblog.com.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 28, Number  4, Aug/Sept 2009.

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