what are your strengths?

Today I have a fun challenge for myself, and I thought, it would be awesome if YOU would join me. Here it is:

Name your top three personal strengths.

As I’ve been faced with this question over the course of my adult life, I’ve groaned inwardly. Years of self-doubt and self-loathing can do that to you. Even if you have a fairly healthy self-image, you may feel like it’s boastful or haughty to make your strengths known or focus on them. It’s time to get over that. I want you to believe in your very heart of hearts that YOU have value. You have a unique combination of strengths that make you especially suited to navigate to your success.

I truly believe that every person is “smart” in some way. It raises my hackles when someone says, “You’re so smart!” when a child does well on a test or gives the “correct” answer to a given question. A child who can’t read but rode a bike at age four is smart. An individual who is persistent in going after what they want is smart. A person who can make others feel safe and comfortable around them is smart. Absolutely everybody is smart (or good, or gifted, or talented; whatever term you may choose) in some area.

Do you gravitate towards people who are confident in their abilities or those who are self-effacing and withdrawn? Who and what do you want to attract into your life? When I think of people I admire or the successes I want to achieve, I picture confidence, competence, and a positive spirit. I want to be that version of myself, and that requires that I know myself and what my strengths are.

So how does someone like me, or possibly you, find out what those strengths are? I’ve been ruminating on this, and I’ve got some ideas to help me identify my strengths. Here they are.

1. Ask your close friends and family what they think your strengths are. 

Depending on the quality of your relationships, this may be tough. If you have people in your life who put you down or constantly question you, you may not want to ask them! But if you have someone, ANYONE, you can trust, ask them. Maybe it’s a pastor, teacher or counselor. Even if they are far in your past, maybe ask them the question, “What am I good at? What strengths do I have?” Give them some time to thoughtfully answer, because it can be difficult to give an accurate response if someone has popped this question on you, and you want a genuine evaluation.

When you have asked the question, LISTEN. Ask clarifying questions if you don’t understand what they’re saying. Attempt to be as open as possible to their point of view. Then you can consider what they’ve said and see if it has the ring of truth to you.

You will probably find that even if people don’t say the exact same thing, there will be common elements.

2. Use assessments or inventories to discover what you are like and where you excel.

I have always loved those quizzes in magazines or that you come across online (who doesn’t?!) Although those are fun, in this case, I would seek out a test that has a little more credibility than the latest fashion mag! I find these assessments fascinating; you answer a few questions and all of sudden you get the results and you’re thinking, “Has someone been stalking me? How do they know me so well?!”

My favorite inventory is the Myers-Briggs personality assessment. I first took it in a freshman orientation class in college, and over the years it’s been administered with different employers or I’ll find a test online and check it out. My favorite place to currently do this is 16personalities. You take the test and then it gives you the results as well as different ways that they play out in your life- including your strengths. It’s been interesting; my results have s-l-o-w-l-y changed over the years. (I wonder if I’VE really changed or my view of myself has changed!)

There are lots of others, just do a Google search for “personality tests” and you will find a lot out there. Try to pick ones that seem legit, but even the silliest ones can be pretty revealing! I’ve discovered, for example, that my patronus AND my spirit animal is a hummingbird, which TOTALLY made sense! But if you want to be serious search for more scientifically grounded assessments. 😉

3. Along the same line… read BOOKS.

You know how sometimes you get the same message from a lot of different sources? Lately, it seems like wherever I go, and with a lot of different people I’m talking to in different situations, I’ve been hearing about CliftonStrengths, formerly called StrengthsFinder. From their website:

“There is no more effective way to empower people than to see each person in terms of his or her strengths.” – DON CLIFTON, Father of Strengths Psychology and Inventor of CliftonStrengths

This is exactly what I’m talking about! I haven’t taken this inventory yet- there is a $20 fee for the most basic test online. There are also several books that go along with it that help you learn how to use the inventory results and even coaches that can help you. I am super excited to take this test; a homeschool support group that I’m in is having a trained facilitator come and help us with our results!

I’ve also checked out the book, “What Color is Your Parachute?” by Richard N. Bolles from the library, and I’m excited to delve into it. It’s been recommended to me at various points in my life when I’ve tried to figure out what I wanted to do when I grew up. The website jobhuntersbible.com is the author’s site and he includes descriptions and links to some of those inventories I mentioned earlier here.

4. Think back to your past- especially toddlerhood and definitely childhood, but any point really.

I was recently feeling really discouraged about having perseverance in any area of my life. I was used to telling myself I wouldn’t be successful because I just didn’t have the energy to do anything other than keeping my kids alive! I wondered if I’d always been like that. As I reflected, I remembered how hard I would work when I was little when wanted to learn a skill. If the other girls could do forward flips around the playground monkey bars, I kept trying until I could too. When I wanted to do the splits, I stretched every night when I went to bed until I could do them. The same with backbends; I tried over and over in my bedroom, with pillows stacked under my head, until I could bend back into the bridge and pull myself back up. Even though I wasn’t good at these skills naturally, I had the perseverance to learn them eventually. That is a strength in and of itself.

What were you good at growing up? What were you known for (in a positive way)? Were you the athlete that always got picked first when teams were chosen? Did you have an ease with being around and caring for animals? Did you always sit with the kids that no one else wanted to be around? As I type this, I am thinking of specific classmates I had growing up who weren’t always popular or conventionally “gifted”. Whatever it was for you, try to remember it and tap into it now. Chances are, those strengths are still there, even if you feel like life has driven them out of you!

Think of a healthy toddler or small child. Even if they are shy or reserved, they know what they want and are clear about their desires. They do what they love to do, and vehemently resist anything they don’t! They don’t overanalyze their own motives. They know themselves.

5. Pray 

There are so many thoughts and ideas and attitudes about prayer.   I will not get into a theological debate about it online but here’s what I believe, based on my searching and understanding of the Bible: God has lovingly invited us to bring ANYthing to him in prayer.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. Romans 8: 26-27

You have access to your creator. He gave you your life and your vocation. He will also equip you to live it out.

6. Read the Bible

Do not be afraid to find your strengths because of a misguided notion that it is too self-centered to know what you’re good at!! (Can you tell I’ve struggled with that? 😉 ) The verse of the day for me in my Bible app:

Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.  Hebrews 13:16

And then there are these:

Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Romans 12:13

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10

Do you see someone skilled in their work? They will serve before kings; they will not serve before officials of low rank. Proverbs 22:29

Just like in the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30), we have been given gifts! Let’s know them and use them! We are missing so many opportunities to live life fully if we sit around moping about how we aren’t good at anything. It’s just not true.

SO let’s get out there and find our strengths! Let’s celebrate our gifts! I would love to hear from you either here or in a comment on social media: WHAT ARE YOUR PERSONAL STRENGTHS?

Hoping to lift you up today- Sarah


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