Have you ever taken the StrengthsFinders’ quiz? Now known as CliftonStrengths, it’s an assessment tool developed by Gallup designed to identify an individual’s natural talents and strengths.
StrengthsFinder is rooted in positive psychology. It focuses on what people do well rather than trying to improve weaknesses.
The assessment consists of questions that help identify an individual’s top strengths out of thirty-four possible themes. The themes include Achiever, Analyzer, Communicator, Harmonizer, and Maximizer. Each person who takes the quiz receives a personalized report outlining their top five strengths, called their “Signature Themes.”
The philosophy behind the StrengthsFinder is that individuals can achieve greater success and satisfaction by understanding and leveraging their natural strengths rather than only focusing on fixing weaknesses.
The goal is to help people build on what they’re naturally good at and use those strengths to enhance their personal and professional lives.
For most of my life, I’ve been focused on trying to “fix” my weaknesses. I’m like a lifelong construction worker with a hammer trying to overcome what’s wrong with me so I can make myself “right.”
Some of that fix-it approach came from my pre-Vatican II religious education. During first and second grade in the 1960s, my religion books talked about how messed up we are as a people. We’re sinners, I was taught. We need to get our acts together, submit to God’s grace, and clean up our messiness. (Okay, it wasn’t that harsh, but that’s the message I internalized).
In third grade, Vatican II swept through our religion books. God was no longer a mean, white-bearded judge sitting on a cloud ready to zap us with a thunderbolt when we screwed up.
Instead, we were taught that God is love and we are the Creator’s Beloved. Sure, we have stuff we need to work on to become more loving, but the emphasis shifted from focusing on how bad we were and how angry God was, to how loving God is as revealed through the unconditional love with which Jesus lived his earthly life. We were invited to model Jesus as the way to live a good and awesome life.
Like the StrengthFinder’s quiz, our religion teachers then focused on what’s naturally good about us. We were taught how to lean into God’s loving wisdom and guidance to become the best version of ourselves.
It was a 360-degree shift for a third grader still trying to figure out how to multiply and divide. And though I tried to focus on my strengths and God’s love, the old-school religion kept reciting in my mind, mia culpa—my fault, my fault, my most grievous fault.
A major shift in my “what’s wrong with me” perspective came about the other day when I was at a meeting.
One guy there said, “I’ve spent the last twenty years of my life beating myself up with what’s wrong with me. This morning in my meditation, it occurred to me I needed to drop the self-bashing and instead ask, ‘What’s right with me?’”
His comment hit me upside the head with a thanks-I-needed-that slap. Instead of kicking myself around for what I think is wrong with me, what if I began asking myself, “What’s right with me?”
I’ve pondered that question now for several days. With humility and a deep sense of gratitude to God, I’ve begun making a list in my journal of what’s right with me. The shift in perspective has been huge. I’ve even begun to kind of like myself (I’m still working on that).
And the practice of focusing on what’s right with me hasn’t stopped with just me. I’ve also begun to look at my loved ones, friends, and other people in a new way by focusing on what’s right with them.
I think that’s how God looks at us too. The Creator doesn’t look at us and nit-pick about how messed up we are. Our Maker, the Source of Divine Love, sees how good we are.
It even says so in the Bible. God saw all that he had made and declared it was good, not just kind of good, but really good. Genesis 1:31.
This week, become your own StrengthsFinder.
Instead of clobbering yourself with what you think needs fixing, take the time to acknowledge and appreciate what’s already good about you.Focus on the positive aspects of yourself as you embrace the reality of your inherent goodness. By accentuating the positive, the other gotta-work-on-that stuff might diminish as you undergo personal growth.
A change in your perspective toward yourself and others could impact your self-image in a big way. The shift could extend beyond yourself, influencing not only your life but also positively affect the lives of those around you.
What strengths and positive qualities do you recognize within yourself?
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