What makes me feel like my best self?
Strengths can be defined in many different ways. For example, they can be defined as “dispositional qualities people possess that enable or promote well-being” (Goodman et al., 2018) or “positive traits reflected in one’s thoughts, feelings, and behavior that lead to human flourishing” (Klein et al., 2019). Similarly, character strengths are “positive attributes that define who you are and correlate with positive outcomes” (Niemiec, 2019). Essentially, strengths are personal characteristics associated with our best selves.
Strengths not only energize and promote well-being in individuals, but also in collectives. However, research has shown that two out of three people are not aware of the strengths they possess (Linley, 2008 via Niemiec, 2013). As a result, it is important for us to reflect on and be aware of our own personal strengths in order to better utilize them for the benefit of both ourselves and others.
In reflecting on our strengths, we should try to identify our signature strengths, defined by Niemiec (2018) as essential strengths, energizing strengths, and effortless strengths.
Essential Strengths: strengths that are core to who you are and define you as a person.
Energizing Strengths: strengths that are highly enjoyable and energizing to use.
Effortless Strengths: strengths that come naturally to you and can be used without exerting much energy.
What do you identify as your own character/signature strengths?
How are you using these strengths in your everyday life?
Are there areas in your life where you aren’t using these strengths?
Are there any strengths that you and/or your culture particularly values or undervalues?
You are helpful and empathic and regularly do favors or help others without expecting anything in return.
You are fascinated with ongoing discovery and enjoy exploring new experiences and subjects.
You act carefully by not taking undue risks and planning with the future in mind.
Why does this matter?
Character strengths are correlated with (Niemiec, 2018):
Increased resilience and lower levels of distress
Increased beneficial responses to stress
Increased occurrence of positive emotions
Increased overall engagement with personal and work-related activities
Higher rates of meaning in life
Improved work productivity and perceived job satisfaction
Self reported stronger and healthier relationships in all areas of life.
Goodman, F. R., Disabato, D. J., & Kashdan, T. B. (2019). Integrating psychological strengths under the umbrella of personality science: Rethinking the definition, measurement, and modification of strengths. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 14(1), 61-67.
Klein, T., Liang, B., Sepulveda, J. , & White, A. (2019). MPower: An empirically based youth purpose intervention. Journal of Character Education, 15(2), 103-113.
Niemiec, R. M. (2013). VIA Character Strengths: Research and Practice (The First 10 Years). 10.1007/978-94-007-4611-4_2.
Niemiec, R. M. (2018). Character strengths interventions: A field guide for practitioners. Hogrefe Publishing, Boston, MA.
Niemiec, R. M. (2019). Finding the golden mean: The overuse, underuse, and optimal use of character strengths. Counselling Psychology Quarterly, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09515070.2019.1617674.