Surprising ways people react when they discover their greatest strengths
I wish I didn’t have so much empathy…
I wish I wasn’t such a people pleaser…
I wish I didn’t overthink everything…
What do you wish?
Every day I meet someone who wishes they were more like someone else.
If there was such thing as a personality transplant, they would take it.
One of the keys to reducing stress and stress-induced pain is to get comfortable in our own skin.
We need to figure out who we are.
Not the version of us we show to the world.
The real us.
That is why all my clients take the Clifton Strengths Assessment, a personality tool to help quickly discover who you are. We find your unique personality. We call these ‘your strengths’.
But what’s fascinating is the different reactions that clients have when they see their strengths for the first time.
And this is what I’m going to share with you. These are the most common emotions that come up for clients when they finally come face to face with their personalities.
And for the most part… it’s not pretty.
When I got my top 5 strengths I was working in Human Resources. I was so disappointed that I didn’t have as many ‘people’ strengths as I was hoping for.
In my mind to be good in HR you needed to have people strengths and I had none.
I was so disappointed that I resigned from my job.
But thank goodness my boss was trained in strengths and was able to talk me off the ledge.
She helped me to embrace my natural strengths rather than wasting energy trying to be someone that I am not. To read the full story click here.
These days I love my strengths and the energy they bring to my clients. And I finally feel comfortable in my own skin.
Anger / Frustration
My first coaching session with Sarah started like this…
Sarah: “OK… I get it… these are my strengths but they haven’t helped me”
We dug in and discovered that Sarah was angry that she had ‘Empathy’ as a strength because she always gets sucked into everyone else’s drama.
She knows this is a source of her stress and pain. She said, “I can’t seem to turn the empathy off”.
During that first session, we were able to go deep and discover specifically when and how empathy was triggering a stress response. And find ways in which she could balance empathy with her other strengths.
We also looked at the many times in which empathy helps Sarah to be successful in roles that she had held both at home and at work.
It wasn’t long before Sarah was able to see her empathy strength for the superpower it is.
Surprised / Validated
Mark discovered he had several strategic strengths. Meaning he thinks incredibly quickly. He can easily consider a million different options before landing on the best answer.
As soon as I shared with Mark that his strategic strength means that he probably thinks faster than his peers I saw a light bulb go off in his head. He said…
Mark: ‘Oh… that’s why I can’t tolerate fools.’
Until this point, he genuinely thought everyone he worked with just didn’t get it.
So much of his stress came from having to explain things again and again.
But now he could see this as his superpower he instantly reframed the way he saw situations and his peers.
He found strategies to explain step by step to others what he was thinking and why. Before long he had everyone on board with him.
Disgusted / Different
Jane has the strength ‘Command’. When she read her strengths report, she took from it that she was bossy.
She was completely disgusted that this was her. And even more upset that others may see her this way. A nerve had been hit because deep down she did feel bossy.
Well… The strength of ‘Command’ can indeed be seen as bossy.
But only if you’re not aware that you have it.
I worked together with Jane to help her see how her strength of command came to life, both at work and at home.
What we discovered was interesting.
Because she was so conscious of not wanting to be bossy, she had been suppressing her natural inclination to take charge for years.
I explained to Jane that it takes more energy to suppress our strengths than to use them.
For years she had been squashing one of her greatest strengths which had been exhausting.
She was able to see the connection to her rising stress levels and associated migraines.
We worked together to see how she could start using her strength of command, without looking bossy so that she could serve others and in turn help herself.
Regret / Grief
Sam discovered that she had the strength ‘Ideation’. Meaning that she has endless creativity. Her reaction, however, was deep sadness, regret and almost grief.
She went on to recall the many times as a child that she was able to use her creativity but somewhere along the way she had lost it.
She described herself as “a shell of a person on auto-pilot”. Her spark had gone.
Discovering she had not been using her strength of Ideation for so many years was a hard pill to swallow.
But by the end of that first session, we had already discovered ways she could quickly re-ignite that creative spark and find purpose and meaning in her days.
Lonely / Isolated
When some clients get their results one of the first things, they notice is that they are different to their family or friends.
This is normal.
We are all different to each other.
But for many, it goes deeper than this. Clients realize that in childhood they were different to their family.
And for whatever reason, their family didn’t recognize or see their strengths
As a child, they tried hard to morph into being what their family expected of them and continued this long into adulthood.
This act of trying to be someone you’re not is exhausting.
With this discovery also comes anger that they were not recognized as a child. Or sometimes we feel relief. Relief that there was never anything wrong with us.
We are just different.
Having the language behind these differences makes all the difference.
Bad / Indifferent
When I asked Julia what she thought of her top 5 strengths she said…
“They are boring, I was hoping to be more”.
Like many clients, she couldn’t see what was so great about her strengths.
I get it!
When you’ve been living with the same strengths your entire life, of course, they will seem boring.
These strengths are your in-built operating system. We take them for granted. They are what makes you – you!
Or put it another way… It’s like trying to look at the end of your nose. Everyone else can see your nose but you can’t. It’s just too close.
We spent that first session looking at how her ‘boring’ strengths were the secret sauce to her previous successes both at work and at home.
Within just an hour, Julia was able to see the end of her nose again! (aka her strengths).
I will hear a client say, “I’ve done the assessment, but I think I need to do it again, it’s not me at all”.
I’ve been working with the Clifton Strengths Finder tool for many years. And I’ve never once had a client who by the end of our time together still thinks this.
What’s more likely is that they are in denial about who they are. Which in itself could be a cause of stress.
After a little exploration and digging I’m usually able to support the client not just to identify with at least a few of their strengths but to fully embrace them.
Interestingly, the clients with the most denial at the start often go on to recommend Strengths Finder to all their friends.
Of course, we could change our personalities.
But it would take years of practice, repetition and re-wiring of our brains.
Wouldn’t it be quicker, easier and healthier to stick with our personality?
Let’s do the assessment. Get our strengths out on the table and see them for what they are.
Let’s be curious about what emotions come up. And figure out how to use our unique strengths in all areas of life.
I promise that when you discover, step in and use your strengths you can’t help but feel stronger.
What clients say
When you discover your strengths it’s as though someone has just given you a brand-new pair of glasses. When you start wearing them you will see the world differently and you will have a-ha moments.
When we first discover our strengths we may not like what we find. But as we unpack them and dig deeper our emotions start to shift.
Only when we stop trying to fight who we are and accept our uniqueness can find inner peace.
And then the real magic happens when you start to consciously notice and use your strengths.
The most common emotions that clients who have gone through strengths coaching with me report are…
Feelings of content, proud, accepted, powerful, trusting, optimistic, thankful, valued, respected, confident and free.
Now it’s your turn
Are you ready to discover your greatest strengths?
Send me a message today and let’s get going.