Everybody is gifted with strengths, just as they are cursed with weaknesses. It is how we decide to use these strengths and weaknesses in our everyday lives that define who we are as individuals. We can use our strengths to excel academically, professionally and personally; to work our way up on the social ladder and to mesh well with others. Although our weaknesses may tie us down, we are always able to use them to our advantage as learning opportunities to make ourselves better people. The Clifton StrengthsFinder is an online assessment designed to help individuals discover their talents and strengths. It contains a series of questions that are simply to be answered and then used to analyze which five strengths a person holds out of thirty-four listed strengths. My results were the following: empathy, individualization, communication, focus and futuristic. These five strengths have accompanied me along this journey of life, lending me a hand when the going gets tough and holding me up when my weaknesses begin to take over.
The first strength that was listed on my Clifton StrengthsFinder results was empathy. To be empathetic means that one can sense the feelings of other people. Empathetic individuals, like myself, are able to put themselves in another’s place and understand how someone is feeling and why.
This is why I am empathetic.
I am only 19 years old but I have lived in three different states, all scattered throughout the country. Within those three different states, I have been enrolled in nine different schools. I have always been surrounded by all different types of people and because of my constant moving; I have learned to talk to people and how to make new friends. There is more to it than that though. When I was four years old, my mother lost her battle with cancer. Because of that, I am able to sympathize with people who have had a loved one fall into the hands of death. At the age of six, I was diagnosed with depression and have been struggling with it ever since. It is a blessing and a curse, because even though it is terribly difficult to cope with, I am able to be there with complete and total understanding of others who are also depressed. When I was in late middle school and early high school, I got involved in the wrong crowd and started to get in trouble at school, at home and with the law (to make a long story short). Now I am able to help people who are going through a rough stage in their life. I have gone through heartbreak after a long distance relationship did not work out when I moved across the country and away from my boyfriend of almost a year. I am so young but I have been through so much, yet all of these experiences have molded me into the strong, good-hearted and empathetic person that I am today. Throughout my life, I have gained a lot of wisdom and my friends are always able to come to me for advice and a shoulder to lean on. Everything eventually worked out.
My experience with the many different types of people I have been exposed to throughout my lifetime leads us into my second strength: individualization. According to the StrengthsQuest Reference Card, people especially talented in the Individualization theme are intrigued with the unique qualities of each person. They have a gift for figuring out how people who are different can work together productively. To me, individualization is being able to see an individual person as they really are, good or bad. Now I do not want to sound like I am an extremely judegemental person, which I probably am, but I have the ability to look at someone for only a few seconds and absorb every little physical detail about them. Sometimes the details that I take note of can lead to assumptions about the person as well. Besides making physical observations, I am also able to analyze a person’s inward intentions, hidden characteristics and flaws just by talking to them or getting to know them for a little while. For example, maybe if someone has a tough exterior, I am able to figure out whether it is legitimate or just a front they put up to hide how insecure they really are. I am also able to make assumptions of a person’s past experiences by observing how they act now. I can tell if they come from a broken home, or if they have trust issues or if they have an extremely low self-esteem. Because of this gift, I have decided to major in psychology and go into human services.
Number three on my list of strengths is communication. Those who are able to communicate well are good conversationalists and presenters. Okay, let’s get this out in the open: I talk a lot. Not only am I an active participant in the classroom setting, but also in groups of friends, my voice is the one that is always heard. I most certainly do have a lot to say. It is definitely a blessing and a curse. It is a good thing because I am able to hold conversations and make awkward moments un-awkward. I can easily strike up a conversation with someone that I do not know very well and make them feel comfortable. This strength has helped me pick up a lot of friends along the way. A lot of my friends are grateful for it because they know they can count on me to make things easy-going when we are with a new group of people that we do not know very well. Communication also helps me in school because I am able to give presentations with ease, ask questions about something I am not too sure about and provide my input during group discussions. However, talking is something that has always gotten me in trouble. Not so much anymore, but when I was little I was that kid in class that got sent to the office because they would not shut up. I also had the tendency to tell on myself. Nowadays, I can control myself and save all of my comments for an appropriate time. Communication is not just about talking though; communication is also about being able to express yourself and how you feel about certain situations. I am able to let people know how I feel, but I tend to keep things bottled up a little too long before the cap pops off and my feelings explode everywhere. I guess with every strength comes a weakness. We can’t all be perfect, you know.
Focus. That is my fourth strength. Focus?! I had attention deficit disorder (ADD) as a child. Is it possible that I have finally grown out of it? SQUIRREL. Okay, so this one surprised me a little bit, but after reading the description, I guess this partially applies to me. The reference card says, “People especially talented in the Focus theme can take direction, follow through, and make the corrections necessary to stay on track. They prioritize, then act.” So sometimes I can get a little off track and my priorities can get a little out of whack, but I definitely have a good head on my shoulders. I know what I need to do to get things done and most of the times, I do have my priorities straight but sometimes I might make something not so important the most important. When I know that I need to get something done, I do it. Sometimes I have a difficult time getting into my “focus mode,” but once I am in it, I am able to stay in it.
The focus strength leads into my fifth strength, which is futuristic. Those who are futuristic are inspired by the future and what they can become. They are always planning ahead and thinking of the consequences of their actions. This strength result did not surprise me at all. Ever since I was young, I have always planned ahead. For my eighth birthday party, I had a notebook and I had written down every single thing that my friends and I were going to do right down to the minute. Of course it did not work out but I guess life does not really work that way. To this day, if you look at my phone I have a to-do list for everything that I plan on doing each day. I feel like it just makes life easier to have everything planned out. Besides having short term plans, I have also been a long term thinker. My entire life I have planned on going to Penn State University because not only is it an amazing school but my entire family has also gone there. My dreams came true when I opened my acceptance letter my senior year of high school, but as always, plans changed and I decided to stay local my first couple years of college to avoid all the stress of moving again. I have also planned out the kind of life that I want to live, the kind of family that I want to have and the kind of things that I want to own. I am always looking forward to the future and I am excited for the life that I have ahead of me, but that does not stop me from living my life to the fullest in the present. Because I know what it takes to achieve my future goals, I am able to succeed in school and in my personal life.
There are four different strengths domains: influencing, executing, strategic thinking and relationship building. My strengths fall into all four of these categories and that makes me a pretty well-rounded person. With my strengths, I am able to overcome my weaknesses and excel in what I have been gifted with. I am blessed to have been brought up the way I was, in a good home with strong ethics and with loving, caring parents. The way that one is raised and the situations that they are put into strongly influence who they become and what strengths they develop. My five strengths that have helped me on my journey are directly influenced not only because of the way my brain is wired, but also by my life experiences.