Over the last few weeks I’ve been focusing on building my self-esteem. It’s something I’ve lost over the last few years, primarily due to one nasty little habit:
I’m extremely self-deprecating.
Two years ago I made the transition from school to the workforce. It was rough. The business world is a completely alien world compared to the world of education, where I spent 18 years absolutely excelling.
The educational world is my home turf. It’s where I shine brightest, with the best bang for my buck in terms of effort. I know how to beat tests. I’m organized enough to never miss turning in assignments. I easily form solid relationships with teachers. I’m always hungering for more knowledge. I love reading. I’m motivated to achieve high grades.
In short, I’m a kick-ass student.
But the business world is different. It’s not about learning and repeating facts, taking tests, or switching to new subjects every three months. And because of that, I struggled with the switch.
Sure, there are plenty of parallels you can draw between the two worlds, and strengthening those connections in my mind is part of what I’m working on. If I can make work feel like some sort of bastardized version of school, I should theoretically be able to excel again.
That said, I don’t need to turn work into school to thrive. I just need to remove the handicaps I’ve created for myself.
Those first few months of work were so rough that my self-deprecating nature made me believe the lies I told myself:
- You’re only good at schoolwork
- You’re not a programmer
- You’ll never be as good as those Computer Science majors (I majored in Management Information Systems)
- Those who can’t do, teach
- And so on…
Because I told myself I couldn’t be good at work, I wasn’t. I missed promotions, had recurring bouts of major anxiety and depression, and seriously considered quitting my job countless times to retreat back to the comfort of schooling by getting a PhD.
Instead of running away and quitting, I stuck it out. The money is just way too good to leave! And now that I’ve realized I’ve been handicapping myself, I’m hoping I’ll start to thrive.
So part of my rehabilitation has been to boost my self-esteem. And part of that has been identifying and then playing to my strengths.
I’ve never really thought about what I’m good at. All I could tell you offhand is (1) that I rock at taking tests and making As, (2) I’m a passable athlete because I never give up until my body gives out, and (3) I’m good with money.
On the other hand, asking me to list my weaknesses is a cinch. I could go on for paragraphs about how I’m not very good at online video games or how I don’t know the low-level details of programming. But I won’t do that here. Why would I give my enemies a convenient list on how to destroy me?
With more time and effort I’m sure I could expand upon my list of strengths, but shouldn’t I immediately be able to come up with more than just three items?
That’s why I took the StrengthsFinder assessment.
I’m a big fan of the Predictive Index test my company has every employee take. I also love the Myers-Briggs personality indicator as well (INFJ FTW! I particularly like this free version of the test if you haven’t ever taken one before). So naturally I searched for something similar that would tell me my strengths and I ran across StrengthsFinder.
After a half-hour test, here’s what it said my top five strengths are, with the strongest at the top:
Obviously these are somewhat esoteric, which is why they provide you with a complete explanation of each strength, along with ideas for an action plan to help you develop and cultivate each one.
As I read through my results, I felt like the test did a solid job at nailing down what I’m really good at. I am an intellectual, love to shove stuff into my brain, want to help everyone play nicely, love to learn, and need my world to have structure.
Now that I know my strengths, I can play to them in all aspects of my life. I can now easily say I’m great at these five things and can stop the negative self-talk that too often creeps into my thoughts.
If any of you have taken the StrengthsFinder test, let me know! I’d love to compare notes and see what you’ve done with yours.