Sunday, April 22, 2012

Maximizing Your Potential by Knowing Your Strengths and Managing Your Weaknesses

     Many of us are painfully aware of the weaknesses that hold us back and are just as unaware of our strengths, our inherit talents and abilities. Focusing on weaknesses while ignoring strengths creates feelings of discouragement, failure, low self-esteem, and can even contribute to depression. Conversely, over estimating our strengths can be just as unproductive. It is only when we give equal weight to our strengths and weaknesses that we can realistically recognize our abilities and actualize our potentials. It is also important to consider personal relationships since our relationships can either nourish our strengths or take advantage of our personal weaknesses.

     The first step in maximizing one's potential begins with self examination. Self examination is what allows us to identify our "uniqueness" by identifying our individual strengths and weaknesses. Although this endeavor may feel like a challenge to many because of our busy schedules and busy lives, finding the time to examine and reflect upon key questions concerning who we are, our individual drives, personalities, passions, habits, values, and our strengths and weaknesses is crucial to maximizing our potential. It is also normal to feel afraid of what self-reflection and self-examination may lead us to discover about ourselves and for many, guidance from a mental health professional such as a psychologist or psychiatrist, may be beneficial. However, self awareness is a crucial component for maximizing potential and without it good personal judgement and the ability to identify opportunities that can lead to rewarding personal and professional growth will most likely be overlooked.

     Examining our weaknesses can be extremely difficult since it can create feelings of vulnerability, discouragement, powerlessness, and even low self-esteem. However, it is important to recognize that we all have weaknesses and it is not something to be ashamed of. Our weaknesses are what make us unique and even helps us to connect with other people and to build deep, meaningful relationships. All of us are imperfect and we relate well to other people's flaws.

      A good way to begin identifying weaknesses is by monitoring negative feelings. Evaluate if you often feel angry, frustrated, resentful, jealous and/or envious? For example, if you find yourself feeling envious of a particular person, rather than trying to avoid these feelings, identify what exactly it is about this person you envy. Exploring our envious feelings gives us the opportunity to understand what traits we wish to possess or goals we wish to accomplish. Asking the person we envy how he or she accomplished whatever it is we admire helps us to be able to actualize our goals. In this case, learning from a "weaknesses" transforms into becoming a personal strength and an opportunity for personal and professional growth.

     We all have strengths but sadly many of us do not utilize or even acknowledge them. Examples of personal strengths would be having the ability to be compassionate with others and ourselves, being curious, responsible, consistent, and self-disciplined. Acknowledging our strengths does not make us vain, self-centered, or even unlikeable.

     A good way to identify your strengths is to ask yourself a series of questions such as: Do I accomplish my goals (small and large) in a timely manner, am I curious, do I desire success and achievement, am I compassionate, do I enjoy caring for other people, do I embrace change, can I control my emotions, do I enjoy learning new things, can I accept criticism without being defensive or angry, am I generous and kind? It is a sign of strength to be aware of your weaknesses, to know them, to manage them, and to accept them. Self-awareness gives us the ability to be fully aware of our strengths, our inherit talents, and to have the courage and ability to manage and accept our weaknesses. When this reality is achieved we acquire the necessary insight to reach our maximum potential!

This article was written by Paula Durlofsky, Ph.D. I am a psychologist practicing in Bryn Mawr, PA. You can email me questions or comments regarding this article to drpauladurlofsky@gmail.com. You may also visit my web site at www.drpauladurlofsky.com