“Positive emotion alienated from the exercise of character leads to emptiness, inauthenticity, depression, and as we age the growing realization that we are fidgeting until we die.”
What makes a person truly happy? Not the, “I just ate a really awesome slice of cheesecake happy” but true, lasting emotional satisfaction?
Scientists like Martin Seligman have been studying this phenomenon for years and they state that a crucial component of happiness is (drumroll, please)…. being yourself.
In fact, many people spend countless hours trying to “correct their weaknesses” instead of honing in on their strengths. I compare it to the athlete that has one body type, but still fights to be good in a skill that requires another (for short people like me? Rowing & basketball will never be my thing). While body type is an easier attribute to understand, many of us also do this with our personality strengths and weaknesses.
But how do we know what these are? Personality tests? Time? Sometimes the tricky part is understanding what are innate strengths and limitations are.
For most, this involves taking time to ask yourself questions about how different things make you feel:
When did you last feel empowered? Or a sense of “flow”, that feeling of getting lost in what you were doing? What have people positively commented on about you? What topics get you excited? When were you last jealous of someone? What were you jealous of? Chances are, you want that thing. You admire the having of whatever triggered your jealousy. Asking yourself these questions can help you get to the root of those authentic strengths and values that ultimately point to who you are.
The other side of this is accepting your limitations. For some, this may be the first step to addressing them, especially if they are problematic. However, for most of us we tend to hone in on our weaknesses that aren’t problematic and don’t ultimately determine our happiness — like our relentless drive for “perfecting our looks” as women, or bulking our bank accounts as men (again generalizations that can apply to any gender/gender identity), or not being more naturally good at certain things. It’s funny how becoming caught in stressing over these things can be the thing that keeps us stuck in unhappiness, and ultimately doesn’t make us better.
At the end of the day, getting to know yourself and owning your strengths is going to be important for your journey — and for others who may be missing out on those strengths because you are chasing your weaknesses. Instead, be you, be fulfilled, be happy.