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It’s amazing how quickly we get accustomed to things.
The other day, I was chatting with someone in the grocery store, and he (of course) asked what I do for a living. So I told him all about my business — how I run an online coaching business where I get to work from home and set my own hours and help people create better lives for themselves.
He said, “Wow, that’s so amazing! It’s incredible that you’ve been able to build that kind of life for yourself.”
I thanked him and continued on with my shopping, but his words stuck with me.
I don’t think of my business or life as particularly interesting or exciting because I’m living it everyday. It just feels so ordinary to me at this point. But seeing my life through his eyes for just a brief moment jarred me out of my own experience and reminded me that I have created something pretty cool and unique.
When you’re the one living your life, day in and day out, it can feel mundane. You’re so IN it that you can’t get perspective on what’s unique and special and interesting about your personal experiences. It’s all just … normal.
The same is true about our natural strengths, gifts, and talents. It’s really hard for us to notice or recognize the things that come most easily to us.
When you’re naturally good at something and it requires little to no effort, you’re much more likely to downplay it. It feels like no big deal to you because you do it as easily as breathing. You might not even recognize it as a gift at all and assume that it must come just as easily to everyone else.
That’s why so many people hate being asked, “What are you good at?” Because they’re literally blind to their own strengths.
THE MOST VALUABLE STRENGTHS ARE OFTEN OVERLOOKED
When you were a kid in school and someone asked you what you were good at, you probably answered them according to which class you were doing well in. “I’m good at math” or “I’m great at writing” — that kind of thing.
Or maybe you’d answer with a sport or activity you were a part of: “I’m awesome at soccer” or “I’m a good singer.”
Either way, it makes sense that after years of being praised and graded for learning certain skills, we’ve all but lost touch with our more innate, internal, less-tangible strengths … which, if you ask me, are WAY more valuable.
To give you a better idea of what I mean, here are some examples of natural strengths that are often overlooked:
- One of my gifts is that I’m a great listener. In fact, sometimes I wonder if I have “I’m a great listener” tattooed on my forehead because strangers are constantly approaching me and spilling their life story. It took me a long time to recognize this as a strength, though, because it comes so naturally to me.
- Rachel has a gift for being a truth teller. She’s known for telling it like it is, and she can’t help but point out things that other people either can’t see or don’t want to admit.
- My brother has a knack for seeing opportunities everywhere. Where most people see challenges, he sees possibilities. He’s constantly coming up with ideas for how to improve things or break through boundaries, which makes him a true visionary.
- My client Tess is incredibly intuitive and sensitive to other people’s emotions. Without even trying, she can tell exactly how someone is feeling and what they need in that moment, which makes her an amazing friend and caregiver.
These are not the kinds of strengths you’ll find listed on a traditional résumé or talked about in interviews (although I’d love to see that change!). But these are the gifts that are core to who you are.
They’re infinitely more valuable than being good at coding or accounting or history or dancing. Those skills can be taught, and they deteriorate with lack of practice.
Your more innate gifts? They’re wired into your very being, and no one can take them away from you.
QUESTIONS TO HELP YOU IDENTIFY YOUR NATURAL GIFTS
If you have no idea what your natural strengths are, here are a few questions to help you recognize the innate gifts that you’ve likely been downplaying your whole life:
- What do people compliment you on?
- How would your friends describe you to someone who’s never met you? If you have no idea, ask your friends and family the following question: “What are 3 words you would use to describe me?”
- What comes so naturally to you that it’s practically like breathing?
- What irritates you about other people? (It’s normal to get frustrated by people who lack something that comes naturally to you.)
- What do people come to you for advice about?
- What aspects of yourself sometimes feel like a burden? How might they actually be a gift in a different scenario?
Which leads me right into…
GIFTS CAN ALSO BE CURSES, IF YOU’RE NOT CAREFUL
If your natural gifts sometimes feel like a burden, that’s totally normal.
I’ll often kick myself for being a good listener when I get trapped in Starbucks hearing someone’s never-ending story when I really need to be working.
I’ve watched Rachel put her foot in her mouth more times than I can count because she was overly direct at an inappropriate moment.
My brother has ruffled more than a few feathers by constantly questioning the status quo and suggesting ways that things could be improved.
Tess has felt the heavy burden of taking on other people’s emotional baggage and burning herself out through over-giving.
Gifts with no boundaries around them can quickly become curses.
Just because something is a natural strength of yours doesn’t mean that you have to share it with everyone you meet 24/7. In fact, not all people or situations deserve (or are even open to receiving) your unfiltered gift.
You’re allowed to be selective and put boundaries around when and how you share your natural talents. In fact, not doing so could quickly lead to burnout.
WHAT ARE YOUR NATURAL GIFTS?
I’m not saying that the more tangible, résumé-type hard-skills aren’t important — they definitely are, and you’ve probably worked hard to attain them.
But don’t ignore your more subtle, innate gifts that are unique to you and infinitely more valuable in favor of those more concrete strengths.
So what are some of your natural gifts? Is there something you’re really good at that you haven’t been giving yourself credit for because it’s a “softer” skill? Share with me, in the comments below!
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Kristen (& Rachel)