Connect With Your Strengths
The Everyday Artist
By Linda Dessau, The Self Care Coach [03-15-2006]
We can be just as afraid of our strengths as we are of our weaknesses, and just as afraid to succeed as we are to fail. In her book, "A Return to Love," in a passage that was made famous by Nelson Mandela in his 1994 Inauguration Speech, Marianne Williamson writes:
"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure about you. We were born to manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."
Connecting with your strengths is about learning how to acknowledge your own gifts, accept compliments graciously and to present yourself confidently as the extraordinarily unique artist that you are. We'll examine each of these three skills separately.
1. Acknowledge your own gifts
Ask other people what they love about you. Create a booklet of these "testimonials". Then, make a list of everything that’s wonderful about you and/or your creative work - the different roles you hold in life, your accomplishments, the failures you’ve learned from and survived, the losses you’ve endured, the gifts you were born with, the skills you’ve developed and the knowledge you’ve gained.
Read these lists every day and really take them in. It might seem like you're talking about someone else sometimes - focus and bring your attention back to the purpose of the exercise. Talk back to your inner critic and show him the evidence! For a more powerful experience, read these lists of your strengths out loud, beginning with the words, "I am ____".
This is a great time of year to connect with your strengths, and there's an exercise that I use and recommend for doing that. It also helps me to form my thoughts about my hopes for the upcoming year.
You can find "Celebrating the Gifts" on my website at: http://www.genuinecoaching.com/articles/celebrating-the-gifts.html
2. Accept compliments graciously
Notice. Begin by noticing what you tend to say when someone gives you a compliment. Do you minimize it by saying, "Oh, it was nothing,” do you argue with it by saying, "No, I don't look good, I look awful!" or do you find yourself so uncomfortable that you're at a complete loss for words?
Practice. You can learn to accept compliments more graciously. After noticing what you tend to do now, decide how you'd like to respond the next time you receive a compliment. Then, practice saying your new response (in front of a mirror is best) until saying it feels natural and sincere.
What to say? A warm and heartfelt, "thank you", coupled with a smile, is always appropriate and is usually enough. Be cautious of feeling the need to explain, justify, or return a compliment automatically.
Pause. When someone pays you a compliment, stop before you respond. This is where change happens - when we step out of autopilot and try something different. Take a deep breath and remember your wish to accept compliments more graciously.
Turn your attention outwards. Focus on the person who's giving you the compliment. Think about their intentions. Sometimes our inner critic tells us stories about the person being sarcastic, having some kind of ulterior motive or not truly meaning what they say. Instead, expect the best and act on the assumption that the person is sincere.
Focus on being kind and courteous to that person. If you make them feel good by accepting their compliment with genuine appreciation, they'll remember that and speak up the next time they have something positive to share with you.
Consequently, if you belittle their words by arguing, minimizing or looking as if they've just insulted you, they'll remember that as well.
Try it from the other side. Another way to get better at accepting compliments is to GIVE more compliments. Notice how other people receive them. This can improve your relationships greatly, because now you'll be focused more on the other person. As you're looking for positive things to compliment them on, you'll also be keeping your thoughts more positive overall, and you'll have less time for worrying and negative thinking.
3. Present yourself confidently as the extraordinarily unique artist that you are
Remember those lists that you made earlier to acknowledge your strengths? Well, did you know that you are the one and only person who has ever and will ever walk this earth that has that unique combination of skills, experiences, knowledge, creative gifts and perspective?
Say it with me: I am the one and only person who has ever and will ever walk this earth that has my unique combination of skills, experiences, knowledge, creative gifts and perspective.
Know that. Feel that. Believe that down to your core. It's virtually impossible to doubt yourself or to compare yourself unfavorably to other artists when you're truly acknowledging and believing in your uniqueness.
There's a well-used phrase that advises, "Fake it till you make it.” How would you act if you DID feel confident? Who's another artist that you think of as confident, and how do they present themselves? Use them as a role model and imagine how they would handle the situation that you're in - what would they do or say? How would they act?
Remember that another artist who seems so confident sometimes has exactly the same worries and doubts that you do.
Another way to gain confidence is through daily efficient action. This is a concept first introduced to me in “The Science of Getting Rich” (download your free copy at: http://www.scienceofgettingrich.net/gifts/everyday_artist.html ), which I wrote about in my article, "Is there a science of creative success?"
Approach each separate thing you do today with purpose and focus. Do your best, and finish each job one at a time. It's amazing how great it feels at the end of the day, to recognize that whatever you accomplished (and it's not the number of things that matters), you truly gave it your best and completed the actions successfully.
In her book, "Take Back Your Life!" productivity coach Sally McGhee points out that nothing makes us feel better about ourselves than doing what we said we'd do. And nothing makes us feel worse about ourselves than NOT doing what we said we'd do.
The most important component of connecting with your strengths is your willingness to BE strong. Be willing to succeed. Be willing to master something. Be willing to finish what you start. Be willing to become the best person you can be. And then celebrate it.
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