Self Doubt to Self Celebration.
Written by Marie Lacey
My heart was pumping out of my chest.
Mrs White, my year 4 teacher, looked at the class while holding a basketball. I knew this game was supposed to be fun, but it was my worst nightmare. It was a basic spelling game where the ball was thrown around the class and if you caught it you had to spell the word that was given to you.
Mrs White gently tossed the ball into my hands. “House,” she said. “Marie, spell ‘house’.”
I wanted to evaporate into thin air. My mind was racing, searching and hoping the right letters would come to me. As my sweaty hands held the basketball, I spelt, “H-O-A-W-S-E”.
There were a few murmurs from my classmates before Mrs White warmly spelled house correctly. I threw the ball back to her and sat down.
As someone who is on the spectrum of dyslexia, I know all too well the shame and stress that can be generated if you focus too much of your energy on hiding or fixing aspects of yourself that you deem weaknesses.
At 27, I received a promotion and was conscious of hiding my dyslexia.
I was in a state of self-preservation, ensuring that I was projecting myself to be a “successful business person” — and it was exhausting.
This façade resulted in adrenal fatigue, hypothyroidism, and led to being diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Disease.
I soon found out I have a genetic disposition to hypothyroidism, but I have a feeling that the pressure I put on myself to be “perfect” triggered it earlier than it would’ve if I wasn’t so constantly stressed and exhausted.
A decade on and I am happy, healthy and completely open to sharing what I’m good at and what I’m not so great at.
There have been many, many lessons throughout my career. But the biggest impact has been the shift in mindset from a place of obsessively fixing my weaknesses, to one of refining and growing my strengths — or what I like to refer to as gifts.
I now know that what we consider as weaknesses are in fact part of what makes us unique. What really matters is that we learn to understand our gifts and bring them into our lives with pride and confidence.
I remember a team member once telling me I was a “nurturing leader”. At the time, I didn’t value this quality, nor did I see it as an important attribute of my leadership style.
I’ve come to realise that this is how we initially view our strengths – we seldom recognise them as gifts. Often it takes someone else to recognise our special talents for us to realise the power we have within.
I’ve spent a lot of time trying to understand and define my gifts.
Through this exploration, I’ve realised that connecting with others in a way that makes them feel ‘seen’ and valued is one of my strengths. I am nurturing by nature and now understand the important value I bring as a nurturer, at home and at work.
You may be wondering, if we focus 100% on our strengths, then how will we ever grow or improve?
Making your strengths your obsession and continuing to push the boundaries of your abilities has been the path to success for so many visionaries — and it can work for you too.
Just think — with Einstein, Beethoven, Steve Jobs and Oprah Winfrey, it was their absolute focus and drive to explore and push their gifts that enabled them to change the world.
If you have shameful thoughts about areas that you have deemed a weakness, then it’s time to let them go.
The kindness revolution starts with how you treat yourself. Your potential lies in the continued expansion of your innate gifts.
You may think that you don’t have a specific gift, but you do — we all have a super power to offer the world, and it’s time to open your eyes to the brilliant individual that you are.
If you are one of the many souls who has trouble identifying their gifts, you may find one of the following tips helpful in unearthing what makes you special.
1. Talk to your friends, family & colleagues — Ask them what they think you do well. This might sound awkward, but it’s the best way to get clarity on your gifts and how they positively impact the people around you.
2. What do you enjoy doing outside of work? What skills and strengths are required for these activities? Are there synergies between these activities and your work?
3. What activities did you gravitate towards as a child? How do they connect with aspects of your adult life?
4. Write down the attributes, hobbies, skills, activities, and behaviours that you’ve unearthed. Group them together to find common themes.
5. Still stuck? Use the Gallup Strengths Finder App to define and refine your strengths. This is a comprehensive test that will shortlist your top five strengths and help you articulate their qualities.