I am awesome. How many of you would be comfortable saying that about yourself? And really mean it … really believe it? Actually own it and know it to be true?
During some of my workshops I have participants do an exercise where they have to grab a partner and declare to each other what their strengths are in their sport WITHOUT using any qualifiers.
If I didn’t give them that instruction, to not use qualifiers, it would sound like this:
- “I don’t know?”
- “Well … I guess I’m good at …”
- “I’m good at _______, but …”
- “I can only do …”
These are all qualifiers. A qualifier is basically a way to discount your strengths. Qualifiers are words or statements that in some way cushion the crushing blow of stating how fantastic you are. A qualifier can also be the emotion you experience when you’re stating your strength. You might declare your statement of strength, however, inside you feel that it’s not really true. Out loud you are stating your strength, but in your mind you’re saying, “Yeah, but …”, and emotionally qualifying your statement by feeling unworthy of it.
In the exercise, you can only boldly state what your strengths are. Many people find this very hard to do. Even with the instruction to not use qualifiers, people still use them. In fact, the first question I ask after the exercise is, “So how many of you caught yourself or your buddy using a qualifier?”.
Why do we have such a hard time talking about our strengths? Why do we have such a hard time giving ourselves credit for our accomplishments? Why can’t we talk about what we’re proud of? When I ask the participants in my workshops why they think this is so hard, here are the two biggest reasons I hear: you don’t want to sound like you’re bragging, or you don’t think your accomplishment warrants any praise.
You don’t want to sound like you’re bragging.
“I don’t want to give myself a shout out because people might think I’m just full of myself.” You don’t want anyone to think you’re being boastful so you down-play your accomplishments and strengths. It feels uncomfortable even thinking about it, let alone saying it out loud. There’s a difference between being confident and being cocky. It’s OK to feel confident. It’s OK to own your strengths. You don’t need anyone’s permission to do this, except your own.
You don’t think your accomplishment warrants any praise.
You feel that what you are proud of is so small in comparison to others’ accomplishments that it’s not worth saying out loud. That it’s not worthy of being proud of. Or you’re afraid that you will sound stupid or be judged for being proud of yourself. There is no rule that says you’re only allowed to be proud of yourself relative to others’ accomplishments.
And here’s one that I add into the conversation:
You’re always setting the bar higher.
You think that there is always room for improvement and you’re afraid that if you talk about what you think you’re good at, it will come across like you don’t understand that there is still work to be done. When you are driven and competitive and don’t take the time to recognize your progress along the way, you run the risk of always setting the bar higher and never feeling like anything is good enough. Recognizing what you are doing well and the progress you have made means you will be building from your strengths versus grasping for what hasn’t been accomplished yet.
It’s OK to be proud of your accomplishments. It’s OK to have strengths and say what you are good at. It’s OK to be your own biggest cheerleader. If you are sincere about your pride, people will know you aren’t bragging. Take a deep breath and do it. It might feel weird or awkward or uncomfortable at first, but the more you practice being your own biggest supporter, the easier it will get. It’s hard to give yourself a high five, (literally, if you try it right now, it just feels awkward) but maybe you can give yourself a pat on the back.
DO THIS: Write down 5 of your strengths – without using any qualifiers. Then say them out loud. Own them. Believe them. Know they are true. Read them everyday. And then keep adding to the list.