The Downside of Knowing Your Strengths

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Remember that study that came out a few months ago that said that Facebook can lead to depression? I was thinking about this recently as it relates to strengths-based leadership and the tools that accompany it.

First, let me say that I believe that everyone should know their strengths and that investments in tools that help us become aware of what we bring to the table are worthwhile. But, there can be a downside.

Think back to when you first joined Facebook. It was amazing. You were connecting with everyone, and it was great to socialize with people in a new arena, and in ways that didn’t exist previously.

Fast forward to 2015, and scrolling through a news feed of amazing food, parties, vacations and family milestones while at home in your pajamas on a Saturday night can be downright depressing. It feels like everyone is living life to the fullest – everyone, that is, except YOU.

But it’s not true. We only see what people choose to publish, and that gives the impression that the lives of others are far more exciting than then ones we are leading. It works both ways – the same people living it up on Saturday were reading YOUR posts earlier in the week and feeling terrible about themselves too!

When it comes to our strengths, I think we end up with a similar impression. We get our printout of our five strengths, or 2 strengths, or whatever, and we read about how we are our best selves when we apply them. Then we look around and assume that everyone around us is successful because THEY are applying their strengths – everyone, that is, except YOU.

But this also, is not true.

Everyone struggles to apply their strengths, even the most successful people, it just seems like they don’t. This impression, however, can lead us to think that WE are not living up to our potential. And that too, can be downright depressing.

So next time you’re stuck at work doing something incredibly mundane, and it feels like all your buddies are living it up, remember that they are managing their struggles just like you. They are doing the best with what they have, and from time to time, they probably look over and wish they could live up to their potential – just the way YOU do.


Image credit: By OpenStax College [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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