In order to feel fulfilled, everyone needs to feel connected, whether as part of a team at work, in our family, or in the community. It gives us great satisfaction to know how we fit. While being part of a team or family can be source of much joy and fulfillment, it also can be a source of stress. One way to reduce this stress is to honor your unique strengths in serving the larger group. This gives you the experience of fully being yourself while still being connected. Here are three tips for defining yourself.
Reflect on Who You Are
The process of defining yourself is called differentiation. It is your capacity to define your own life goals and values apart from other’s influence. It gives you the ability to stand up for what you believe when others are pressuring you to go along with theirs. Murray Bowen, developer of family systems theory, believed that differentiation was essential to your personal health and the success of every group. When you are differentiated, you can remain relatively calm in the midst of upsetting situations by taking responsibility for your own emotional well being. It allows you to be an “I” while remaining connected to the “We.”
Identify Your Character Strengths
One way to differentiate yourself is to identify your unique character strengths. Positive Psychology has completed a major classification of the character strengths and virtues endorsed by almost all major religions and cultural traditions. They have identified 24 character strengths reflecting six basic virtues: Wisdom and knowledge, courage, love and kindness, justice, temperance, spirituality, and transcendence. Using these character strengths can be a major source of gratification in your life.
You can identify your unique character strengths by taking the VIA Signature Strengths Survey at http://www.authentichappiness.org
Clarify How You Like to Use Them
You will discover that you have three to five of these character strengths that you use more than others. Using these strengths brings out your enthusiasm, uplifting yourself and others. Reflecting on how you use them helps you to differentiate yourself. Then define your values, preferences, and purpose in your groups. Do this for your family or origin, as well as for your current relationships at home and at work.
This allows you to be unique while still connected to the larger whole. Then you can share them with others. When you are clear on who you are, others will know how to interact with you. It will increase your effectiveness while reducing stress. Now isn’t that attractive?