Unless you’re a fictional superhero, it’s unlikely that you’ll be good at everything you try in life. Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses, and an essential part of personal and professional growth is being able to recognize and deal with the less positive aspects of your performance. However, even if you are good at assessing other people’s strengths and weaknesses, it can be difficult to evaluate your own. You might believe you’re great at something when those around you know you’re no better than the average. Or you might worry that you are awful at something when your supervisor can see there is some talent there. Being able to take a step back from yourself and make an objective assessment is a vital part of being able to get the best from yourself, so take a look and see what you can find out.
Why it’s hard to judge yourself
Your ability to accurately assess your skills will depend in large part on your self-esteem and confidence. If you are over-confident, you’ll be able to list many things you’re good at and struggle to come up with things you aren’t – and probably justify any you do identify as being inconsequential anyway. On the other hand, if you lack self-esteem, you will find it much easier to list the things you feel you could do better at, and find it hard to come up with qualities about which you can feel proud. Either way, you are doing yourself a disservice. If you’re too confident to recognize your weaknesses and you over-estimate your strengths, you will never be able to move forward and improve – and there’s no-one who can’t do better in some area of their lives. If you are on the other side of this spectrum and deny that you are good at some things while beating yourself up over all the deficiencies you feel you have; you won’t be able to reach your true potential and get the most out of your life. Doing yourself down is both a symptom and a cause of low self-esteem, so your first task is to recognize if you have fallen into this cycle and find a way to break free.
Recognizing your strengths
The aim here is to be as realistic as possible. Don’t make a list of all the things you think you’re good at and leave it at that. Look for evidence to support your belief. If you believe you’re a great salesperson, where are the figures that back this up? Can you find examples of how you have consistently achieved or exceeded your sales targets? What have your bosses said about your sales abilities in staff appraisals? Have you won any awards or competitions, been interviewed in an industry publication, or asked to write a piece on how to be a good salesperson for a respected blog on the subject? You can also see what other people think of your abilities, although getting colleagues to be honest and objective may not be that easy! If you can, stand back and look at what you have written, remembering this is not your resume, so you don’t have to position yourself in the best possible light. If you’ve listed tenacity as one of your strengths, consider whether you honestly are tenacious, or if in fact, people see you as more of an annoyance or even a bully.
Recognizing your weaknesses
This process is the inverse of what you did when listing your strengths. If you identify an area of weakness, what is the evidence to support this belief? If you are regularly told by your boss that you need to get to work on time, if you are always rushing about trying not to be late, and if your friends tell you to meet them half an hour before they need you to arrive, it’s reasonably safe to say you have problems with time-keeping. Believing something about yourself doesn’t make it accurate, however. So if you’re under the impression you’re not a very good driver, for example, see whether there is anything tangible that supports your belief. If you’ve not caused any accidents and if people are happy to be in the car with you, why do you think you’re less able than anyone else?
Once you’ve identified your strengths and weaknesses, you can look at ways of dealing with them.
- If you have a weakness that is affecting your work or your life, something that makes you unhappy and you wish you were better at, look for ways of helping yourself. Find a course, take classes, read some books and do some research, and speak to people who can help. It may simply be that you don’t know enough or haven’t had the right training, and these are things that can be quickly rectified.
- If you have a weakness, be honest – do you truly care about it? If it’s something that is more of a nuisance to you than a skill you’d like to master, consider whether it’s worth pursuing. If you have a business and are writing all the content for the company blog but have little talent for and no interest in writing, maybe you should step back, concentrate on the things you do have a talent for and outsource content writing to a professional.
- If you have strengths in specific areas, are you making the most of them? If your company sells printed circuit boards, are you struggling to be out on the road visiting customers and making sales when your real talents lie in the engineering department?
- Sometimes being good at something isn’t a reason to carry on doing it, if going in a different direction would make you happier. Just because you’re a highly qualified doctor who has invested time, effort and money into training and qualifying, doesn’t mean you have to be a doctor for the rest of your life. If you have musical talent and the passion to match, there’s nothing to stop you from heading for Nashville and becoming a country and western star.
Use the knowledge and insight you gain from this process to improve your existing skills, work on the ones that need developing if they’re important to you, and make the best decisions for your future.