It's more years since I care to remember since I first came across the idea of Character Strengths, back then I was working in the corporate world as an Employee Engagement specialist. The concept of character strengths is that we have enduring characteristics that energise us when we express them and act congruently with them. These strengths are virtues, they are what makes us us, and when we live a life that maximises our opportunities for them, we flourish psychologically. Expressing our strengths gives us vitality, energy, productivity, and most of all a sense of being alive.
It's lovely to use these same concepts with clients in psychotherapy. Often clients come feeling that something is missing, that they are not aligned, that energy is lacking, or they are somehow mis-firing. There are many ways to be with this, and one fruitful exploration is to discover their psychological strengths.
The 24 virtues or character strengths were originally distilled by Seligman and Peters by conducting a cross-cultural exploration of what it is we find admirable in terms of human characteristics. Their Values In Action Inventory articulates strengths in the following areas: wisdom and knowledge, courage, humanity, justice, temperance and transcendence. We all have different patterns in terms of which of the 24 are most prominent for us, and they can change over time, I know my top five have morphed a little over the 20 years since I first explored this.
A great way of building self esteem is to explore the character strengths for yourself. You might notice which feel most like you, or even take the free questionnaire to find out statistically how you self-report. Another exercise I like is to come up with examples of when you have displayed the various strengths, and to notice for which the examples flow easily, and for which it’s a bit more of a push. The most important thing is to recognise there is no right or wrong, they are ALL valid strengths, and you are who you are, there is no need to try and be anything.
To find out more, with stacks of information and exercises you can play with, check out this website: