Personal Strengths: What Are They And How To Enhance Them In Therapy?

Personal strengths

Each and every one of us knows that there are things we are good at and things we are bad at.

Likewise, we all have aspects of our way of being that are notable for both good and bad, and that are considered both positive and negative not only by us but also by our peers and even by our culture. In the first case we are talking about aspects that we consider or are considered to be our personal strengths.

But What exactly is a personal strength? Is it possible to train or improve it? In this article we are going to make a brief comment about it.

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Personal strength: definition and basic characteristics

Personal strengths are understood to be that set of skills, characteristics or psychological or attitudinal aspects in which we excel and that represent some type of virtue or adaptive advantage. These are those capabilities that represent positive and desirable elements in terms of personality.

For a characteristic to be considerable as a personal strength, it must be recognizable cross-culturally as something positive and desirable, valuable in itself and not only for its results, and be capable of generating satisfaction for the person who possesses it. In addition They must also be measurable and have an unwanted opposite. Another necessary element is the fact that it is a stable characteristic, generalizable to the way the subject acts, and that it is notable in some people and not so much (or even non-existent) in others. They must be something exemplifiable and visible and there must be people who manifest it early.

Personal strengths have a strong cultural background, and are often linked to practically universal values ​​and can even be related to virtues. The study from psychology of this type of elements from the psychological field is relatively recent, falling within positive psychology.

This is a current or movement within psychology that advocates the analysis and study of the factors that contribute to generating and maintaining well-beingfocusing on these elements, being different from the more traditional approach in which the studies focused on the presence of mental deficits and disorders.

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Within the analysis of mental strengths, the figures of Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi stand out (two fundamental authors within this paradigm), who even managed to generate the Values ​​in Action Project and even a personal strengths questionnaire based on said studies.

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Examples of personal strengths

There are a large number of aspects that meet the necessary conditions to be considered personal strengths. The aforementioned authors even went so far as to draw up a list in this regard, although it can be perfectly expanded depending on the values ​​that are considered mostly positive. Below we will indicate eight examples of personal strength that can be very useful in our daily lives.

1. Teamwork ability

Probably one of the most in-demand skills at work, it is also considered a powerful personal strength linked to interpersonal relationships and productivity. Being able to work as a team involves a lot of elements such as the ability to negotiate, but It mainly highlights the fact of being able to coordinate one’s own effort with that of others to achieve a specific objective.

2. Hope

One of the personal strengths that helps us the most on a daily basis and when it comes to training ourselves and helping us achieve goals is hope, more specifically the ability to have it. This strength implies being able to look into the future and establish positive predictions regarding it that serve as a guide. guide and motivation to fight. This aspect is important: it is not just waiting for good things to happen, but also working to achieve them.

3. Mental flexibility and openness to experience

Mental flexibility and openness to experience, although they are not exactly the same and can be considered separate strengths, have a common background: in both cases it implies that the person is capable of accepting the existence of new possibilities other than those previously experienced. consider. In the case of openness to experience, there is also a component of curiosity, this being another possible personal strength.

4. Curiosity

Linked as mentioned to the previous facts, curiosity is the force or impulse that allows us to approach learning, seeing or trying new possibilities. This interest in the new allows us to be more flexible, learn and live much more diverse experiences.

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5. Impartiality

Linked to the concept of justice, impartiality is a strength that allows relatively objective judgments to be made. It involves being able to put aside personal opinions and make our judgment of the situation do not take into account our own emotional involvement in the case.

6. Persistence

Persistence or perseverance can be a personal strength of great interest. It involves the ability to initiate, continue, and complete a given course of action even though difficulties may arise. Remain even if it is hard and fight for the set objectives without giving up.

7. Kindness

A complex concept but without a doubt one of the most recognized and difficult to maintain strengths. Kindness implies the ability to focus on helping others, having a good disposition towards what surrounds us and trying not to cause harm or harm to others. Involves a certain level of compassion and love. Sometimes also kindness, although many people have the strength of kindness without necessarily being cordial or kind in their treatment.

8. Love

One of the forces that moves the world. Mainly, love as a strength refers to the ability to give and receive esteem and positive emotionality in interactions with our loved ones and with the environment. While strength usually focuses on the ability to give and receive affection from others, being able to love oneself should also be included.

How to strengthen these personal qualities?

Each of us has our own strengths and weaknesses, and it may be more than advisable to reduce the latter and enhance the former. However, for many people it can be difficult. enhance and strengthen (pardon the redundancy) our personal strengths. In order to achieve this, both on a personal level and in the event that we are in therapy and want our patient to train them, we must take into account the following issues.

1. Identify the strength

Understanding which aspects of ourselves are a strength may seem intuitive and logical, but the truth is that if we put ourselves to it, in many cases we will find certain difficulties in finding them. And thinking about what we are good at is not as common as it seems, often not valuing or recognizing some highly recognizable aspects of our way of being and doing.

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Therefore, the first step to strengthen our strengths is none other than make us aware of them. To do this, we can turn to different sources of information, including our own perception of things we do and in which we consider ourselves to stand out and contrasting these beliefs with the opinions of others, or asking others and assessing whether their opinion is correct.

2. Analyze the different factors that are part of it

In addition to being aware of what we are good at or what aspects of our being are most notable, It is advisable to try to fragment these capabilities in such a way that we can see, already within said capacity, in which aspects we excel most and in which it would be more advisable to work to enhance them even more.

3. Work on specific aspects

It is not feasible to indicate a unitary way of working on all the strengths, as these are different from each other and require specific ways and elements to work on them. For example, in the case of love, kindness or even teamwork Bonding with others and emotional expression should be worked well as some work on empathy.

Likewise, justice or impartiality may require practice based on exposing oneself to situations that involve ethical dilemmas, observing the existence of different equally valid positions and taking into account the possibility of taking various courses of action.

Perseverance would require setting realistic goals and visualization, planning and preparation for possible difficulties, as well as ways to act on them.

Creativity could be trained through exercises that stimulate lateral thinking or with expressive therapies or in which art is used. The ability to imagine, read and visualize are also trainable and facilitate both this and, for example, curiosity (which we can also enhance by delving deeper into the aspects that cause us interest).

4. Put your strengths to the test

To be able to empower ourselves we not only have to know our strengths but also their limits. This involves exposing oneself to the practice of behavioral activities and experiments. in which we see how far we can go and what it entails, so that we can work to try to improve ourselves.

5. Train and practice

As with most things in life (for example physical fitness or level of proficiency in a non-native language), what is not trained is often lost or dropped in level. That is why we must try put our strengths into practice with some frequency.

Bibliographic references:

  • Clariano, SM and de los Ríos, P. (2012), Health Psychology. CEDE PIR Preparation Manual, 04. CEDE: Madrid.
  • Peterson, C. & Seligman, M.E.P. (2004). Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification. OUP USA.
  • Seligman, M.E.P. (2003). True happiness. Barcelona: Bergara.