As human beings, we are the result of several characteristics, such as reason, intellect, emotionality. All of them are written in our genetics and they develop, change and grow during our life, influenced by the socio-cultural environment in which we live.
However, the debate about whether humans and other animals inherit their behavioural abilities or they acquire them through learning is still open in the scientific community. It has been argued that behaviour always develops under combined control of both genes and environment. How much of what we are is genetic, and how much of it is the result of personal experience?
According to the theory of evolution, both experience and genes influence social behaviour. Each individual’s behavioural abilities and inclinations are determined by his or her unique patterns of neural activity, which include thoughts, feelings, memories and emotions. The interaction between the patterns of neural activity and the interpretation of the current situation take part in the resulting behaviour. Additionally the set of values and beliefs inherited from family, society and culture system influence our way of thinking and adaptability to the situations.
If we adopt a holistic view of the human being as a person endowed with talents, abilities, skills and unique characteristics, we need to emphasize some of the most important traits in people: the personal strengths. They are the positive character traits and the enduring peculiarities in the individual, even though they are mutable in response to environmental factors. Along with the talents and the personality traits, they are what distinguishes us as human beings and each one from another.
Our cultural approach leads us to focus on our weaknesses and what needs to be fixed. As we turn our attention to these aspects, we miss taking into account an important part of ourselves: the strengths, the state of being strong. C. Peterson, one of the founding fathers of positive psychology, and M. Seligman, psychologist and avid promoter for that field, believe that “character strengths are the bedrock of the human condition and that strength-congruent activity represents an important route to the psychological good life”. They describe the powerful relationship between strengths and well-being, comparing the former to the inner tools needed to leverage ourselves in order to accomplish our goals, become more resilient and face the adversity of reality.
Gaining awareness of our own strengths is like discovering our resourcefulness as a person, which in turn leads to the capacity to recover, reclaim and transform our own life.
How can we identify strengths? A good approach can be looking at some of the most important aspects of our lives.
Look around you, where you live, work or spend a significant amount of time.
Think of activities you enjoy doing.
We express talents in activities or situations where we feel comfortable, where we show a natural attitude or where we feel we achieve our goals effortlessly.
- Personal qualities / characteristics
These are the details that define us the most, like having a sense of humour or strength under pressure, being reliable, caring, hopeful, honest, hard-working, kind, patient, sensitive, easy to talk to, generous, willing to stand up for the underdog or friendly – these qualities (and others) are natural and renewable resources.
Each one of these aspects reveals something about the way we express our inner strengths. Having a strengths-based perspective means believing that the strengths and resources to resolve a difficult situation lie within the person’s interpersonal skills, motivation, intellectual and emotional strengths, as well as environmental opportunities. The focus is on the individual’s strengths rather than deficits and the external reality is viewed as an oasis of resources.
Everyone has the capacity to learn, grow and change. The growth’s process is based on and inspired by our own individual interests, aspirations and strengths. Those who are able to identify their strengths uses the resources of their family and community to succeed in life; they tend to spend time doing things they do well, that have meaning for them and that they enjoy. A focus on strengths enhances people’s motivation while a focus on a person’s deficits enhances feelings of hopelessness and depression.
“All people possess a wide range of talents, abilities, capacities, skills, resources and aspirations. No matter how little or how much may be expressed at one time, a belief in human potential is tied to the notion that people have untapped, undetermined reservoirs of mental, physical, emotional, social and spiritual abilities that can be expressed. The presence of this capacity for continued growth and heightened well-being must be accorded the respect that this power deserves. This capacity acknowledges both the being and the becoming aspects of life” Rapp, C 1998
For the complete classification of all the strengths and to take a test to learn about your own ones, visit the website: