As I was walking up the stairs this morning, I saw a paper taped to the wall that had some information and a few names of people that I know, but not really well. My initial reaction when I saw this paper was that I felt a mixture of negative emotions. The subject matter of this paper and the names of the people that were on it triggered some thoughts and stirred up some feelings inside me. I felt a little threatened and annoyed by these women and their strengths. A minute or so later I recognized that I was feeling a mixture of shame and pride at the same time, mostly shame though.
But then I had the thought come to me “you don’t have to make this about you. This isn’t about you. Stop focusing on how this could make you feel bad about yourself and start focusing on the good things. Instead of thinking things like “I am not a fun friend who is good at hosting things like Barbara is; I am not cool enough or a good enough mom to do the things that Frannie is doing with her kids; etc.” I could start thinking “Isn’t it great that Frannie is so good at being a loving and selfless mom? Isn’t it great that Barbara is good at hosting parties and making people feel loved?”
Changing my thoughts and seeing these other women’s traits in a positive light, rather than making them mean something negative about me instantly turned my mood around and took a burden off my shoulders. I thought about how I want to be more proactive with seeing the good in others. I want to notice, appreciate, and celebrate other’s strengths and not making their accomplishments and strengths mean anything negative about me.
I had the idea come to me that I should start doing something that I am calling “What’s in Her (or his) Suitcase?” First let me explain what I mean by this…
Jody Moore talks about how we each came to earth with a suitcase. This suitcase was packed by Heavenly Father and it has gifts, talents, abilities, the things we need, our strengths, etc. Each of us has one of these and they are all unique. No one’s suitcase is better than anyone else’s.
This is how Jody described it in her podcast episode called Strengths and Weaknesses…
“I have this way that I like to think about our strengths and weaknesses…Before each of us came to earth, Heavenly Father packed us a suitcase. Each of us got our own unique suitcase. And He gave us things that we might consider strengths.
He gave some people patience, and some people didn’t get as much of that. And He gave people some analytical skills and others didn’t get so much. And some people got some creativity. So we all got different things packed in our suitcases. I love thinking about it that way. Because, again this goes back to Buckingham’s definition, but if a strength is just something that, as I do that thing, I feel stronger, then that part came from Heavenly Father. That’s part of my DNA. And then maybe I got better at it, here on this earth. Because I enjoyed doing it. Because the activity itself strengthened me.
All of our suitcases are unique. And then I also like to think that, I have this suitcase here on my trip but I also get to pick up souvenirs. A good portion of who we are is genetic, but also a good portion of it is learned.”
Jody also explains how our weaknesses are just our strengths overused.
“Our weaknesses are only our strengths overused. You can give me any weakness and I will show you how there is a strength within it. If we just pull back the reins a little bit, it’s actually a strength.
Let’s say you have a weakness of really enjoying gossip. You find it’s hard not to gossip. That’s a weakness of yours. Well, it’s derived from an interest in other people. And being interested in other people can be a huge strength, and not everybody has that within them. It can look like compassion, it can be concern. But if it is overused, it can turn into gossip. Incidentally, this is also where the fear of public speaking and things like that comes from. Because your mind focuses on other people, that can be a caring, loving, compassionate place to be in your head. But when it goes to far, it can create this fear/worry about what other people are going to think.
Maybe your weakness is that you aren’t a very good planner. The strength in that is that you are probably spontaneous. You maybe are fun and laid back. You are probably very flexible, so you don’t get really rattled when things get thrown off. You are able to be flexible and spontaneous. But when that strength is overused, it can turn into not planning or not having that come as easily. Maybe you don’t have really great interpersonal skills. You’re not a people person, as we would say. You’re not great at conversation or communication. Most likely, if that’s you, then you are a thinker. You process things internally and you’re probably analytical and detail oriented and you’re good with concrete details and strategy. People who we would say are not very personable, don’t usually get caught up in drama. Because they are very linear, factual thinkers. And maybe there mind doesn’t go as much to the way other people operate or think. And that can be a huge strength. When it’s overused it means we don’t know to interact with others.
So any weakness that you have or that you see is just someone’s strength overused.
I think that appreciating your strengths is really important. And the first step in appreciating them is of course to notice and acknowledge them. Not from a place of pride. Not from “look how wonderful I am”. You did not create yourself. Just from learning to notice what was packed in your suitcase, and then making sure that you temper those things so that they don’t become weaknesses.”
I love approach and way of looking at strengths and weaknesses. Heavenly Father packed an amazing and unique suitcase for each of us to bring on this life journey. And this way of looking at things inspired me to start doing something that will help me to recognize other’s strengths and appreciate and celebrate them.
I had the idea come to me that it might be helpful to start a physical copy, or better yet, an app of some sort where I make a “suitcase” (notecard) for individual people and I keep track of the positive things that I see in them, the things that I think are in their suitcases. It would be a way for me to focus on their positives and gather evidence for their good qualities. I think that this would especially be helpful for me to do for the people that I have some unloving (to varying degrees) thoughts towards.
I also plan make a notecard that represents my own suitcase. I will write down the things that I notice that Heavenly Father packed for me, and I can show appreciation and gratitude for those things.
The things that are in other people’s suitcases don’t take away from the things that are in mine. Just because someone got a certain trait or talent or gift doesn’t mean that my suitcase items are any less valuable or amazing. And vice versa. The things in my suitcase don’t make anyone else’s any less valuable or amazing.
I started a “suitcase” for Frannie and Barbara today. (Just using the Evernote app for now.) And just from writing down a couple of positive things that I see in them, I have already felt a little bit more love for them and my annoyance and threatened feelings have decreased a bit.
I’ll let you know how this goes as I put it into practice more and more. 🙂