If you’re like a lot of my clients, you might struggle to recognize and appreciate what you’re good at. Perhaps you learned to brush off compliments, downplay accomplishments, and avoid bragging from a young age.

When you tell people about a success you have, you might follow it up by saying—It’s no big deal. There’s still this other thing I need to work on.

As a result, you might have a harder time understanding the difference you’re called to make or how to translate your gifts into paid work.

If you downplay your gifts, I invite you to ask yourself this question:

When you give someone a gift, do you want them to frown, ignore you, or say it’s nothing special?

Or would you rather them receive your gift with a smile and a thank you?

The latter, right? I imagine that life feels the same way.

I believe that our abilities, strengths, skills, and talents are gifts that life has entrusted to us, whether through hard work, heartache, luck, study, experience, or the act of being born.

I believe that we each have a responsibility to reciprocate by acknowledging our gifts and sharing them with the world.

Self-appreciation does not say, I’m better than you! or I’m more special!

Self-appreciation says: Just like everyone else, I am a miraculously gifted and flawed human. I have areas for improvement, and I have gifts I’m grateful for.

Self-appreciation is not conceit. Self-appreciation is the skill of giving thanks for who we get to be in this life.

When we know our gifts, we have an easier time understanding how we’re called to show up for social change.

In her Social Change Ecosystem Map, Deepa Iyer names ten unique roles people might play in pursuit of social change, including frontline responders, visionaries, builders, caregivers, disrupters, healers, storytellers, guides, and weavers. I recommend checking out her model to help you discern what role(s) you might be called to play in this next phase.[1]

As Robin Wall Kimmerer writes in Braiding Sweetgrass, “This is our work, to discover what we can give. Isn’t this the purpose of education, to learn the nature of your own gifts and how to use them for good in the world?”[2] 

And, Michelle Cassandra Johnson writes in Finding Refuge, “It is important to think of oneself as a medicine maker, because each one of us has a gift to offer the collective.”[3]

Besides, if you know what you’re good at and love doing—and you devote time to these activities—you’re more likely to experience flow.

Flow is the state in which we’re so immersed in the moment that time seems transformed and nothing else seems to matter. As Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi writes in Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, most people experience flow when their skill level is high and well-matched to the activity’s challenge.

So from now on, I challenge you to notice what you appreciate about yourself, and when someone offers you a compliment, pause, notice the initial discomfort of celebrating yourself, and say, thank you.

The more you do that, the easier it will become to discern how you’re called to show up, appreciate yourself, find work (paid and unpaid) that matches your gifts, and feel good.

I invite you to take a moment to reflect on your gifts now.

Take out your journal and a pen, get as comfortable as possible, and bring your attention into your body. Then, ask yourself the following questions and write down what arises:

  1. When do you feel so wholly immersed in the moment that time seems transformed and nothing else seems to matter?
  2. What are you doing when you experience an intense sense of alignment, as if you’re doing exactly what you’re meant to be doing?
  3. What challenges have given you gifts that you long to use to help others?
  4. What training, credentials, expertise, abilities, skills, strengths, talents, or knowledge do you have that you’re proud of or excited about?
  5. What comes to you so naturally that you hardly think of it as a skill?
  6. When it comes to creating social change, what role(s) feel natural and/or curious and/or exciting to you?
  7. What strengths are you excited to strengthen?

When you’re complete, look over your list and highlight key threads.

If you have a hard time answering these questions, I encourage you to ask a trusted friend or two to share their thoughts about your gifts. (And, of course, you can ask your friends for their thoughts even if you don’t have a hard time answering the questions yourself. Hearing your friends tell you about your gifts can feel really good!)

Here’s to you being you and sharing your medicine with the world!

 

Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants. (Minneapolis, MN: Milkweed Editions, 2020.)

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