All of us are superheroes with strange strengths and weaknesses, so we need to activate our strengths and deal with weaknesses. This metaphor can be transformed into an actionable plan. You can choose the metaphor to empower you and your role models. More reading here, here, here, here, here, and here.
What kind of superhero are you?
Old superhero movies used to show larger than life figures with larger than life weaknesses. With time additional genres started to use superheroes. In many recent films, superheros are pathetic mishaps with strange powers. These powers always get laughs, and then either get them killed or bring them glory. Sometimes both. After watching Deadpool 2 for the third time with my kids, I decided to go with the metaphor once again.
If you wonder what kind of hero I am, the answer depends on who you ask. For my kids, I am Thor with a beer belly and cool stories from the last Avengers movie. My wife thinks I am Dr Strange, which may be very strange. For my old friends, I am a sort of Marvel’s Vision – very human but at the same time somehow synthetic. For myself, I am probably a Deadpool – indestructible but comical. I can be all of these and more if that image is positive and helpful.
Choose your superhero association based on the context of your activity and align your strengths with the best qualities of your superhero.
Inventory of strengths
Let’s take the list from Wikipedia:
- Wisdom and Knowledge: creativity, curiosity, judgment, love of learning, perspective
- Courage: bravery, perseverance, honesty, zest
- Humanity: love, kindness, social intelligence
- Justice: teamwork, fairness, leadership
- Temperance: forgiveness, humility, prudence, self-regulation
- Transcendence: the appreciation of beauty and excellence, gratitude, hope, humor, spirituality
Now make your spider diagram according to these 6 directions. I feel strongest in Wisdom and Knowledge and weakest in Courage. That does not mean others see you this way. My wife admires my honesty, prudence, and perseverance. Within each group make its own spider chart. For example, in Transcendence, I am great at the appreciation of beauty and excellence and suck in hope. Think if others would agree with your assessment.
We are different people in various contexts. It is very tempting to think of the real authentic self, but does such a thing really exist?
If you are honest with yourself you will get a somewhat confusing result. Even in the area which is your weakest, you will see you have strengths in some context. In the area where you are the strongest, you may see small chinks in the armor and sprouts of weakness. This is normal.
Before we continue, take this test.
Do not be surprised if you score high in open-mindedness, fairness, curiosity, and love of learning. The test is somewhat biased. Notice that as we age, humor tends to become weaker. There is a higher love of learning, curiosity, forgiveness, self-regulation, and fairness. Zest and happiness are correlated. If you disagree with the test, notice that it has been heavily criticized by professionals, but is widely referred to.
The test might not correspond to what you and others think about you. For example, my 5 strengths in the test were (1) Honesty, (2) Humor, (3) Curiosity, (4) Perspective, and (5) Love. While I think I lack bravery and hope, I actually tested high for both. Maybe if I take the same test on some other day or with some other priming, I guess I will get different results. You might know yourself better than some random questionnaire. Also, scoring low in a certain strength does not signify a weakness: another model is used to detect weaknesses.
Next, please search “character strengths” in google image search. Find which visualization is best for you, and use the visualization as a part of your visual dictionary.
Now, in different areas of your life try to see what is your alignment. You may be lawful good at work, chaotic good at home, and neutral evil in your diaries.
Typically people want to be superheros but villains can be equally inspiring. Villains have a strong story of resilience, finding strength in its deepest misery. Some villains are wise, charismatic, inspiring, selfless: they are choosing small evil for the greater good. The great thing about the villains is their ability to change. Great villains often come with cool creation and redemption stories. Maybe you perceive yourself as heroes but others see you as a villain, or maybe vice-versa.
What can we learn from each side?
- Heros have great motivation, rebirth, and bravery
- Villains have their creation and redemption stories, they are creative and resilient
- Neutrals can have a better judgment, be free, and can be good mediators.
- Lawful tend to have perseverance and prudence
- Chaotic often are creative, curious, humoristic.
Of cause, you can find different pros and cons for each side, as long as you build a deep appreciation for every alignment.
Strengths and alignments can change
Now we start the fun part.
If you want to change anything in your life, you can copy your strength from one area to another. For example, if you are prudent and hard-working at work, you might be passive and tired at home. At the same time, you have the ability to use the same skills for home chores, maybe making your spouse happier. I had to do this when my children were born.
You may be compassionate to your friends and family, but are you equally compassionate with your business partners? Possibly if you show them your warmer sides, you can get better cooperation, maybe even a mutually beneficial merger with your competition.
If your children see you as evil-lawful, you can generate a redemption story. Join them against common challenges.
You can also inspire others to change.
Strengths are different
Each strength shines in a different environment with different challenges. Certain strengths may work against you. If you are a very honest lawyer or a very kind enforcer, you may want to reconsider your career choice.
Some strengths are more appropriate for men, but today this is less important. A woman with a great sense of humor will not get male groupies but can be very successful professionally. A warm loving male can be successful in everything he wants, although a stoic male figure is more socially acceptable.
If your strengths do not align with your current challenges, you may want to change your goals. It is possible to change careers, modify work-life balance, find partners that can do the work we do not really like.
Some strengths define our identity. It is statistically rare for someone to be in the top percentage in many different areas, and it is exhausting to maintain a competitive edge. Superman is strong, batman is great with gadgets, spiderman can sense danger, dr strange manipulates time, Deadpool cannot die, professor Xavier can read minds. What is your signature strength?
I am good at Knowledge and everything about it. You can learn speedreading and memorization, and beat me in this. Will that make you understand the inner logic and organization of knowledge? How good are you in the judgment of investment and knowledge and return on that investment? Can you help others acquire knowledge? Does the knowledge make you creative?
Every signature strength is accompanied by great weakness. My weakness is boredom. Once I get bored, all of my signature advantages switch off, and I have to rely on secondary strengths (prudence, humor, perspective).
Do you have a signature strength and a great weakness? You probably have, but you may need some time to figure them out.
You can choose which character strengths to activate
Unlike the characters in the Divergent series, we can choose which strengths to apply per challenge or task we face. Remember, at the beginning of this article I asked you to visualize your character strengths. Now you have 24 visualizations. If you struggle, try this approach or try paid resources like this.
You can also associate a superhero per strength. For each task that you handle choose your hero and his two lieutenants. This provides you greater flexibility and perspectives when handling the tasks.
Sense of purpose
You may wonder why everybody works with 24 strengths model. It simply has a good free testing questionnaire and tons of statistics. Some of the best strengths are not in the list. You can still use them. Take, for example, a sense of purpose.
If you have a purpose in your life, you automatically become more focused, zesty, and curious about it. Sense of purpose is the only strength that predicts not just happiness, but also resilience in face of adversity.
Reportedly, narrative writing is one of the best ways to develop a sense of purpose. Further research would be nice here.
Self-esteem is not the same as self-confidence. Achievements, education, and especially perfectionism are not very good for your self-esteem. The more you know or have, the better you understand your limitations. Some of the most successful people suffer from terrible depressions and commit suicides.
You put ambitious goals and achieve them. Then your confidence goes up. At the same time, you may become more sensitive to occasional failures, and your self-esteem may suffer.
Narcissism is also very different from self-esteem. I quote: “Whereas self-esteem tends to be at its lowest in adolescence, and slowly increases throughout life, narcissism peaks in adolescence and gradually declines throughout the lifespan. Therefore, the development of narcissism and high self-esteem show the mirror image of each other throughout the course of human development.
The prototypical grandiose narcissist is characterized by arrogance, superiority, vanity, entitlement, exploitativeness, exhibitionism, and the incessant need for acclaim from others. Those scoring high on measures of self-esteem, however, tend to feel satisfied with themselves but do not necessarily see themselves as superior to others.
In regards to interpersonal functioning, narcissism and self-esteem differed on 75% of the measures.”
Serving others and focusing on other people is correlated with longevity. I would say love, gratitude, and perspective roughly correspond to this virtue. In a strange way, the more we love other people the better we feel about ourselves.
If you are also honest and authentic, your self-esteem is likely to build up with time.