We rarely take a moment to acknowledge the things we love about ourselves. As a rule, most of us tend to downplay our greatness so we won’t appear conceited or self-absorbed. If you’re at all like me, you want oth- ers to acknowledge your gifts and talents, but on those occasions when they actually do, you’re quick to minimize their insight. We struggle to receive personal affirmation. Sometimes we even go so far as to deny or contradict it.
We can get stuck in thinking there is nothing terribly unique about us or about what we offer in service to others. It’s time to shake loose that worn-out belief.
Playing small relinquishes our power.
Identifying what makes you great is part of sharing your amazing self in the world.
When you embody your greatness with confidence, you have a jumping-off point from which to expand. Going with what comes naturally and easily opens a path of very little resistance and increases the prob- ability of your success. Success enhances your confidence and provides a benchmark you can return to when you are challenged to grow in other areas.
Your greatness lives deep inside your heart as your natural talents and positive qualities, such as curiosity and passion. We feel alive when we embrace and enhance our inherent gifts. Sharing these gifts only adds to our enthusiasm and joy. Any path you set out on with such joyous energy is destined toward something great!
Identifying personal greatness, even in the privacy of your own heart, can be a daunting process. It is very likely that what makes you amazing has been lost on you to this point. Unless we stop to think about our gifts—or someone we trust calls our attention to a specific event or action—we rarely notice the things that come naturally and easily.
Start asking yourself what makes you great. Don’t be shy about it.
Use joy as a compass in your pursuit. Quite often, what sparks happiness inside is sharing space with your innate talent. See if you can come up with some insights of your own before you start asking others where they think your greatness shines. At this point, use outside opinions only to stimulate your personal discoveries.
You might also be tempted to start making a list of things that you are good at. Be discerning here. We all learn how to do things that have nothing to do with our personal greatness but were fueled instead by our desire for approval, or by the beliefs and values we inherited from others. Sometimes we do these things well. I remember a time when I caught myself exclaiming that a role I was about to accept would “look good on my résumé.” It took me a moment to realize that I was building a mental résumé for a job I no longer even wanted!
Embracing your personal greatness can be fun—especially when you don’t take yourself too seriously. Seeing yourself as a person of greatness also raises the likelihood that you will experience joy and fulfillment in the process of contributing in the world.
Magnificence might be found in your sense of humor, your ability to see alternative perspectives, your abiding faith in your power to respond, or your capacity for connection. Your greatness may lie in your particular creative expression, or in your ability to inspire or teach. It may show up in the way you speak or solve problems.
Maybe it’s your singing voice; you do you, beautiful.
Noticing and owning your greatness can happen with humility and grace. It is an element of self-confidence that has nothing to do with arrogance because it’s just about facts. Humble confidence makes it easier and more enjoyable to simply be who we are and do what we do. Humble, graceful confidence also makes it possible to look with honest and loving eyes at the parts of you that aren’t as well developed.
Your greatness is a reliable resource. It can be a source of strength and competence to draw on when you are called to expand or change. Human beings don’t grow as well in environments flooded with judg- ment and punishment, but we flourish when we feel safe and accepted. By celebrating your unique greatness, you provide such a space for yourself. Learn how to celebrate moments of accomplishment even more deeply than you agonize over moments when you miss the mark. The only way we can offer the best of ourselves to others is to be able, first, to embrace it within ourselves. To present our most natural gifts in the world, we have to know what these gifts are, what gives them strength, and how we intend to contribute to them. And embracing and celebrating your greatness makes you the ideal guide to help others discover their own.
Life is not meant to be so hard. Living in your greatness makes this human experience a little more graceful and adds an element of ease. Take stock of your personal greatness and stand firm in the self-confidence it provides. Without you in the world, something would be missing. When we shy away from this truth, we move toward self-abandonment.
What do you feel when asked to identify what makes you great? Take a breath. Get over it. Then make a list.
About the author
Elizabeth Bishop is the creator of The Conscious Service Approach ™, a research-based set of principles designed to enhance both the experience of service providers and the quality of service they offer.
Bishop’s professional background includes more than forty years in human service. Her experience ranges from the facility- to community-based services and from direct service provision to management and leadership responsibilities. She has specialized in developmental services, brain injury rehabilitation, and mental health programs. She has taught at the post-secondary level for more than thirty years, including within formal academic programs, continuing education, and professional development training. Above all, Elizabeth is an avid learner of life, with all its depth and wonder.
By Elizabeth Bishop, the author of Conscious Service