Signature strengths and Self-awareness; key to quality life
“Awareness of self, strengthens the quality of life”.
Life is a journey of ups and downs, the wave of the challenges and emotions involved, have some high tides and some low tides but the only promise that life makes is, it bounces backs!
Nowadays, ‘Mental Health’ has become a hot topic to improve the quality of life. But do we actually know what good life is? How life can be made good? Do we have that strength? Or are we even aware of those strengths?
More than anybody else, we are the ones who need to be aware of our self the most. Understanding our individuality in all aspects, being able to accept and put forward our uniqueness is all we need to do! Being able to connect to others as well as differing our-self from others by having a clear understanding of our strengths and weaknesses leads to qualitative lifestyle not just physically but mentally too.
Self-awareness is not a new concept, as it started from very ancient times of Greek Aphorism called “know thyself” to western psychology. It has been studied both by philosophers and psychologists of the last century.
When a person is capable enough to answer him/herself about who is he/she? / What do he/she wants? / What do he/she thinks? / How do he/she feels? That’s when self-awareness becomes achievable. The role of self-awareness is clear, it helps us to help ourselves. The way we react to our emotions, our environment or to others can be regulated and improved only if we have high sense of self. This is one of the major factor of ‘success’, if we know our potentials, goals, direction we can excel where we want to represent ourselves best. Self-awareness is when a person is known to one’s internal states, preference, resources, and intuitions. It makes a person more accepting. It is a state of mind about being knowledgeable about oneself and recognising one’s own traits, emotions, behaviour, motives, beliefs, thoughts and personality.
The most recommended practice to increase self-awareness is ‘Introspection’ and ‘Self-talk’. Also looking at oneself objectively, forming the habit of writing down goals, plans and priorities, by practicing meditation and mindfulness activities helps in generating positive insight and self-reflection. When we spend some quality time with ourselves we increase our sense of self. Practising such activities regularly or frequently decreases confusion and stress, problems can be dealt very effectively if a person becomes clear about their reaction to it, the ability to acquire serenity to accept the things you cannot change, courage to change the things you can, and having wisdom and awareness to know the difference is what real sense of self is.
Now, our real self lies in our character or signature strengths. Signature Strength or Character strengths are positive traits that are found in everybody, these are innate traits but can be acquired with practice. These traits reflect in our thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. They represent the personality and character by having a selected virtue for oneself in the justifiable life plan. Character strengths are distinguishable on the basis of individual differences in terms of talents and abilities. These traits helps us improve our quality of life with the strength of uniqueness in our character.
The famous book “Character Strengths and Virtues” was created on the basis of research reports presented by a group of prestigious researches, who classified and measured the positive traits. The aim was to scientifically and empirically represent the humanistic deals of virtues. The book was basically constructed to provide theoretical framework for developing practical applications that can help positive psychology practitioners to work more scientifically in the field of positive psychology.
Virtues: Virtues are the core characteristics valued by moral philosophers and religious thinkers. Virtues are universal, have biological ground, are very crucial for the survival of the species, as they provide innate source necessary for solving the important tasks. An individual with good character displays one or two strengths in a virtue group.
1. Wisdom and Knowledge: The branch of positive psychology, defines wisdom as “the cognitive strength that entails the acquisition and use of knowledge”. The five cognitive strengths that comes under this virtue are:
• Creativity: The ability to adapt, thinking differently or “the process and outcome whereby individuals use conscious awareness and choice to create human and environmental integration”. Creativity has both psychological and physiological benefits, as creative activities require the ability to be open to new ideas. Creativity as a signature strength enhances self-esteem, problem-solving and coping skills also improving connections of neurons, stimulating endorphins, and immune system.
• Curiosity: The ability to take interest in ongoing experiences or finding subjects and topics fascinating or the ability to explore and discover. It allows a person to view challenges as an opportunity to grow and this strength provides the meaning, direction and purpose in life. Curios people are more responsive, infuse more novel twists of excitement into interactions, more likely to seek and capitalize.
• Open-Mindedness: It is defined as “examining and thinking” by weighing different perspectives and not directly coming upon the conclusions. Being able to think critically and trusting upon evidences.
• Love of learning: Ability to be cognitively engaged, mastering new skills and knowledge either by oneself or formally. It is the key to improve ourselves by experiencing and engaging in the outer world which helps in tackling challenges and setbacks in life. The sense of self efficacy and motivation comes from the strength of love of learning.
• Perspective: Wisdom or perspective is the strength of knowing oneself. It comes from experience and it develops through the life challenges and adjustments. It determines one’s terms with life choices, life changes, and stressful life experiences.
2. Courage: Strengths associated with this virtue involve accomplishing goals in the time of fear and internal or external obstacles. Strengths in this virtue are:
• Bravery: The capacity to take action to aid others in spite of significant risks or danger. This strength allow people to avoid shrinking from the threats, challenges or pain associated with good deeds.
• Persistence: Mental strength necessary to continue striving for one’s goals in the face of failures or obstacles. This strength makes a person more dedicated, focused and develops patience.
• Authenticity: The strength manifests the ability to speak truth and presenting oneself as genuine. This strength allows a person to be open, honest about his feelings, thoughts and responsibilities.
• Zest: This strength is an approach to life, whole-heartedly by the appreciation of energy, liveliness, excitement, and adventure. This strengths allows involves greater psychological and physiological activation and enthusiasm.
3. Humanity: The virtue include caring and befriending others. Being humane and learning the quality of being concerned with human culture. This virtue includes the following:
• Love: The strength entails love and value for the close relationships with those where sharing and caring are reciprocated. This strength allows people to trust others, ability to make romantic, sexual and emotional bond with deep contentment.
• Kindness: This strength consist of doing favours and good deeds for others without the expectation of personal gain. This allows a person to be self-less, emotionally affectionate, and to help other people regardless of their degree of relatedness.
• Social Intelligence: The ability to be aware about emotions and intentions of oneself and that of others. People with this strength attempt to make everyone feel involved, comfortable and valued. This strength makes a person socially intelligent about perspective of others, honest and adaptive.
4. Justice: This virtue includes the ability to build a healthy and stable community. The moderation or mean between selfishness and selflessness and the strength of being fair in decisions for both personal and at community level. Being an active citizen, socially responsible, loyal, and a team member. The strengths included in this virtue are:
• Teamwork: Involves working as a member of a group for a common goal. People with this strength are loyal to their work members, ready to sacrifice, have sense of social belongingness and civic responsibility by not being blindly obedient and has the strength to change for better.
• Fairness: This stands for treating everyone according to universal ideals of equality and justice. Ability to be fair without letting personal biases hinder, by relying upon the broad set of moral values. This strength allows a person to be morally correct and caring for others at the same time.
• Leadership: Involves the process of motivating, directing, and coordinating members of a group to achieve a common goal. Individuals who possess this strength have the ability to listen feelings and opinions of all the members of the group, help the group to achieve goals in a cohesive, efficient, and amiable manner.
5. Temperance: Moderation or voluntary self-restraint means the ability to refrain oneself from doing something. It is a protective strength that helps individuals to avoid excess and staying on the track in the face of temptations. The virtue consist of the following strengths:
• Forgiveness: This strength entails accepting shortcomings of others, giving people second chance, not holding grudges for those who have offended or have done wrong to us. It allows us to put aside self-destructive negativity and to extend mercy toward a transgressor.
• Modesty: Involves letting one’s strengths and accomplishments speak for themselves. This strength makes a person humble, honest within themselves about their own limitations, are open to take advice.
• Prudence: Practical orientation toward future goals. It entails being careful about one’s choices, avoiding undue risks, keeping long-term goals in mind and making short-term decisions. Prudent individuals are intelligent and have the ability to monitor and control over impulsive behaviour and its consequences.
• Self-Regulation: The process of exerting control over oneself in order to meet goals or standards. Self-control individuals are able to control instinctive responses such as aggression, and impulsivity.
6. Transcendence: This virtue is associated with finding meaning and connecting to larger world. The act of rising above others to a superior state beyond the ordinary limitations. It describes the importance of spiritual or religious state, or a condition of moving beyond physical needs and realities. This virtue is consist of:
• Appreciation of Beauty: Noticing and valuing beauty, excellence, and skill expressed in nature, performance, various professions, and in everyday experiences.
• Spirituality: Holding beliefs about the meaning of life and its higher purpose. Having the ability to recognise where one fits in the larger scheme in life, and taking comfort and direction from that knowledge.
• Gratitude: Being aware and thankful for the good things that happen in life. Taking time to express thanks also people with this strength are more emotionally positive, grateful, relish good experiences, have the ability to deal with adversity and build strong relationships.
• Hope: Having positive feelings about the immediate or long-term future and often coupled with high motivation, optimism, and elevated mood. People with this strength have a positive view towards future and work in the direction of the goal also people with hope strength tend to experience fewer mental health problems.
• Humour: It includes playful recognition and enjoyment of incongruity, a cheerful view of the light side of adversity, and the ability to make others laugh and smile.
These mentioned character/signature strengths are actually those positive traits that makes life easier, if recognised well at times, and the ability to use each strength in an appropriate situation is mastered. Not everyone can achieve it but practice makes a man perfect. There are number of scientific tools like (VIA, VIA-R, SIGNATURE STRENTH, SELF-RATING SCALE) and various psychological practices like meditation, mindfulness, stress reducing yoga, concentration etc. that help in achieving and realising one’s own strengths. The quality of life is something best understandable by an individual himself. The major motive is to face each obstacle by its nature with the combination of strengths a person can attribute or represent in situation of crises.