By Jim Walsh
Head Student Advisor, CIP Bloomington
The book Character Strengths and Virtues comes from Christopher Peterson and Martin E.P. Seligman, founders of the Positive Psychology movement. The authors write in the introduction (titled “Manual of the Sanities”), “This handbook focuses on what is right about people and specifically about the strengths of character that make the good life possible.” Our top “Character Strengths” define what we value and what truly guides us. I created this portrait project for students and staff to remember their strengths and acknowledge them in others. Each portrait subject writes their strengths in their own handwriting.
CIP student Adam’s top strength is “Humility.” Adam said, “I learned that humility is a balance, having neither such a high self-image as to be unwilling to see one’s own flaws nor such a low self-image as to never give myself credit or to need to blame others for one’s problems. When I think about it, I am grateful for praise and don’t let it go to my head. I don’t consciously think of myself as entitled to things other people aren’t, and I’m usually willing to admit when I’ve made a mistake.”
What has surprised me in coaching others through the survey is that many have been perceiving their strengths as weaknesses. Someone with Humility (“willingness to view oneself accurately”) could be viewed as having low self-esteem. A “Prudent” individual’s meticulousness could be labeled as perfectionism. Someone who values “Wonder/Awe/Appreciation of Beauty” may not appreciate it within themselves because they don’t have “Creativity,” which is an entirely separate but equal strength.
As a coach, my primary role is to ask good questions, and these days I find myself asking: “How can use your ‘Bravery’ here?” “Which opportunity in the community do you think would be a good fit for your ‘Love of Learning’?” “What are some ways you can show ‘Kindness’ to others this week?” “Is there a way to bring some ‘Humor’ into this situation?”