Why Is It So Hard to Say We’re Good at Something?
One of the first questions I ask when I begin working with a new client is “what are your gifts?” A long – very long – silence usually follows. When the client finally speaks, they say the same thing: “I don’t know.” When I dig deeper, I hear a little more: “Well, such and such seems to come easy to me, and I sort of have a knack for it, and yeah, I guess you could say it comes naturally, but I’m not good at it, or anything. So I wouldn’t call it a gift.”
Yep. I hear this all the time. And it. Is. Messed. Up.
We all have gifts. Not one of us was born without having a special gift or talent. Mine is speaking and really hearing what people are saying under their words. I have a friend whose gift is writing. Another has an eye for style. We all got somethin’, folks. But from my years of coaching I’ve noticed that the word “gift” tends to be synonymous with “being good at” something. And being “good at something” tends to mean, for most people, that they are an expert in the field, or wildly successful at this one thing, or freakishly talented along the lines of say, Mozart. In other words, if it’s not a Super Talent lit up in klieg lights on a big marquee, we’d rather just sweep it under the rug, thank you very much. A gift doesn’t count unless it is great. And what a pity that is.
This is actually fear masquerading as modesty. And it’s doing nobody any good. Let’s say you like to write. Do you feel uncomfortable saying that you have a talent for writing if you haven’t been published? Or, let’s say you have been published. Do you still feel uncomfortable saying you have a gift for writing if you haven’t hit the best-seller list? Or you’re not churning out books like Stephen King? Just because you haven’t won the Pulitzer, or haven’t found an agent, doesn’t negate the talent you do have. Let’s reframe the definition of “gift.” If you do certain things better than most people, if certain things come easier to you than to others, if you enjoy doing something so that time seems to vanish when you sit down to do it – that’s usually a gift. It really has nothing to do with how “good” you are at it. And if you have a gift, no matter how big or how small, you have a responsibility to use it.
Otherwise, the rest of the world misses out.
Children are a great example. My fifteen year-old son is a budding magician learning his craft at the Magic Castle. Is he David Copperfield? No, not yet. But he is working towards his talent. My thirteen year-old is a great songwriter. He loves music and acting. Does he have his own Disney show? Nope. But he still has a gift and a talent and writes songs about people which he gives them as gifts. Children know that they have to practice their natural skills and abilities. Adults aren’t as down with this concept. If you are good at something or you could be if you practiced, you have to use it. The world needs your gifts. Even if you’re not earning your living from it, or you haven’t achieved massive success with it (yet), you need to at least recognize that it is something special and unique to you.
But what if you still aren’t sure what your gifts are? Then it’s time to go digging for them. Here are some exercises to help you zero in on those superpowers that you may not realize you ever had:
- Ask yourself what comes naturally to you. Whatever it is might seem like no big deal. Gathering people together comes naturally to me. I think it’s no big deal, but other people have thanked me for creating community. What do you do easily? It might even seem like something trivial, like organizing a closet or managing numbers. But if you look deeper, it’s not so trivial after all.
- What do you do better than most people? It’s okay for you to own the things you do well. I can speak in front of crowds better than most people. It doesn’t make me boastful, it’s just a fact. I can say things that are hard truths to people in a loving way. Again, not boastful, just a truth of who I am.
- What are things you enjoy doing? You don’t have to be good at them, only that you like doing them. I love to paint, sing karaoke, find cute outfits on sale, and write.
- What do people come to you for? What do they ask you? I am asked for advice all the time. I am the stranger you meet in the elevator who knows your deepest, darkest secret by the 10th floor. It’s been that way since I was a kid.
Next, I want you to write the following:
I enjoy (fill in the blank). People come to me for (fill in the blank). I do (fill in the blank) better than most. I am proud of the way I (fill in the blank). I have the gift of (fill in the blank). I would like to develop my talent for (fill in the blank).
By now you should be able to see some gifts and talents emerge. Sometimes they coalesce into a career path that you’d never considered. Sometimes they may be the beginning of new hobbies. Whichever they are, they will almost certainly begin to transform the way you see yourself. And it is okay to take ownership of the things that you discover. You are meant to be happy and proud of your gifts. They are for everyone else to enjoy, too.
If you need more help identifying your gifts, contact me for a complimentary 30-minute phone session here.