I haven’t been to the gym in months. I haven’t lifted 100 pounds in years. I haven’t competed in a bodybuilding competition ever. The first definition of strength in the dictionary is “the quality or state of being physically strong,” but if you continue to look down the list, the fourth definition is “a good or beneficial quality or attribute of a person or thing.” All of us have different strengths. Some of these are physical, some mental, and some emotional. But where do strengths come from? Are we born with them? Are they passed on to us? Is it the environment we exist in?

Scholars go back and forth similarly to how people do with the nature versus nurture argument, but no one can deny that strengths are (in part) derived from life experiences. Our experiences not only shape us into who we are but give us the seeds of passion that we explore throughout our lifetimes. We must explore these passions because they can reveal a whole host of strengths, we never knew we had. 

Identifying strengths is often difficult to do, but we can find the answers in the most unlikely of places. Try looking at how activities make you feel. Perhaps you enjoy debating, but why? What keeps your attention? Perhaps your strength lies in the presentation or crafting a logical argument. It could be logical reasoning or thinking on your feet. We tend to love doing activities we are good at and have natural strengths in. Also, think about constructive criticism you’ve received such as “speak up more in meetings, you have great ideas, and we want to hear them.” While it may seem like criticism that you don’t speak up enough, the true strength is hidden within this piece of advice. You have great ideas; people want to hear them. Keep an ear out for the strengths noticed by those around us and continue to develop these as time passes. 

Michael Phelps wasn’t born a world champion swimmer just as Taylor Swift wasn’t born a Grammy-winning songwriter. These things came from the nurturing and pursuing of their passions and, thereby, their strengths.  It’s important to exercise the things you love and follow talents if they’re enjoyable and exciting. Leaning on these qualities in difficult times will help you get through anything life throws at you. 

So no, I haven’t run a marathon; I haven’t swum in open water meets; I haven’t lifted 200 pounds, and I haven’t cycled across the country. I have, however, started a business, raised a family, created a community, and supported those around me. I may not have the physical strength of some, but my determination and care for others make me just as valuable as any other person. We’re all unique, we’re all different, and we all have strengths that help ourselves and those around us.