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I’m a college student, and I’ve noticed that my friends and I sometimes struggle with our identity. College is a crucial time for figuring out who you are, and finding yourself isn’t always easy. In fact, a lot of the time we find it easier to learn what we aren’t before we can figure out what we are.

We’re put under a lot of pressure. Everyone is peppering us with questions such as, “Who are you and what do you want to do with the rest of your life?” Frankly, a lot of the time we don’t have the slightest idea how to respond.

It can be hard to make big decisions when we don’t even understand ourselves. Because of this, a lot of us end up in majors that aren’t well suited for us, and then we can end up struggling in classes or even wanting to drop out of college altogether. When that happens, we may ask ourselves, “What’s wrong with me? I’m working so hard, but I’m struggling to get C’s when my classmates are all getting A’s.”

That’s why learning about my strengths has helped me as a student. Now that I know my strengths, I have a better understanding of who I am instead of who I am not; I can focus on what’s right with me instead of what’s wrong with me. It also becomes a lot easier to accept the truth when I try something and it doesn’t end up working out.

For example, after looking at how my strengths played out in my last summer job – a front desk associate at a medical office – I’ve learned that healthcare might not be the best career option for me. This may seem odd since my top two signature themes are Adaptability and Empathy. Don’t those sound like perfect strengths for a doctor or nurse who has to be able to adapt to patients’ needs and be sensitive to someone who’s suffering?

Perhaps, but I also have Positivity, which means I hate being around negativity (even when a negative attitude is justified, such as when a person is in pain), so that makes it hard for me to be around sick people who often aren’t in a good mood.

I also struggled in healthcare because my Developer, one of my signature themes which makes me love being able to help people, makes it difficult for me when I’m not able to help someone with a problem. For example, at the medical office patients would come to the front desk and would complain or ask complex questions about their medical insurance. I don’t know anything about medical insurance. Even if I did, I didn’t have the authority to help them in any way. Being around such negativity and being unable to help patients with their problems drained me.

But I’m okay with that feeling because I know there’s nothing wrong with me. I don’t dislike working. I’m not lazy or naïve either, but I know that a career working directly with patients in healthcare might not be a good use of my strengths.

Now, some may wonder if taking StrengthsFinder at such a young age as 18 (the age when I took it) is a good idea. After all, a student can change dramatically from freshman year to senior year of college, so what if their strengths change?

Actually, any strengths coach will tell you that strengths don’t really change throughout your life. I would encourage my fellow students to learn about their strengths one way or another. The sooner you learn them, the sooner you can start building them up and leading with them. StrengthsFinder is a great tool for discovering your strengths – it’s helped me to reflect on who I am and grow in self-understanding.

There are lots of ways to come to a better understanding of your unique talents. The best part about learning your strengths is, no matter where you are in life, you can always become stronger.

Therese Miller
Therese Miller
Therese is a former Purple Ink Intern.

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