Wyatt burst through the door ahead of me. Several steps into his sprint through the house, he tripped and ended up sprawled across the living floor on his stomach.
Without hesitation, he turned back to me and said, “I’m the bestest faller too. Right, Mommy?”
Wyatt reminded me of the little boy in Kenny Rogers’ song “The Greatest.” As the child picks up his bat and tosses his ball into the air, he expects nothing less than a home run.
When the ball lands in the dirt for the third and final time, he has a moment to reflect on the strikeout before his mother calls him home for supper.
As he heads home with a smile on his face, he says, “I am the greatest. That is a fact. But even I didn’t know I could pitch like that!”
As kids, we assume our competency even in the face of adversity.
“Since this didn’t work out the way that I wanted, it must be because I was so good at something else,” we reason.
This attitude rarely makes it into adulthood with us. Once “I can’t” is introduced into our vocabulary, we stop boasting of our strengths and focus only on our weaknesses.
We start keeping a mental checklist of all the ways we have failed — our relationships, our careers, our education, our eating habits, our faith.
Nobody is perfect, of course. We all have areas of our life where improvement is needed.
However, I am starting to realize that embracing our strengths is as important to personal growth as being honest about our shortcomings.
Making the distinction between the two is not always as easy as it sounds.
I was having a conversation with someone recently about what I viewed as one of my character flaws.
She convinced me that what I thought needed to be fixed is actually admirable and worthy of being protected.
I could have spared myself a lot of mental anguish if I had recognized this as a blessing in disguise sooner.
Last year, I was enrolled in a class that required me to take the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment.
This group of 34 themes such as adaptability, discipline and empathy was developed by a team of Gallup scientists. An online test is used to determine each participant’s top five talents.
According to the introduction of “StrengthsFinder 2.0” by Tom Rath, the point of the assessment is to help people build a life around who they are instead of trying to become who they are not.
A friend of mine who was in the class compared notes with me after we took the test.
Since we get along so well, I expected that some of our strengths would overlap.
In fact, our lists didn’t match at all.
She ranked high in adaptability, which is described as “a very flexible person who can stay productive when the demands of work are pulling you in many different directions at once.”
Deliberation, one of my strengths, sounds slightly less fun: “You are a fairly serious person who approaches life with a certain reserve...For you, life is not a popularity contest. Life is something of a minefield. Others can run through it recklessly if they so choose, but you take a different approach.”
The StrengthsFinder assessment helped me look at myself and the people around me in a new light.
I found that some personality conflicts could be resolved or prevented once I reminded myself that what I was judging as another person’s weakness might be one of his or her strengths.
It also made comparison unnecessary. As Judy Garland once said, it is better to be a first rate version of yourself than a second rate version of someone else.
I am still sorting out my strengths from my weaknesses. I have enough of the latter to know that I am not going to run a perfect race. Stumbles along the way are inevitable.
Maybe Wyatt can teach me how to be the second bestest faller.