If I asked you who you were what would you say? Would you describe yourself based on past achievements (things like education, career and personal achievements)? Would it based on items and things acquired through the years (cars, jewellery, houses and properties)? Or would you describe yourself based on internal factors (things like interests, intelligence, motivation, values, self-concept, self-efficacy, self-esteem or personality)?

Whichever direction you choose to go you might still not be able to define yourself in a unique way. This brings the question, what makes you unique? What makes you stand out from the crowd? What is that one thing you believe others do not have?

It could be something that others have but yours is of a varying intensity. Think of qualities like courage, determination or maybe it is something eccentric or quirky. Well whatever it is when you find out it could be the thing that allows you succeed and form your own niche area.

Let me borrow 6 worthwhile quotes before proceeding to explain.

While we have the gift of life, it seems to me the only tragedy is to allow part of us to die — whether it is our spirit, our creativity or our glorious uniqueness ~ Gilda Radner

We are each gifted in a unique and important way. It is our privilege and our adventure to discover our own special light. ~ Mary Dunbar

Rejoice in who you are! It is your uniqueness that will breathe life into your art. ~ Lisa Campbell Ernst

Meeting people unlike oneself does not enlarge one’s outlook; it only confirms one’s idea that one is unique. ~ Elizabeth Bowen

Cherish forever what makes you unique, ‘cuz you’re really a yawn if it goes! ~ Bette Midler

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. ~The Bible Psalm 139: 14

Before we can tap on your uniqueness and turn it into your strength the first thing we have to do is to identify who we are now?

This is a lot harder than you might think. What I mean is that sometimes in life who we think we are is based on an “ideal” perception of ourselves rather than the “real” thing.  When we see ourselves through our “ideal” selves we see our self “the way things are supposed to be”. While when we see ourselves through our “real” self, we see things “as they are”.

Differentiating yourself from your unfinished ambitions and dreams (ideal self) allows you to get a realistic picture of yourself and puts you in a better position to see what it is about you that really makes you unique.

Our ideal self is a fantasy about who we might be. It is important to be honest when reading this because it is the only way I can help. By comparing the ideal with the real, we begin to see the gaps in perception we have created, the judgments we have made about ourselves, and the gaps that could be preventing us from fully living our lives in the moment as the person that we truly are.

Let’s try a simple exercise. I want you to get as many photographs as you can from your past along with an exercise book. Take each photograph and sort them out into ranges of every two years  and have a table of contents that has 3 parts in it, first containing time range (1987-1989, 1990-1992 etc.) the next containing attributes of what you thought you were then and the other containing everything you achieved during that range of time. Use the pictures from that time range to stir up memories of whom you thought you were.

Now cross compare, decide which characteristic you thought was responsible for whatever level of success you achieved.  If you find that you constantly refer to yourself as having a particular attribute (like courage) and over a significant period of time (say 4 years) there has not been a direct relationship then it is time to discard it. It probably isn’t you.

This is a simple exercise but must be done with absolute honesty. When you have completed this successfully all that you should be left with is a real description of who you are. This should contain characteristics that showcase exactly what your strengths are (the characters that you often rely on)

Now that we have discovered what we have it is time to use what we have. Develop your competitive strengths and turn them to what gives you a competitive advantage.

Michael Phelps has been deemed the world’s greatest Olympian He cannot run a 200km race, pole vault or throw a javelin. Michael has spent countless hours  (over 10,000 hours) working on what makes him unique and he has developed it into what has become his competitive advantage. The same thing goes in business and in our daily lives and even in romance (people can only love you for what you have, not what you wish/think you had).

Real success does not just come from playing to your strengths and playing down your weaknesses. It comes from self awareness and adaptability. If you overplay strength, it can soon become a weakness. What I mean by that is really simple. If you felt you were the world’s strongest warrior and you spent all you time developing your fighting skills. While you very well could be, at a certain point in your life you might find yourself getting a bit pompous and training less and this could be the difference between your continuing victory and your inevitable fall.

What could have been stopping you from arriving at your “competitive advantage” could be that you had spent a ridiculous amount of hours developing your weaknesses at the expense of your strengths. I dare you to spend time developing just one of your strengths and see what levels of change it will bring to your life.

This is a self help tool that can help bring you out of you shell but I must warn that whatever you term as a strength , it must be completely practical or it is pretty useless to develop and quite frankly a pure waste of time.

“We all wear masks and the time comes when we cannot remove them without removing our own skin.” André Berthiaume.