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A Bad Trait Could Be Your Signature Strength

By Debbie Mandel

Many of us have trouble listing our signature strengths, but can easily itemize the flaws. Along the way we force ourselves to fit the mold and become an artificial version of ourselves. Even worse, the self-criticism accompanying these imperfections causes a free-floating uneasiness. Consequently, we overdo - deplete ourselves with busyness to atone or even take medication. Our relationships suffer as we become exhausted and have nothing to give. Sometimes we internalize our weakness to the point that we walk around with a chip on the shoulder, often taking the offensive as a pre-emptive strike due to heightened sensitivity.

Its time to rethink our so-called flaws. They might actually be our hidden strengths. This is why I was so pleased to discover new research concerning one of the overmedicated maladies of our time, ADHD. It turns out that ADHD has an upside. Could we be engaging in self-sabotage by trying to suppress and silence the good side of ADHD?

In my book Addicted to Stress I advise my readers to adopt the attributes of a healthy narcissist to embrace who they are in order to become who they aspire to be. In that chapter I cite an example of someone with adult ADD who berates herself for being flighty. Here is how she is advised to reinterpret her perceived weakness: I am a scanner. Im good at so many things and looking for what I really enjoy.

A new study in the Journal of Personality and Individual Differences validates this concept. The latest research finds that adults with ADHD enjoy more creative achievement than those who dont have the disorder. For the same reason that ADHD might create problems, like distraction, it can also allow an openness to new ideas, says Holly White, assistant professor of cognitive psychology at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida and co-author of the paper. Not being completely focused on a task lets the mind make associations that might not have happened otherwise.

The world needs sequential, clear and focused thinkers. However, the skill of brainstorming, generating new ideas for potential inventions, is just as vital. Consider this analogy to a carefully planned vacation where one had to take detours and make spontaneous changes. For many these detours could prove to be the most fun and stimulating.

Here is how to reframe a perceived weakness into a signature strength:
  • Laziness you ease on down the road while others rush through life. You are likely to invent easier and more efficient methods.
  • Doodling you are releasing your inner creativity. This transfers laterally to your more serious tasks.
  • Procrastination you percolate ideas instead of knee-jerk responses.
  • Shyness you are a good listener and more likely to think before you speak.
  • Messiness you are a creative, multi-faceted person with an associative mind. You find what you need amidst the chaos.
  • Jealousy you are ambitious and accomplish great things by emulating others.

Debbie Mandel, MA is the author of Addicted to Stress: A Woman's 7 Step Program to Reclaim Joy and Spontaneity in Life, Changing Habits: The Caregivers' Total Workout and Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul, a stress-reduction specialist, motivational speaker, a personal trainer and mind/body lecturer. She is the host of the weekly Turn On Your Inner Light Show on WGBB AM1240 in New York City , produces a weekly wellness newsletter, and has been featured on radio/ TV and print media. To learn more visit: