From Emotional to Empowered: A Strengths Journey Story

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She was 25 years old and her hair was falling out. One month before she was to marry the man of her dreams, the one who she would journey with for life, he was literally pulling her up the stairs of their two story townhouse. Her knees and feet had given over to constant, excruciating pain.

She cried herself to sleep at night. When her eyes and mind did finally succumb to the fatigue that overtook her body, she fell from the real-world she lived each day to the darkness of the dream-world that made shadows and mystery of her reality in the horror she thought would certainly become.

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She would wake with a sudden start, jolted from a restless sleep to a pounding heart, bathed in sweat.

For 25 years she had lived with the intensity of her emotions, worn on her soul and on her sleeve. Now, that intensity was coming to a dramatic climax that verged on the threat of her life. She had no medical condition. No illness. No pathology. The only cause of her decline was the sensitivity of her soul.

From the time she can remember, Kelly was known as the “emotional and sensitive one.” In her family, she was pegged as irrational and over the top. She seemed to feel everything around her very deeply, and she dealt with it in a dramatically sensitive way. Her mother rolled her eyes, her sister lashed out with words of disdain, her brother cast judgement and criticized. These words — emotional and sensitive — became daggers to her soul.

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But, so much as this tore into her, she could not seem to change her responses. No amount of emotional brow beating or mental fortitude could change her disposition. She could not help but feel deeply of the world, friends, and situations around her.

As soon as she could, Kelly pursued a journey of her own, striving for a life that was devoid of the criticism that played as repeating tapes in her head, with hope of redeeming the parts of her that she just couldn’t seem to shake. With her heart and passion drawn toward helping kids, she pursued a career as a teacher and thought she surely had found what she was made to do.

Several years in however, her body began to tell a different story.

The school she had chosen as her first job out of college served underprivileged kids from hard homes. She knew each of her students personally and slowly began to take on their pain. The turmoil of their often sad stories became her turmoil. The sadness of their often broken homes became her sadness. She could not understand how her colleagues could detach and enjoy their evenings when the brokenness of their days was so intense. She found herself drawn into the depths of her emotions, and this time, it was taking a toll.

About the time Kelly began to teach, she came upon a new psychological and emotional assessment. Through the encouragement of her sister and her natural curiosity about human behavior, she stole away to the upper room of her college apartment and thoughtfully clicked through the prompts of the StrengthsFinder assessment.

The memory of that top floor apartment building experience is a vivid one for her. While masked as an ordinary moment, it is now one that is burned into her mind forever. It was her roommate’s room and he was away, so she shuffled his unkempt papers to the side and sat at his desk in front of the window. She felt the warm sun and blue skies emanate to her skin through the window. She tapped the fingers of her left hand lightly on the desktop as she read, for the first time, a description of her most unique and brilliant talents.

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Yet, as she read, she was perplexed.

While the words in front of her wrote the story of her inner workings and described someone who was exactly as she was, all that flooded back into her mind were the daggers of her past — “emotional,” “sensitive,” “dramatic.” The report on the bright screen in her lap was describing her to a tee, but she found herself questioning and perplexed. How could it be that these heavily disdained parts of her heart could actually be considered a strength?

And then, as she sat there in confusion and disbelief, a piece of her broke. It was as if she were seeing herself for the very first time. Could she dare believe that her sensitivity and depth of feeling for others could truly—actually—be something good?

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Having lived with the daily criticism and perceived weakness for over two decades, she experienced nothing close to an instant transformation. Rather, it took coaching and convincing to train her mind and heart to believe that these natural patterns of thought and feeling in her could serve her and others around her well. Extremely well.

Finally, several years later, well into her teaching role, it was her young, broken body that helped her flip the switch and make the change. While she was beginning to understand that she possessed a superpower to deeply and empathetically feel the joys and sorrows of those around her—that others did not have—she yet possessed no register, no way to dial its intensity or utility. And so, instead of ruling and controlling it, it ruled over her. And it drove her to illness.

With the support of her new husband and her now affirming sister, she realized she had to remove herself from the deeply broken and emotional stories of the kids she served. So, in one of the most difficult and heart-wrenching decisions of her life, she decided to step down from her role as a teacher and instead invest her brilliance into the budding new family she and her husband dreamed to create.

As soon as she did, her body responded. She took time off to heal and reorient her mind to the good—not turmoil—she could make through her emotional intuition. Within one month, she was pregnant and on the track to full wellness.

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Today, Kelly is still walking the journey with her most natural talents—to strike a balance and a rhythm that allows her talents to act as the brilliance they create and not hide behind the fear of labels or past hurt. If you ask her, she still feels as deeply and as intensely as she always has, yet she has developed the ability to calibrate and control her response. Rather than being defined by an “emotional and sensitive” nature, those around her might even be surprised to know she holds such deep sensitivity in her heart.

For now, her solution has been able to compartmentalize her talent—where the deepest, most sensitive parts of her are reserved for the good of her two young boys, and the highly organized and action-oriented parts of her are used in her work as a business owner and concierge manager.

But, even now, along this Strengths journey she is traveling, she feels a shift in her future, to pour back a healthy, passionate intuition into every part of her life and live both in her home and work, giving of her brilliance—living truly alive.

 


LINKS | RESOURCES | a LITTLE ASK

Links & Resources from today

Meet Kelly here
Episode 8 | Isogo TV: What if I have been told these “aren’t strengths”?
Episode 27 | IsogoTV: Find the BEST Career for Your Strengths
StrengthsFinder is Life Changing | Show Up with What You Bring {Step 6 of 9}
9 Steps to Life-change through your Strengths
Becky’s Maven Insights on your Top 5

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My little ask?

As always, one of the best places to join the conversation is over at our Facebook Group — Energy Up Frustration Down by Strengths. Join us for weekly chatting, complaining and commending, as we all try to figure out just how to use our Strengths to impact the most important things around us—in our work and life.

In the meantime and beyond, I would love to hear from you and help you. So, if you’re thinking about the way a Strengths-perspective could impact your marriage or your family or you’re just not so sure about it all, reach out, and let’s connect about it. You can catch me at Facebook or Twitter, both @isogostrong, or by this handy contact form.

Enjoy your day, and {be strong}!

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