The Beauty of Self-Care

The Beauty of Self-Care Lesson 6: Celebrate Your Strengths

by Caitlin Kelch


Sometimes the hardest part of self-care, for me, is simply staying in the moment and accepting things as they’re happening as-is. That generally means building a tolerance for pain as it transforms into something neutral. But what if it meant sitting with empowering things that are unique to you? What if it meant having some innate super-powers you could turn on or off and adjust the power level of at will? About two years ago, I set out to make that scheme a reality, not just for me, but for my family. I’m neuroatypical and had read enough brain science books to know it was quite possible for me to “adjust” my brain and thinking more effectively if I turned it into a tactile experience. So I designed a console that allowed me to do just that. And it worked.

I didn’t realize at the time that I was actually applying design theory to a problem in my life much like the techniques in the book Designing Your Life that I talked about last week.

Negative feelings demand to be recognized. They demand to be invited in for tea and conversation. But that’s not so fun for us. They’re bad guests and tend to monopolize the conversation. Funny thing is, once you let them have their dramatic monologue, they fall quiet. So it’s really a matter of tolerance and endurance for their hosts — us.

I always thought meditation was about escape because I had mastered the great escape from a lot of important things in my life that left me uncomfortable. For the first two years of meditating nearly every day, I felt like I was simply escaping from the current pressure of the day. It still makes me smile realizing that I was doing the exact opposite without even knowing it — I was sitting and having tea with negativity. I thought it was guilt for not being productive at that very moment. Nope. Negativity is a master at disguises. That way, it can shape-shift into so many different things that your brain gets tired and just ends up interpreting it as a general malaise, heavy with the weight of thousand worries.

Knowing that you have as many positive traits as the negative has disguises turns you into a pillar of strength that can sit tall at tea time. Yes, it’s a chore (at first), but wow, what a difference giving it a place at the table makes. You’ll find that negativity stopped ringing the doorbell multiple times a day! Click through to find out how to identify your top five strengths so you can harness them and let them hold you up when you’re in need of some extra support. –Caitlin

Illustration above: Elephant Strength by Penelope Dullaghan | Available in her Etsy Shop here

Please join us and our collaborator, Aveda, each Tuesday at 1 pm for some self-exploration + exercises to build good habits and instill positive self-care into your everyday routine. We couldn’t be more thrilled to work on this content side-by-side with a company that shares our values and has such a thoughtful approach to self-care and beauty.


Our team here at Design*Sponge did an exercise a few years ago that we all were blown away by. In an effort to understand and work together in the best ways possible, we all took the Gallup Organization’s Strengthsfinder assessment. We knew that we were great at some things, and needed to improve on others, so our thinking was we would analyze our individual strengths and work duties so we could ask for help from each other and maximize each others’ strengths as a group.




Little did we know this would not only impact our business and team relationships, but working from our strengths had a profound impact on our personal lives as well. Grace pulled a Hail Mary with her publisher and she created the book of her dreams, In the Company of Women. Grace’s top two strengths are Achievement and Command. You’re probably not surprised!

I took a more active role in the business of Design*Sponge and realized my secret wish to become a certified Actuary. (I went to Art school!) Without further adieu, I tempt you to take your own assessment by revealing my own top 5 strengths: Restorative (Problem Solver), Intellection, Strategic, Empathy and Activator. I can tell you right now, that sometimes my strengths foil each other and I need to turn one up and another down. You may need to do the same. Next week, I’ll show you how you can do that with a quick household object DIY.

For this week’s exercise, though, you’ll simply take an assessment of your strengths. We used Strengthsfinder, which is a good investment at $15 to find out your top 5 strengths. If you’re on a tight budget, there are probably some similar, free assessments out there too that will give you enough basic information for you to build on.

Once you take an assessment, come back here to the comments section and tell us your strengths and if you agree with the assessment! You’ll be entered to win a great self-care package with Aveda product, the Tulasara kit from Aveda and an Elephant Strength print from Penelope Dullaghan as seen at the top of this post.

Grace and I can’t wait to hear from you!

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  • This was fascinating – thanks for suggesting it! My strengths are: intellection, input, strategic, maximizer, and discipline. I couldn’t agree more and will put this to good use as I consider some shifts in my career. Thank you for this fantastic self-care series!

  • I have to admit, I love these kinds of things, but I feel like my five are somewhat all over the place–I agree with some of them but wouldn’t have expected others. 1. Achiever, 2. Deliberative, 3. Harmony, 4. Adaptability, and 5. Input

    Really like this new series you’ve got going…

    • Thanks Jessica!

      They may be latent strengths that you don’t have the opportunity to use that often. If you would have told me I would want to essentially be an accountant when I was 25, or even 30, I would have laughed very hard.


  • I love this book and bought it a while ago as per my bosses request. I felt that it hit the nail on the head for me and my favorite part was the advice on how to handle situations based on your strengths, rather than avoiding them based on your weaknesses. Perspective!!

  • I’m taking a leadership course at work this week and was just sent home with the Strengths Finder book today! My top 5 are: Individualization, Input, Strategic, Communication and Maximizer. I have recently done a Meyers Briggs and found it much easier to take the Strengths Finder test– there was less deliberation about if I should answer as my ‘work self’ or ‘home self’. The results also resonate much more with me.

    • Interesting! I can totally see how that’s true.

      What’s you’re Meyers Briggs type? I’m an INFJ


  • I’ve never heard of that book before, I will look for it in the library. My top 5 are: curiosity, problem solving, faith(?????), innovation, leadership (???). I’m really surprised by faith and also a bit by leadership as an strength in me. I do not see them in any part of my life! I think I will take the test once more, and them try to understand this…
    Thanks for this series of posts that make us think.

  • We are using these at the company where I work in order to make sure people are in the right role. I love the idea of including this in meditation practice! Mine are Intellection, Input, Learner, Ideation, Strategic.

    • Ah, thanks Kim! I couldn’t find the free version I’ve used for my daughter so this is helpful for our readers.

      Since you weren’t surprised at your results, I think you’ll find next week’s post especially interesting. I’ll be sharing some examples of how to tweak your strengths because sometimes they can work against each other.


  • I bought this last year, but I’d love to take the quiz again! It seems like your mood/workload on a particular day/week/month/season would affect the results greatly. My results during my mid-spring chill season would probably be wildly different than the first few weeks of December. (I’ve started meditating daily in the past few months tho, so hopefully I’ll be SO CHILL this holiday season.) Anyway, my results are:
    1 Adaptability
    2 Empathy
    3 Strategic
    4 Futuristic
    5 Maximizer

  • I had already taken this test. There are so many “strengths” and I think we all have a few of many that it is hard for me to say how accurate I think the results are:
    1. Achiever
    2. Learner
    3. Relator
    4. Analytical
    5. Harmony

  • So glad you’re promoting StrengthsFinder! It’s hands down my favorite personality test and tool to use with clients looking to create more meaningful careers. When I originally took it years ago I was shocked how accurate it was, especially with Harmony strength.

  • My top strengths were
    Faith (surprised to see that one in a test like this. very cool)

  • I took the free one, which seems to have different labels than the official Strengthsfinder. Mine were:
    The “faith” kind of took me by surprise . . . the others I would have expected. I think I’ll take the Strengthsfinder and compare the two sets of results. Very fun and interesting!

  • I was recently certified as a Strengths coach through Gallup- an amazing process in itself- and have already witnessed the joy and freedom that comes with understanding what is already wonderful about you and how to develop your best assets. One of the things I like best about Strengths is the focus on positivity. There is no career correlation with your strengths (unlike DISC and other assessments). Just because you don’t have achiever in your Top 5, doesn’t mean you can’t get anything done. You just leverage your strengths in strategic ways to achieve your goals.
    My Top 5:

    Great post!

  • I took the free version and here are my results:
    and a 3-way tie between: Integrity, Optimism, and Curiosity.

    I thought I would see curiosity higher on the list, but definitely see the importance of faith and integrity in my life. Now I want to take the Strengthfinder version to learn more!

  • Parts were surprising, parts were familiar. The questions were very interesting:
    1- Curiosity

  • My 5 are Relator, Communication, Discipline, Developer, Individualization. We use strengths in my work place almost daily, and it’s been revelatory as a manager!

  • My Top 5 strengths are Strategic, Input, Learner, Belief and Maximizer. I took the Strengthsfinder Assessment over 10 years ago, and I am still shocked by how well the Insight Report describes me today. Understanding my strengths has helped me in my work, relationships, and even managing my energy level.

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