You Don’t Know What You Have

Mom’s Tiger Lilies

Hello, my name is Viv and I am an underachiever.

My mother thought I was awesome.

She had complete confidence in my abilities, delighted in my successes and felt whatever I was doing…I should probably be in charge. If anyone said anything nice about me, she couldn’t wait to tell me, though she never ever bragged about me to others as far as I know. Beck and I were taught not to brag. Our household eschewed self-aggrandizing talk. It simply wasn’t done. If someone else wants to take note of your generosity or share that you’ve received an academic honor, etc. that’s their business. You…don’t mention it.

(Mom thought my sister and my Handsome Supportive Husband equally amazing of course, but in their case they truly are very accomplished.)

This thought has returned to me quite often recently, when I’m in a snit and feeling overlooked, underutilized, under-praised.

I skulk back to my neutral corner and that thought again pops into my mind.

“Well, Mom thought I was great.”

My heart does this little wong, wong aching throbbing thing, like a freshly pounded thumb, but in my chest.

“What a sad sack,” you must be saying to yourself. And I would be if I actually said that out loud to – you know – people.

Mom and I worked together for 15 years, and I had on-demand Mom pep talks 24/7.

Do you know what it’s like to lose that kind of support? I hope you don’t, not for a long, long time. But if you do, well. There’s nothing for it.

I must say that Handsome Supportive Husband didn’t get that moniker by mistake and my sister and friends and co-workers are always encouraging, but you know what I mean. Our mothers create us. They hold our ideal selves in their hearts and minds. It feels really good.

So I took a Clifton Strengths assessment yesterday afternoon and I can’t believe what a lousy time I had of it!

About a week ago, my Amazon feed put a book in front of me their algorithm thought I might enjoy. And it was a free read on Prime! I didn’t even know I got free reads! It was in the Budgeting & Money Management category and I thought, “Okay, I really should have a little roughage, what with my steady diet of Regency romance.”

It’s the teacups! And notes on silver trays! I can’t stop myself!

We Should All Be Millionaires: A Woman’s Guide to Earning More, Building Wealth, and Gaining Economic Power by Rachel Rodgers is as scrumptious as anything by Jane Austen or Julia Quinn. Really, I haven’t been this excited about a product since Greg brought home that bottle of ‘Anti – Seize.’ (Turns out that was for the Model A.) Anyway.

A Godsend is what Rachel Rodgers is! To yours truly who is reaching mid-life and needs to suss out what my marketable talents might be, value them highly enough and -egads!–blow my own horn once I do, she is the sun breaking through clouds, a tall drink of cool water, a wake up slap followed by a comforting hug. Ah-ha moments abound. And laughs of both the tearful and guffawing varieties are frequent. (Why don’t more people write non-fiction in a palatable way?)

Taking a Clifton Strengths assessment or similar is one of Rodgers’ suggestions for pinpointing one’s natural talents.

“I love quizzes!” I said to myself. “That’ll be a nice little something to do for myself next time I have some time alone.”

I was really looking forward to it.

And then an hour alone came out of nowhere so I headed to my desk to get a handle on those strengths I might have.

Mom’s not here to fan my dreams and she and Dad left me with that ‘we don’t brag’ legacy, and building a retirement-era career takes self-promoting and confidence…I gather. You see my quandary.

‘I can have fun making money.’

‘I love what I do!’

‘Time flies because I am happily lost in my work.’

I’ve written any number of affirmations, but none so far can get my heart to buy this outlandish notion of career satisfaction.

Earning money has always been a chore for me. I’ve always made a living, of course, but felt like positions had me.

I’ve been an underwriter, a public relations director, a PR account manager, an annual fund manager (twice), a United Way loaned executive, a business owner for 15 years. More recently I’ve had several jobs of ‘under-achiever’ variety that left my family and friends scratching their heads and wondering if I had experienced a blow to the head.

A strong finish, that’s what I’m after. These last ten years before retirement, I’m determined to get it right, to fashion a career that makes my heart sing. I’m pretty sure I’m going to need help. Lots of help.

It’s taking me forever to get to this confession tonight! I’ll just say it and let the chips fall where they may.

I think I flunked a personality test.

True, I was over-caffeinated at the time. It was one of those heavy, gloomy spring days that Maine does so well. Muddy below, gray above, drizzly in between, etc. So I had a second cup of afternoon coffee to get my neurons firing so to maximize enjoyment of that alone time. Went to the Clifton Strengths website, entered my information and it went down hill from there.

‘Take assessment now’ seemed the correct button to click, which I did, but it took me to a page that was not the beginning of the very fun quiz. Then the caffeine kicked in having some sort of exponential effect on previously consumed coffee. Though neurons still weren’t firing, my heart was thumping, the alone time window was closing, and my patience and good humor left me entirely. Soon, I had involved 3 devices, an account representative, and a stunningly poor attitude.

“You’re going to need to stay with me until I actually see the quiz,” I said to the account rep and he wisely didn’t make a peep.

By the time I landed on the instructions for the (timed) assessment, I was in a state. Trying to read the instructions while letting the account executive finally get away, I launched into the series of questions in the worst possible mood.

My Clifton Strengths themes are: Strategic, Empathy, Relator, Futuristic, Intellection.

On the upside, I’ve been assessed when I felt at my worst. Right?

To my thinking, if I base my new career on the strengths I have on my worst day, I will be in a very comfortable, thus profitable space.

Well, my mother thought I was great.

Click PLAY to listen to You Don’t Know What You Have.

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