You went on another job interview today. It went OK, you guess. Nothing really dramatic happened. Your qualifications were right for the job, you'd brushed up on the latest "What to say when they ask you what your greatest strength/weakness is" and you felt you answered appropriately. But you walked away feeling lackluster about the whole thing. Like you failed to express some important part of yourself, something that would have nailed that job.
But you don't know what it is. For that matter, you don't know if you're fooling yourself. Maybe you gave them what they wanted and they'll either like you or not. Maybe it's all about personality, you know, your personality and the interviewer's personality "clicking." And of course, you have no control over that. Still, there's that nagging feeling you should have put some part of yourself forward - if only you knew what.

And there's the truth of it. Most of us don't know ourselves well enough to put our best foot forward. Oh sure, you know that you like pizza with pepperoni and hate to wake up before the sun's up, but that's just one type of knowing. That's knowing your likes and dislikes, your preferences, the things that annoy you.
I'm talking about a different kind of knowing. I'm talking about knowing your qualities, your traits, what makes up the absolutely one-of-a-kind unique person that you are. Knowing those qualities well enough that you can easily call upon them and express them as needed.

It's knowing, for example, that what people often call your "niceness" is actually a deep caring for the welfare of others. It's knowing that injustice stirs you into action, and that you're capable of great effort and zeal on behalf of those who suffer from any type of injustice. It's knowing that you have a sense of humor that allows you to lighten up uncomfortable situations without disrespecting those involved. It's knowing who you truly are, deep inside.

Then, when you go on that job interview, and you're asked a question about your motivation, you can speak to that deep caring for the welfare of others. You can say something about your willingness to invest time, energy, effort and creativity on behalf of those who experience injustice. You can lighten the seriousness of your self-expression with some of that respectful humor you're so easily capable of. You then show yourself as who you are, a full person, not just a readily interchangeable "possible hire."

Take a little time to get to know yourself. Not in some over-blown narcissistic "I'm the greatest" way, but in the humble recognition that you have developed certain qualities over the course of your life, and it's important to recognize what those are. Think of your qualities like buried treasure. You can't benefit from that treasure unless you bring it to light.

Make your list of qualities. Don't worry about "I should be different, I should be this other way," that's not who you are! Make your list. If you're unsure as to your qualities, ask friends and family to tell you what they think your qualities are. Often we are blind to our own value.

Start seeing yourself and thinking of yourself in terms of this new image. Actively think of yourself as a "caring, honest, persevering, reliable, good-sense-of-humor" individual, for example, rather than as an "I'm an OK person, I'm sort of average, I get along" individual. Although there is nothing inherently "wrong" with this description, it simply does not give you the uniqueness of yourself. There's not much to express in "OK" "average" or "get along."

Start responding to situations in your life deliberately using these qualities. When something comes up, ask yourself, "All right, which of my qualities could I use here? My listening quality, my patience, my "stand up for what's right" quality? Which would best serve me?" Then try one. You may not always make the perfect choice, but more often than not, the quality with which you chose to respond will work well for you.

So, when your boss is critical of your work, for example, choose your listening quality, rather than falling into your usual defensiveness. When you're frustrated by a project you're working on, choose to persevere, rather than drop it and go on to a new project. Qualities are like a muscle, they strengthen with use.

When you're lackluster about yourself, life is lackluster about you. Appreciate yourself! And watch life appreciate you.

Author's Bio: 

Noelle C. Nelson, Ph.D. is a respected psychologist, consultant, speaker and author. Her most recent book is "The Power of Appreciation in Business (MindLab Publishing, 2005). For more than a decade, she has helped people live happier, healthier lives--at work, at home and in relationships. Dr. Noelle welcomes your comments via email ( You can visit Dr. Noelle anytime at or