Finding Character Strengths: My Personal Odyssey
Hi there, I'm Paula Olmeda, the mastermind (or perhaps the eccentric bootstrapper) behind Happy Grow Playground. You might be wondering what pushed me into this playful expedition. It all began when I created two little humans of my own, and it didn't take long for me to realize that my new priority was raising some gosh-darn good kids! But let me tell you, reality hit me like a ton of bricks, and I quickly discovered that parenting would be the most challenging task I've ever tackled.
Balancing working from home, caring for my what felt like Irish twins, cooking, cleaning, disciplining, gift-buying, appointment-making, appointment-attending, and attempting (unsuccessfully) to shed that post-pregnancy weight – all while plastering on a smile – was like trying to juggle flaming swords blindfolded!
I had dreams of being the perfect mom but that dream felt like it was soaring "to infinity and beyond," as Mr. Lightyear would say. I must confess, I felt some resentment toward my kids for preventing me from focusing on anything, and toward my husband for having the peace and quiet of his downstairs office while I failed miserably at the multitasking game of life.
Somewhere along the way, I lost sight of Paula amid the chaos of motherhood. But guess what? I've learned to cut myself some slack. Becoming a mother is quite possibly one of the most significant identity shocks one can experience. Gradually, I started rediscovering myself, and oddly enough, it was my kids who helped me find that inner child that was suffocating inside me. I let her out to play, and she decided to stick around. I gave myself permission not only to be silly but utterly ridiculous.
My professional menu includes a mouth watering degree in fine arts, with a side of extra crispy positive psychology fries. I've been immersed in the world of performance and the arts since I was twelve. It's been over two decades of learning and honing my artistry. I might be showing my age here, but who cares? I feel young at heart! Growing up, I idolized Lucille Ball's comedic genius. I desperately wanted to make people laugh like Lucille, so I did everything from improv to stand-up comedy in the quirky realm of Hollyweird. I mastered the art of making a fool of myself, and it was an absolute blast! More importantly, it pushed me to a place where I stopped caring about what others thought, and that was liberating.
After many years in Los Angeles, something inside me began to feel empty. In my pursuit of self-discovery during my quarter-life crisis, I stumbled upon positive psychology, and it dramatically changed my life. These newfound principles made me realize that to truly thrive, I needed to lead a purpose-driven life. Enter character strengths, my newfound love language. I vowed to teach the world about them. As for the arts, they're my soul's rocket fuel. I wield them like a samurai ninja, turning them into trusty sidekicks for creating the most mind-blowing engagement!
Confidence Sparks: My Mission to Build Confidence in Kids
But why, oh why, did I embark on this crazy mission? Because kids are kids, and they deserve to start life with confidence that radiates like a fireworks show on the Fourth of July. And if I'm being completely honest, I never felt that firework spark when I was a kid. I spent the majority of my life thinking I was a dud in a box of magnificent explosions. If only someone had told me, "Paula, you are an explosion of creativity, love, and kindness!" If only someone had explained that I wasn't useless, that I possessed incredible strengths, maybe, just maybe, I wouldn't be here typing away today. I never want a child to feel that negativity towards themselves like I did. It's not necessary, especially knowing that we now have the language to define strengths which in turn helps us become more resilient.
Now, don't get me wrong; I'm not playing the victim here. Nope, that's not my style. I've gained some wisdom along the way, and I'm one of those annoying people who genuinely believe that everything happens for a reason. My parents love me dearly, but I now see that a significant language barrier got in between us. And no, I'm not talking about our constant Spanglish mishmash at home, although that was a challenge too! I'm talking about the epidemic of broad-level communication.
The Power of Character Strengths: Restrategizing How We Build Confidence in Our Children
So, what in the world does "broad-level communication" even mean? Well, I kind of just made it up, but stick with me for a moment. It's all about defining something good with vague or unspecific words. For example, "You are so special," "My child is so smart!" or "My son is an incredible football player!" These all sound like loving compliments, but here's my challenge for you: ask yourself why. Why is your child so special? Why is your child so smart? Why is your son an incredible football player?
Defining the "why" behind these compliments is the strategy we all need to use to build productive confidence in our children. Let me show you the difference. Instead of just saying, "You are so special," you could say, "You are so special because your love for making people laugh is infectious. Your strength in humor is off the charts!" Or, instead of a simple "You are so smart," you can say, "You got an A because you studied so hard! I'm so proud of your strong perseverance strength." Lastly, instead of just praising football skills, say, "You excelled in football because of your incredible self-discipline. Your self-regulation strength will bring you much success in anything you do."
Do you see the difference? When you provide the "why" behind your compliments, the person on the other end will not only cherish that compliment but also use it in a productive way for their future. My wish is that I can help parents around the world redefine what makes their children unique and special by using character strengths as the language to get them there.
Resilience & Confidence through Character Strengths
In a world filled with endless possibilities, it's our duty as parents, caregivers, and mentors to empower the next generation and build confidence in our kids with, what I believe to be, the most potent tool we have: the language of character strengths. My personal journey, from a kid who felt like a dud to an adult dedicated to sparking fireworks of self-belief in children, has shown me the transformative power of strengths. By moving beyond broad-level communication and asking 'why,' we can redefine what makes each child unique and special. Through character strengths, we provide them with a compass to navigate life's challenges with resilience and confidence. It's my hope that this journey I've shared inspires parents worldwide to embark on their own quests, igniting the inner fireworks of creativity, love, and kindness within the hearts of the young minds they nurture. Together, we can ensure every child starts life with the radiant confidence of a Fourth of July firework explosion!
- Happy Growing -
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