Your Badge of Honor

“Wear it like a badge of honor.”

I think we’ve all heard that phrase before, and though it has a well-intentioned purpose, I recently realized that in my experience, it’s most frequently used as a back-handed compliment. This phrase is almost always used in context with something bad or frowned upon in reference to something that has happened to you or about something that someone doesn’t like about you.

For me, it was my Resting Bitch Face (RBF).

I was told a variety of things about my RBF over the years. For some, it was too intense, not welcoming, not professional. I needed to make an effort to change it. It was prohibiting me from doing and being part of something bigger and better. “I guess you could wear it as a badge of honor since you seem to embrace it.”

For others, I was told to wear it like a badge of honor because no one would approach me unless I wanted them to. No one would dare cross me, especially my children. No one would know I was a nice person unless I wanted them to. “Wear it like a badge of honor! You’re certainly not going to be able to change it.”

So, I took all of these comments to heart and wore that RBF as my badge of honor. I allowed it to essentially define me in many situations. I actually developed pride in my RBF. After all, it is a badge I wear.

However, more recently, I realized that my RBF is more than just a catch phrase that I proudly carried. There is actually value in knowing when and how to use this resource. It becomes something I can turn up or turn down, like a dimmer switch, just like the strengths and liabilities we coach our clients on.

Sometimes, you need to turn down a strength that might be too much for a specific situation to get to the desired outcome. Sometimes, you need to turn up one of your liabilities to leverage an attribute that might be best used in a specific situation, even if it pushes you out of your comfort zone to do it. As my colleague Jay Forte says, our strengths and liabilities should not be on an on-off switch – they should be on a dimmer. And knowing when to dial it up or dial it back is about self-awareness and self-management.

Yes, a RBF may be a bit much when you’re meeting a new client or having a conversation with your child’s teacher. But, RBF may be just right when you’re walking alone, in the midst of reprimanding your child(ren) or getting into an Uber ride. Being aware of the right time and place for the RBF to be turned up or turned down is what allows me to wear it as a badge of honor.

One question we encourage our clients to think about when they’re learning how to be self-managed is to ask, “Who do I need to be in this moment to get to the desired outcome?” It shines some light on their strengths and liabilities to determine what needs to be turned up and what needs to be turned down.

So, are you using your unmanaged strengths or liabilities as a badge of honor, saying this is just who you are (direct, goal-oriented, competitive, nurturing) or who you are not (direct, goal-oriented, competitive or friendly)? The words don’t matter as much as how tightly you hold on to them and use them or ignore them without management.

Remember: you can’t manage what you don’t know exists. Take the time to get to know your strengths and liabilities and learn how to turn them up or down depending on what the situation calls for. It will make a big difference in how you approach your life both at work and at home, and the relationships around you.

Take Action
Reflect on a situation when you may have allowed your strengths to overpower a situation – or a liability to under deliver in a situation. How could the outcome have been different? How do you let your badge of honor go in favor of a wise and intentional decision?

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading I Don’t Believe in an Identity Crisis

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