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Identifying Unique Competencies and Passions

Identifying Unique Competencies and Passions

Written by Hannah Chism


What is the importance of knowing who we are? And how does it relate to your career?

Most individuals spend more waking hours working than anything else. Thus, this drives a central need for having a career one actually enjoys. Part of that enjoyment involves competency, as most people are success-oriented and derive gratification from self-efficacy. The other part of enjoying one’s career is passion or interest, as this fosters investment. For many, it seems one or the other is generally the situation either due to life circumstances (albeit education, physical or mental limitations, resources, life roles, etc.), limited self-awareness, low motivation, fear or intimidation, or other inhibiting factors. Often the default is to secure a job one is skilled at, rather than one that is enjoyable, as both may feel/be unattainable. When this occurs, it is crucial to create space for one’s passions and interests outside of one’s occupation (see Self-Care as An Essential Practice).

Thus, it is something to be celebrated when one is able to marry competency with passion in a job, as it is a rare occasion to find both. The most rewarding part of being a career coach and career counselor is helping individuals identify careers that encompass both their passions and competencies. In order to secure a career that embodies one’s strengths and passions requires two primary components: 1) identification of these areas 2) ability to convey one’s transferrable skills, competency, and investment. This article discusses the first component.

So, how do we figure out who the heck we are, as it relates to our careers?

In order to figure out who we are, involves reflecting on one’s identity. This can feel like a massive and overwhelming undertaking, as there is a daunting amount of data (contact a career coach or career counselor for assistance). One’s identity primarily encompasses values, passions, beliefs, interests, experiences, strengths, skills, and personality. For the sake of consistent language, I have categorized these components into two groupings. The first grouping is competency, which consists of skills, strengths, and background experiences. The second grouping is passion, which includes intrinsic motivation, interest, values, and beliefs. One must also consider personality, which can best be understood through reflecting on the roles one plays in various environments. This is important data for determining the type of company culture you would like to join. In order to gain self-awareness within each of these areas one must create space for reflection and take inventory of their life.

Process of Identification

There are several ways of acquiring data about who you are as it relates to your career. One avenue is through formal assessments, albeit personality, skills, or interest inventories. With formal assessments it is important to evaluate their reliability (consistency across time*), validity (accuracy of measurement tool*), and cultural relevance. Moreover, it is imperative to reflect on the results and determine if they feel congruent.

Another route of gathering relevant career data is through informal assessments, such as interviews, lists, or journaling. Again, the purpose of this process is to gather data about your areas of competency and passion. As aforementioned, competency involves strengths, skills, and background experience, while passion includes intrinsic motivation, interest, values, and beliefs. Two strategies for collecting such information can be accomplished through a reflective inventory or a career narrative.

Reflective Inventory

The inventory involves a close reflection of one’s life by asking oneself a series of questions. Some of these questions might include:

Passions, interests, values, and beliefs. Where do you spend your time? What breaks your heart most? When do you feel most alive?

Strengths. What have previous/current supervisors said about you? What have others said they like about you?

Background experiences. Which positive and negative experiences have stood out to you? What have you enjoyed in your previous jobs? What did you dislike in your previous jobs?

Skill sets. What skills have you developed in your professional experience? Which skills are transferrable from personal experiences?

Personality. What role do I play in the office? What role do I play at home? What role do I play in my friend group? Describe yourself in three words.

Career Narrative

A career narrative highlights your career goals by reflecting on how your experiences have informed your career aspirations. The practice of creating a career narrative can inform your career quest. Here is a link with information about creating a narrative. This narrative can be as long or short as it needs to be.

An Abbreviated Career Narrative While I do not often like to discuss myself nor my personal experiences professionally (much less in a blog), it feels pertinent for this article. Thus, below is my career narrative:

I am skilled at working with people. My strengths lie in intentional presence with others and asking insightful questions. I am passionate about people’s stories and communicating verbally and nonverbally that each life matters. I love working with repairing individuals’ stories, as each of us have our bruises. These bruises often impact our present life and inhibit us from living wholeheartedly. My personal background has given me the ability to empathize well with others. I received professional training in counseling in order to become a skilled counselor. I have a professional background in human resources, which has prepared me to guide others well in the career process. I have always played the role in social settings of being an insightful, intentional question-asker and encourager. I embody being a coach and therapist.

I am one of the fortunate few who has found a career that I am both passionate and competent at. I would love to walk alongside you in finding the same.

The End Goal

The point of these exercises is to identify your unique competencies and passions as they relate to your career. The next step involves conveying these areas in order to secure a job that embodies your passions and competencies. As you must know yourself in order to ‘sell’ yourself.

Finding Support Through the Process

Career decisions are often overwhelming. The process of reflecting on one’s competencies and passions is exhausting. It can be daunting to embark on an authentic reflective process as it relates to your career and is often set aside due to competing priorities and limited margin. However, a dissatisfying career greatly impacts one’s mental health and relationships; thus, increasing the importance of finding a satisfying, congruent career. Moreover, often when one does reflect on questions similar to the ones mentioned in the reflective inventory section or drafts a career narrative it can stir unresolved wounds or additional questions. If this occurs, it may be necessary to seek the assistance of a mental health professional to help you process through such emotions or questions. A career coach or career counselor can be helpful at gathering and guiding important data and channeling it into a summative, practical outcome with tangible career options.


*Houser, R. A. (2015). Counseling and educational research: Evaluation and Application, 3rd

Chosen: Acceptable As Is





There is something profoundly important about knowing we are chosen and acceptable just as we are. But how many of us actually believe we are chosen and acceptable as we are? Imagine the strength our relationships and society would hold if we each held these beliefs? This would remove insecurity, jealousy, low self-esteem, arrogance, and so forth. Instead of constantly trying to prove ourselves as worthy, we would be able to relax into our relationships and trust that we are loved and sufficient just as we are. If we hold the belief that we are chosen, then our relationships are healthy, secure and lasting.

Some fortunate individuals in our society carry themselves and conduct their affairs with this knowledge and core belief. Others, struggle to believe they are chosen and acceptable just as they are. For many, this likely started at an early age based on the type of parenting one received, circumstances within one’s childhood home, peer relationships, or otherwise. For some, it may have arisen later in life from a ruptured relationship. Either explicitly or implicitly, a message was internalized by these individuals that they are insufficient, unworthy to be loved, and unacceptable as they are. This message unfortunately took root in their hearts and colors/taints/overshadows every relationship, interaction, accomplishment, failure, decision, and so forth in their life; rendering them incapable of truly relaxing and settling into relationships and life. In therapy, we call this message a “cognitive distortion” or “distorted belief.” To learn more about this concept, click on this LINK.



If you have even one person in your life, then you are chosen. This means we are not alone. It means that someone sees us, knows us, and chooses us. While this may all be the reality, many of us struggle to walk confidently in it; yet it is something that we should each strive towards believing as our lives will be that much richer and fuller. If we walk with the belief that we are indeed chosen, then our capacity to love others expands; thus, enabling us to give of ourselves more freely and authentically engage in life.



It means that you are just who you need to be, exactly as you are in this moment. Yes, you are likely flawed and imperfect – just as we all are! But you are still acceptable as you are in spite of your shortcomings. Holding the belief that we are acceptable as we are also entails accepting our shortcomings! Being acceptable as we are, does not negate our striving for growth as individuals.

There is no other mold for you to fit, as you are a unique individual with a unique background, personality, and set of values and beliefs. This means that a certain body weight, title, connection, size home, etc. will not make you any more acceptable. Yes, it may change your ‘status,’ and mask parts of yourself that you are ashamed of, but it does not truly change your core. Believing that we are acceptable just as we are right now, enables us to love others more fully and live a more congruent life.



You are chosen and acceptable as you are. You are loved. This is the take-home message for today. Period. From the children’s book Wherever You Are My Love Will Find You written by Nancy Tillman, “You are loved, you are loved, you are loved.” Let those words sink into your heart today. Meditate on them when you are feeling otherwise. See how it transforms your perspective of self and others.



They can be changed! You are not stuck with faulty beliefs/lies/cognitive distortions (whichever language rings most true for you) forever. Whatever negative messages you may have internalized up to this point in your life, can be altered! If this is something you battle, I highly recommend finding a therapist you trust who can walk through this life-altering process. For some, Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) or Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) may be sufficient. For others, who have deeply rooted negative beliefs, perhaps due to trauma or attachment wounds, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR) or Ego State Therapy may be more appropriate. While I incorporate each of these types of modalities into my approach with clients and would be honored to work with you, I encourage you to find the right therapist for you, which may or may not be me! I am happy to discuss these concepts with you further through a free CONSULTATION!



Staff, GoodTherapy. “20 Cognitive Distortions and How They Affect Your Life.” Therapy Blog, 11 July 2019,

*Tillman, Nancy. Wherever You Are My Love Will Find You. Feiwel and Friends, 2010.

The Poison of Comparison

The Importance of Knowing Our Core Values, Beliefs, and Goals

Written by Hannah Chism

August 11, 2020



I was having a discussion the other day with a family member about the poison of comparison. Our culture largely operates driven by comparison and competition. While this is essential for the capitalistic economy of the United States, how does this impact each of us? It often creates anxiety, low self-esteem, poor work/life balance, mistrust, and isolation.

We are constantly bombarded by messages of ‘what’s best.’ These messages come via social media, especially Facebook, advertisements, grocery stores, work, conversations, and so on. It is difficult to escape or ignore opinions of ‘what’s best.’ But who really decides ‘what’s best?’ Who has the authority in our personal lives to dictate what is best for each of our unique life circumstances? The reality is that you are the only person who can decide what is best for your unique life circumstances, personality, background, and so forth. While for some, the best decision may be sending their kids to school, for others, it may be best to homeschool. The reality is there is no absolute right or wrong way to live or do things (unless morality is brought into the conversation…). We make decisions in the moment based on the resources and information available to us.


What would life look like if we chose what is best for each of us individually (or collectively, depending on your cultural orientation) with each decision we make? If we were able to silence the opinions of others and the ‘but so and so is doing this…?’ If we were able to step away from the mentality of ‘keeping up with the Jones’?’ What would happen to our culture if we opened our minds to being more accepting to differences of opinions and lifestyles? This season of life, between the pandemic of COVID-19 and social justice movements, would likely be much lighter if we could each respect what others are doing. Now, to respect others, does not mean you have to agree with their choices. However, it does require loosening the reigns of judgment and moving towards acceptance of differences. Imagine how much stronger our culture would be if we empowered each other by esteeming one another in spite of disagreeing others’ choices? What would it look like to stand together in spite of a difference of opinion?


What do we lose when we compare? A sense of individuality. A sense of our unique selves. Compromising our core beliefs. Inauthenticity. The feeling of being stifled. A disconnected self. Inauthentic relationships. Discontentment and dissatisfaction. A sense of being lost and confused. The erosion of self. Time. Self-confidence. Most distinctly, comparison poisons and erodes our sense of self. Meaning, we lose our unique identities, purposes, goals, values, and motivations. We can very easily get caught up in the rat race of life, causing us to become disillusioned and disoriented. We slip into following what others are doing or trying to compete with others’ agendas or accomplishments. We lose sight of our core values, beliefs, and goals.


It is critical that we each gain confidence in our personal decisions. If not, we sacrifice what is ultimately best for ourselves/families. We also can become bitter and hardened. So, how to block out the noise of others’ opinions and choices? How do we separate what’s best for others from what is essential for us? This is where knowing your core values, beliefs, goals, and identity comes into play.


Being aware of what makes you tick and how your unique self/family operates best is the key here. Abiding in what you know and what feels absolutely true and congruent with your soul. Being aware of the language you are using in making decisions. Is there a “should” in there? Sometimes obligation is important because it is not all about us. However, how often is this language creeping in? Also, being aware of your motivations in decisions. Is your motivation for increased status? Is it so you are not the only ones who did not attend the party? Again, go back to your core values and beliefs.


Be honest with yourself of what truly feels congruent for you and your family. Sometimes this means sacrificing status or pride or something else. However, will you be able to rest better at night knowing you chose what was authentic to your true self? Will you be a happier person because of it? It offers more breathing room and likely adds more years onto your life (not scientifically proven!).  If we are able to walk in this confidence, it can be contagious. It extends the freedom others to also choose what is best for their family.


What is driving your comparison with others?

  • Is it social media?
  • Is it magazines?
  • Is it comparing your body image to others?
  • Is it weighing yourself constantly? Comparison can occur not only in the company of others, but can also be found in comparing oneself to a disillusioned/idealistic self… E.g.: “If only I weighed - - -, then I would be content.” When the reality is you have never been that weight or it was in your teenage years.
  • Is it unhealthy conversations with your friends? Sometimes in the company of friends or family there are certain topics that trigger insecurities in us.
  • Is it comparing your personality with that of another? If only I were funny like them… Reflect on what your strengths may be in the context of relationships. You may not be the funniest person, but are you thoughtful?
  • Is it comparing the nature of your relationship with one of your parents to how your siblings interact with that same parent? Where you desire the kind of connection they appear to have yet your personality does not afford such connection? A perspective check may be necessary to realize the reality of the dynamics occurring in your relationships. This will likely need to be followed by an attitude shift in how you respond to others.

There are several layers of comparison and surprising ways it can creep into our lives and steal our joy, seemingly without our awareness. Are there areas in your life that you can avoid in order to gain confidence in your sense of self? Bottom line, it is important to take an inventory of the sources in your life that are causing negative beliefs about your sense of self and driving incongruent choices in your life.


Now, as I mentioned previously, our economy is driven by comparison and competition. Without it, our country would not be as economically viable as it presently is. Thus, our workplaces are often driven by performance and production; which frequently involves comparison and competition. We innately seek to survive, and part of survival is contingent on our skills, abilities, knowledge, and so forth. Thus, drive, work ethic, and striving for excellence are essential for success in the workplace. However, there is a fine line between striving for excellence and compromising our core beliefs, values, and goals. Thus, be cognizant of what is fueling your soul versus poisoning your sense of self.

Be realistic about your gifts and personality, rather than assigning someone else’s gifts and personality to your life. The reality is you have been gifted with a unique set of gifts, skills, and knowledge. This requires you to stay within your lane of achievable and attainable goals based on who you truly are. Thus, strive, but strive within realistic goals; otherwise, you will become exhausted by never reaching an idealistic set of goals.


A word of caution: choosing what’s best for you personally can sometimes feel lonely. Sometimes when we deter from the norm, it can feel isolating.

Thus, it is important to ask yourself what truly feels congruent? Then, standing by that conviction. It is also important to distinguish between compromise and congruence. There may be times we compromise for the sake of others because we love them. However, if our choices are incongruent with our core beliefs, then the sacrifice may be too great.

This also highlights the importance of surrounding yourself with relationships that are uplifting and supportive of your choices. Does your support system empower and encourage you to live your best and most wholehearted life? A necessary shift in minimizing the poison of comparison from your life may be developing a stronger community who encourages the best kind of growth in you.


Another word of caution: making congruent choices can result in you questioning yourself or others questioning you. Neither is necessarily a bad thing, as we each need an accountability system. However, we make decisions in the moment based on the resources and information available to us. Sometimes we must shake off the anxiety, shame, or million “what if’s?” that come after the decision. Again, this is where the importance of knowing your core values, beliefs, and goals becomes crucial – it serves as part of your accountability system of congruent living. Be open to the feedback of others, but do not let it rule how you conduct your life. Sometimes those other voices must be silenced in order for you to live wholeheartedly.

  • Comparison poisons and erodes our sense of self
  • If we lose sight of our core values, beliefs, and goals we can become disillusioned and disoriented.
  • Take an inventory of the sources in your life that are causing negative beliefs about your sense of self and driving incongruent choices in your life.
  • We make decisions in the moment based on the resources and information available to us.
  • You are the only person who can decide what is best for your unique life circumstances, personality, background, and so forth.


Thank you for reading this lengthy article! Questions or comments? I would love to hear from you! Feel free to Contact me at (719) 204-1664 or [email protected]. Hannah Chism, MA, UP, NCC, PHR is a mental health therapist and career coach based in Colorado Springs, CO and offers free consultations and telehealth/virtual services.