Signature strengths are at the core of our identity. They are our essence…they are what make us glow. Maybe you shine when you express kindness or hope? Or perhaps when you use humor or creativity? Whenever we express a signature strength we are probably at our best – authentic, strong, and real.
When you think of Katniss, the star of The Hunger Games, what strengths make her glow?
I asked this of a few people who read the book, saw the movie, and know quite a bit about the VIA Classification of character strengths.
- Perseverance: unwilling to accept her fate in District 12; she never gives up.
- Bravery: constantly walking into the face of danger when hunting and during the “games”; see my blog on Katniss’ courage strength.
- Love: volunteers for her sister at the reaping; takes care of her sister and friend.
- Judgment: uses smart tactics throughout the “games,” uses logic.
- Teamwork: collaborates with each of her allies and anyone willing to help her survive.
Perseverance and bravery were unanimous among the group. Indeed, Katniss’ life prior to the “games” is infused with risk-taking and resilience through poverty and oppression. These qualities are deep resources within her and she immediately turns to these as needed in a variety of situations. No argument there.
Love was almost unanimously chosen, perhaps because love is one of the easier character strengths to spot in films. There’s no doubting the genuineness and depth of Katniss’ love for her sister, Prim, and even for her friend, Rue, however, she really seemed to struggle to express her love for Peeta. Because this love strength does not naturally emerge – and it seems to cause her more discomfort (not energy and excitement) at times – I wonder if love would be a phasic strength for Katniss. Phasic strengths are strengths we bring forth strongly in certain situations (e.g., Katniss is able to force it during her interviews) but are not evident across all contexts.
I do think Katniss is displaying a significant heart-oriented strength at the “games.” Rather than love, I’d choose a strength that is difficult to pinpoint, even in positive movies – the strength of gratitude. The way Katniss honors Rue with song, care, and flowers and the way she upholds a respect for the forest seems to come from a deep place of interconnectedness with people and appreciation for life.
Self-regulation is also apparent to me. Katniss’ life of survival has been one of extreme discipline. Her hunting is a metaphor for this. Skilled archers explain how one must be intense and relaxed during the practice of archery. Such mastery with a bow and arrow takes incredible self-control and practice over time. Yes, Katniss has a couple impulsive lapses when she shoots an arrow through the apple and stabs the table an inch between Haymitch’s fingers. But, in even these moments, she uses exquisite accuracy and self-control, despite her rise in anger.
And, is Katniss using judgment or creativity when she blows up her opponents’ food supply, hunts and traps various animals, cuts down the trackers (bees) nest, appeals to the crowd to get sponsors, and tricks the Capitol into believing she would eat the berries? To some degree, it is both strengths. Judgment involves logical and critical thinking to analyze a situation while creativity involves originality and coming up with multiple pathways to find a solution. Because of Katniss’ incredible originality and ability to create possibilities in many situations, I vote for creativity.
Ultimately, Katniss is a team player – perhaps not on large teams – but in dyads, she is excellent. She teams with Rue, with Peeta, and for years hunting successfully with Gale. To a degree, she had collaborations with Haymitch and Cinna as well.
So, if Katniss were to take the VIA Survey today, my guess is that her signature strengths (listed in descending order) would be…
Do you agree? What strengths make Katniss glow? Are there any strengths you would add to this list?
Niemiec, R. M., & Wedding, D. (2008). Positive psychology at the movies: Using films to build virtues and character strengths. Cambridge, MA: Hogrefe.
Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. New York: Oxford University Press and Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.
Seligman, M. E. P. (2002). Authentic happiness: Using the new positive psychology to realize your potential for lasting fulfillment. New York: Free Press.