It was 6:58 PM on Tuesday October, 26, 2010 when I realized I just wanted to be myself. At that moment, I realized that I just couldn’t be anyone else.

LeighAndria Young, student and poet
School for the Creative and Performing Arts
Cincinnati, Ohio

These are the refreshing words of high school student, LeighAndria Young, that describe her shift toward a deeper self-acceptance of who she is. She embraces all her inner qualities – her strengths and foibles – realizing that it is her uniqueness and her capacity to “just be” that is most crucial in life.

Watch a 3-minute video of LeighAndria performing her poem, “6:58,” at this link here.

How does one shift toward greater self-acceptance, toward personal growth, or discover a clearer sense of identity? It starts with knowing thyself.

But, who are you at your core? What might you express in order to improve yourself? To help the lives of others? To make a contribution to society?

An answer to each of these questions is deceptively simple: Your character strengths.

All humans have strengths of character. The expression of our strengths is part of our uniqueness. They can help us overcome problems and reach our goals. They can help us relate better to the most important people in our lives and create new friendships and relationships. In the end, when we are consistently expressing our character strengths for the greater good, we are making a solid and meaningful contribution to society.

LeighAndria does this by expressing honesty as displayed in her transparency of self-expression. We are given a glimpse to who she is as a human being; her honesty paves a pathway for us to see this. She also expresses significant bravery by not only having the courage to be who she is but to also share her revelations with large groups. There are many other character strengths she exudes in her poetry presentation; go to this link and see how many strengths you can spot.

In addition, LeighAndria displays perspective (also called wisdom). This is clear when she exclaims: “I have a voice that needs to be heard!,” echoing the eureka moment of the king played by Colin Firth in The King’s Speech (although LeighAndria’s epiphany came about two months before the film’s release). This exemplifies that she is seeing a wider perspective in her view of herself, others, and the world.

Through her inspiring example, we are called to pay closer attention to our own character strengths and how we might come to appreciate ourselves in a new way. This requires deliberate attention to ourselves but with a softness or gentleness where we can be open, curious, and accepting of what we discover. In this way, LeighAndria is an emissary of mindfulness for all of us.



  • Defining moments exercise: This positive psychology exercise is designed to help individuals discover those moments in time that have helped shape who they are. For details, go here.
  • Louder than a Bomb (2010): This Oprah Winfrey Network production is a moving documentary that depicts the creativity and honesty of a wide range of students competing in Chicago at the largest poetry slam of performances in the U.S.
  • VIA character strengths: This free, online self-assessment of character strengths has been taken by over 2 million people around the world and can be accessed here.