“To share your weakness is to make yourself vulnerable; to make yourself vulnerable is to show your strength.” – Criss Jami
How many times have you acknowledged and paid attention to your weaknesses rather than your strengths? How often does that little voice in your head tell you that you are rubbish, a failure or simply just not good enough? Guess what? The chilling truth is that this is happening to most of us all of the time! We need to change. Let me share with you a short story to prove my point.
Adam is a creative graphic designer with a degree from Parsons School of Design. He has recently joined a start-up which has a distinctly start-up culture – vivacious and quite aggressive. Adam loves his job, but has trouble ‘fitting in’ as he is not as outgoing as most of his colleagues. His colleagues have noticed his introversion too, and don’t engage him very much. They’re polite to him, but he doesn’t get invited to after-work hangouts at the local pub.
Adam tries to fit in by being less withdrawn and initiating more conversation with colleagues on his own. His ‘pseudo-extrovert’ attitude wins him an invitation to pub parties, but Adam realizes that he feels miserable at the parties and cannot wait to go back home. When he’s back in his safe zone, he returns to the Game of Thrones diorama he started a few weeks ago. He prefers to ignore the louder outside life.
Adam is a classic example of an introvert: someone who enjoys quiet concentration and prefers to sit in and indulge in hobbies more than go out and paint the town red.
He is creative and – despite his introversion – participated in a number of design contests over the years.
There is no reason why he should try to be an extrovert. The more he forces himself to act against his inherent nature, the less satisfied he will feel, and probably won’t have the time or mindspace to do the things he really loves.
As Susan Cain, in her best-seller Quiet : The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking says, introverts and extroverts can excel in different areas; one is not better than the other.
There is a bit of Adam in all of us. We’re good at some things and awful at others. Our weaknesses can be a great source of strength, allowing us to access the deep recesses of our mind to understand and appreciate ourselves better.
Strengths and Weaknesses:
What happens when you embrace your weaknesses?
- Great opportunities await those who accept their weaknesses. If you’re struggling with self-confidence, participate in self-esteem building activities such as joining a choir, hiking club or even the gym. The chance at interacting with different people and indulging in a physical/sensory activity can help you become more self-assured and doubt yourself less.
The famous decathlete, Daley Thompson was World and Olympic champion back in the 1980’s. His coach once said to him during the winter season that they would concentrate on his weakest event of the 10 disciplines, namely the 1500m. Daley, turned round to him and said, “I am not World and Olympic Champion for being bad at that – I am the best there is in the world at the other 9 events, and that’s what we will concentrate on”.
- Lose some of that ego in acknowledging your weaknesses and feel freer and lighter. When the wall of self-defense you’ve built up falls, you learn to get more comfortable with yourself. Try it and you’ll start seeing the world with new eyes.
If you haven’t embraced your weaknesses, they will feel burdensome. If someone else brings up your weakness, your feelings will be hurt. Even if they mean well and are trying to help you, you’ll have a hard time taking constructive criticism. This will only make you depressed and affect your self-esteem.
Accepting your failings helps you in two ways: you’ll either feel motivated to channel them positively (as discussed above), or you’ll focus on leveraging your strengths and deriving maximum value – professional, personal or spiritual – out of them.
- You’ll stop hating yourself. Some of us may not just feel uncomfortable or ashamed about our weaknesses from time to time, but loathe ourselves, and unjustifiably so. The hate creeps in when we’re so obsessed with our flaws that we refuse to accept our forte and all that is good in us. When you assess yourself in totality as a flawed person (aren’t we all?), you’ll start loving and respecting yourself. You just have to believe in yourself.
- Welcome the help others offer you. It is natural for us to disregard anyone who approaches us with meaningful, genuine advice on overcoming or leveraging our weaknesses. It’s when we have learned to live with our weaknesses that we’re able to view others positively as opposed to feeling threatened by them.
This also helps you strengthen your connections with others. People will appreciate you for your honesty, courage and authenticity. It may even inspire them to manage their feelings about their own weaknesses more proactively and openly.
- Our weaknesses are trying to tell us something about ourselves. For instance, if you’ve been feeling restless at your desk job, can’t seem to get anything done, and feel like you’re lacking productivity, don’t be too hard on yourself. Try to objectively assess why you’re unable to succeed at or enjoy your job. Maybe it doesn’t allow you to be social or interact with people. Perhaps, the lack of rigor means you’re better suited to a job where you can move about, coordinate different tasks, or involves at least some element of customer interfacing.
In this case, your weakness can be a source of important insights that guide you in the right direction either professionally or personally and help you change. It is then a matter of finding a compatible job where you can apply your strengths (and where your weaknesses don’t matter), or a compatible partner who can cancel or help you manage your weakness. Either way, you will be satisfied, happy and empowered.
In summary, knowing your weaknesses is important and a factor for happiness because:
- It prevents you from indulging in activities where you cannot make much impact or you don’t feel a sense of satisfaction or pride.
- It avoids any frustrations or exasperation you may feel towards yourself or others.
- It has the potential to attract positive, helpful people into your life.
What about strengths?
The dictionary definition of ‘strength’ is the ability to perform near-perfectly – and consistently so – at a specific activity. Examples of personal strengths include effective communicator, optimistic, emotionally intelligent and inspiring. Examples of professional strengths include strategic thinker, disciplined, organized and responsible.
But strength is not just something you’re good at, it is also what makes you feel strong and confident. Why is that? You may be inherently proficient at a task, but it may not make you feel great. Value and pursue what you’re good at to enhance your self-esteem and satisfaction from life. You just have to believe in yourself.
Advantages of valuing your strengths
The practical benefits of focusing on your strengths include:
- Saving the time you would have otherwise spent learning or re-learning a skill.
- Excelling at a particular task or in a niche area, that is, getting even better at something you’re already good at. New and exciting opportunities can open up before you, even something beyond your wildest imagination!
- Those who enhance and self-monitor their strengths and weaknesses experience faster growth and development, and are better able to learn something new or something that may perceived as challenging.
- Those who play to their strengths and immerse in tasks/activities they enjoy and excel at find meaning and a strong sense of purpose in what they do.
- Studies have found that people who use their strengths frequently at work are happier, less stressed, have high confidence levels, are more inclined to follow an active lifestyle, and more satisfied with their lives overall.
Managing your strengths
As discussed earlier, you can channel your weakness in a positive, beneficial direction; this would most certainly be time well-spent. Developing your gifts and talents is also a productive use of your time. However, guard against overplaying your strengths, which can create difficulties at work and in your personal life – for yourself and others.
It is in your best interest to recognize and appreciate others’ strengths. From the context of workplace dynamics, a healthy appreciation for one another’s strengths can prevent one-upmanship and encourage healthy teamwork.
Define your personal strengths and weaknesses to determine the best ways to own and manage them. It helps to think with an open mind and solicit support from trusted friends.
Begin today and set the course to a rewarding, contented life.