I’ve noticed much said lately about Weaknesses – or rather, much is being said about trying to get around weaknesses to go straight for the more desirable Strengths.
“Strength to strength.” “Downplay your weaknesses.” I even came across the odd idea of “opposing strengths” which doesn’t dare use the “w” word (kind of like not saying “Voldemort.”)
We’re not talking about those things we have a weakness for, such as chocolate, or eyes-that-make-you-melt (“Oh, valley of temptation into which I willingly go…”) We’re talking cringe-worthy, hide it from your best friend, hide it from Your Self, weaknesses that make us feel unworthy or vulnerable. Or “not as-good-as.”
I’m going to step away from the crowd and gently propose this: that our weaknesses may be there to be our greatest allies. That they can be a mirror in which we see our strengths reflected – a way to identify, clarify, and draw defining edges around them.
Our weak spots are the high fragile rope bridges we must cross between the shores of solid ground. Crossing these bridges makes us more careful, more attentive, and more deliberate… and sometimes affords us a magnificent view and a shorter path to our destination.
When we can see our weaknesses as integral parts of the whole picture, they simply become the parts that need attention and TLC to be brought into alignment with the strengths.
Weaker spots and imperfections can be found in most any structure, especially one that’s been around for a while (ok – one that has a little age on it!) We investigate for weaknesses on purpose by routine – think of building or health inspectors – with the intent of improving, repairing, and increasing the strength of the whole.
Why not do the same on a more personal level, lessening our discomfort (and the possibility of retreat) with the objectivity of a deliberate inspection? A Self-Inspection, checklist and all? (Yes, you may burn that checklist when you are done!)
Defining weaknesses in this way allows us to determine what we don’t do well, so we can flip it and see what we do do well. I’ll share just such a clarifying moment: Most of my current work life is in hospitality and events and festivals, and one recent evening spent in a crowded atmosphere of loud music, activity and sensory overload – the way I used to work all the time – brought my weaknesses right back up to the surface. I felt like a part of a fast-moving machine where speed and efficiency were the only qualities of value, and I was going all-out just to keep up. Discomfort, indeed.
As the night came to an end, though, and I was reflecting on what I did not want – to work from my place of weakness – I suddenly realized where my strengths are: I’m at my best when I can connect and engage one-on-one and have meaningful conversations. I love to help you find answers to your questions, share your quest for good food and good experiences, and be part concierge, part tour guide for you. Oh, yes, that’s what I’m good at, and thank you, weakness, for showing me the light!
We simply cannot be made only of strengths and still get something out of being human. When we can see our strengths as tools we use to learn and grow, and see weaknesses as our lessons and teachers, we can also understand that they are not opposites at all – just perfect and different parts of a perfect whole. If it’s true that we become “stronger in the broken places” – then maybe our weaknesses can become our strongest places of all.
After all – what defines anything as a strength, or a weakness, is just a judgement.