Finding Strength By Exploring Weakness
You may have heard it before—your greatest gift often comes from exactly what you think your biggest weakness is. They are usually two sides of the same coin.
Take neediness for example. Being needy sucks—the needy person feels like someone else holds the key to their happiness, and the person receiving neediness feels crowded.
But what happens when you surrender fully into neediness? Explore its depths, what it really feels like to need something you do not have, and you are likely to find clarity. And the clarity of knowing what you want and asking for it directly, without manipulation, is incredibly powerful. You give others the gift of knowing exactly what you want, and of being able to say “no” directly. And you are far more like to actually get what you want.
I believe this is true for a whole range of character traits. Beneath anger there is often passion. Beneath weak boundaries there is often a desire to avoid hurting others, which is also care for others. Beneath egocentricism there is often a desire for self-expression, calling something creative and beautiful into the world.
We could go into the “shadow” side of how these “weaknesses” developed and how they use up a ton of our energy, and I believe that is useful. But we can also take what we have and transmute it into something beautiful, like an artist singing the blues.
Our goal then becomes to find what amazing gift motivates our weakness, or how we can transform the part of ourselves we wish to hide into living art. We then encourage the expression of that part of ourselves while minimizing the unhealthy expressions.
This can be done in a reflective way. Take a few minutes to explore what holds you back, or negative feedback you have gotten from others, and see if there is a hidden gift. But you can also do this in the moment, using the following steps:
- Notice your weakness in action
- Surrender deeply into the feelings present
- Limit the unhealthy expression of weakness
- Look for the underlying gift
- Express the gift
Sometimes you might limit the unhealthy expression before surrendering, or after expressing the positive—this is not a hard and fast process. But it covers the basics in a simple way to remember.
For example, let us say say you think your biggest weakness is chronic fatigue.
- You notice you feel tired
- Instead of fighting it, you curl into the fetal position and close your eyes
- Knowing you won’t be able to go out, you actively cancel your plans instead of flaking—simply not showing up
- You notice that you haven’t been giving yourself enough self-love
- You find three ways to love yourself up.
Let us look at a different example: you think your biggest weakness is that you do not assert yourself enough.
- You notice that you are about to give in to your boss and work over the weekend
- You notice that you feel small, powerless, and unimportant. You are afraid of pissing your boss off, you are afraid of being seen as incompetent, and you are afraid of losing a promotion. You think it is not fair that you always get these tasks.
- Set a small boundary, such as asking for a few minutes to reflect.
- Looking at what lies beneath your feelings, you see that you are struggling with valuing your boss’s opinion of you, yourself, and your career.
- You are afraid of pissing your boss off—you value her opinion of you
- You are afraid of being seen as incompetent—you value yourself
- You are afraid of losing a promotion—you are competitive and ambitious
- You think it is not fair—you value justice and equality
- There are a million ways to express the gifts beneath this and it depends on the situation. An arbitrary way to include all of them in one sentence, “I value your opinion, I think I’m the best person for this task, and I want the upcoming promotion, so this is very difficult for me to say. But I cannot work over the weekend. Can we find an alternative solution, such as splitting the work up amongst the team on Monday?”
You could be just like the super hero who finds out that the power that always made them different is exactly what the world needs. Maybe this will not hold true for you, but it is worth checking out.
Even though I have used a lot of cognitive analysis to write this article, the best way to discover what lies beneath your weakness is to investigate it deeply with an open minded curiosity. Find out what is down beneath all of your defenses, find out what it is really like, and you might discover something life-changing!