So, one of my favorite questions is “what are your weaknesses”?
It’s weird, but I like it for a few reasons. It tells you how self aware someone is. It also tells you what someone perceives to be a weakness. And lastly, it gives you an idea of what their strengths may be because the way I see it is that what defines a strength/weakness is circumstantial.
This week, I asked 15 people what they considered their top 5 strengths and top 5 weaknesses were. First off, I actually didn’t expect people to be all that comfortable answering these somewhat vulnerable questions but I got pretty open and honest responses, so I gotta give a shout out to those who shared!
Some of the responses I got, I could see parallels between peoples personality strengths and weaknesses. For example, the people who would list strengths like determined or persistent would list being judgmental or difficult as a weakness. Some of the more empathetic people would struggle with self love. The people that thought of themselves as dependable would be easily disappointed when others let them down. These things makes sense. Sometimes the same personality trait that helps you succeed in one situation, hurts you in another. My favorite example is my grandma. I love her to bits and pieces, but she is very orderly and bossy. It drives me absolutely bonkers because I’m very independent. That said, the moment something happens that needs immediate attention she is there ready to take the lead and salvage the situation. Her stubborn, caring, leadership saved my mom from a ruptured appendix when doctors tried to blow it off for the flu. She’s also helped the family and me plenty of times. Gotta love her for that.
That said, people are complex. I was surprised by some of the responses I got. Some people listed strengths like compassionate and loyal, and weaknesses as non-emotional at times; or some people would say they are empathetic, but selfish. Sounds almost contradictory, right? I guess we wouldn’t be humans without being a little complicated.
So why does this matter?
In my opinion, it matters because how you think about the concept of strengths and weaknesses impacts your reactions to and perceptions about yourself, and others.
We all have pros and cons that make us the person that we are. These characteristics may be based on our genetic makeup, how we were raised, or other experiences we’ve had along the way. Ultimately, we can react to who we’ve become in two ways: we can change it or accept it.
When I’m ready for a change, I usually write a goal in my journal of how I want to become. I’d say most of the time, I can mend who I am a bit or improve some skills when I put some effort into it, but it takes a lot of consistency and time to make it a permanent change. For example, when I was in college, I wanted to become a more understanding and less judgmental person because I wasn’t necessarily like that before. So I listened to loving kindness meditation CDs and tried to listen to other peoples’ perspectives more before judging their actions. I gave myself an exercise to find one good thing about a person I’d meet or pass on campus instead of finding something negative right away. Over time, it worked. I became more empathetic to others but it also changed me at another level. I found that I became more sensitive to my feelings and my surroundings because I became generally more aware of emotions. Emotions are a beautiful thing, but they can be taxing. It made me realize that every trait we have comes with a cost. Some may be worth changing, some are not. That decision is up to you.
The other option is accepting yourself for who you are. I think this is just as valuable as change can be sometimes. Once you truly understand what traits you value most about yourself and understand where your gaps are- that is the time to learn how to leverage them. This is particularly important because you have the option to curate a life that suits you that you will love, or you can choose a life that makes you miserable. We get so much pressure from society to do what is so called the “right thing,” but the right thing is so subjective. My motto is to find things that bring out the best in you, not the stress in you. What this means in my life, is finding a job where I can use my analytical mind to solve the companies problems rather than focusing on overanalyzing pointless things; expressing my exhaustive emotions through dance classes, creating artwork, or by listening to music with friends or on my own; comforting my friends and family with their problems through my words rather than annoying people by chatting up those who don’t care; and finding healthier ways to express my wild side. To those who have moments of self doubt, remember that everyone has their issues and just because you accept yourself for who you are, doesn’t mean you’re giving up on who you may want to be in the future. Acceptance is just a way to understand yourself better, and work with yourself instead of against yourself. It allows you to focus on developing your strengths, and let others take the lead in areas that you may be less proficient in. This will help you in various areas of life including deciding on life priorities, job hunting and career development, choosing friends and significant others, and developing relationships.
On the other side of things, you need to remember that others have their pros and cons too. One of your weaknesses, may be someone else’s strength and vice versa. My dad likes to call these weaknesses our personal demons. I like the analogy, because I believe everyone has something they struggle with whether it’s being insensitive, too sensitive, being stubborn, having difficulty saying no, oversharing, not sharing enough, etc. Sometimes, we will struggle to escape these traits of ours despite our best efforts. Lol. That’s fine, that’s life.
Accepting each other for our differences is important. I’m definitely not saying love every person you meet. Nah, it’s inevitable that not every single person will bond or get along with each other or even have time to develop a relationship. However, we can still respect and value each other for our complimentary characteristics, and be aware that the cards we were dealt has shaped us in different ways. In the career world, this is particularly useful because you may match teams with different strengths and weaknesses. A team may want to consist of a technical genius, a creative, a well-spoken salesman, and a leader to set directions and resolve conflicts. Sometimes one person may have several of these qualities, but usually it takes a team. Or think about savants who have poor social skills but have almost unreal capabilities. That’s the magic of diversity. We should appreciate each other’s differences and use it to our advantage. Work together. Work around each other’s differences instead of trying to change them. Maybe even take the time to learn from each other and understand one another. After all, it takes the pressure off any one of us from being absolutely perfect all the time (as if that’s realistic). Just something to think about.
P.S. In light of others sharing their strengths and weaknesses with me, I’m sharing mine below. I challenge you to think about yours as well!
Strengths: Deep, reflective, empathetic, good communicator, creative, analytical/problem solver, adaptive, creative, fun/silly/spontaneous, open, honest, loyal, ambitious, disciplined (sometimes)
Weaknesses: Overthink/overanalyze, emotional, open/honest to a fault, indecisive, scatterbrained, impatient/impulsive, high strung, intense