In my experience, even the most confident of women are more likely to focus on their perceived inadequacies. My ear is now attuned to ‘I am not very good at…’ remarks and I call them out when I can. Strengths, by contrast, can slip under the radar. When something feels easy, it doesn’t feel remarkable. Everyone can do it.
It is hardly surprising that we are this way inclined. We are brought up with a ‘could be better’ philosophy. School reports and work appraisals usually gloss over the positives and hone in on what to improve. Sadly, in so doing, they overlook the fact that a weakness is unlikely ever to be turned into a strength, however hard one works. And so it continues. There are many industries such as the cosmetic surgery industry, whose whole raison d’etre is to persuade women that how they are is not quite good enough.
I am firmly of the view that embracing who we are, and celebrating our strengths, is vital. Freeing ourselves from the limitation of weakness is even more so. Yet, it is also worth considering that too much of a good thing can cause the balance to tip. What if those very same skills suddenly become a liability?
When strengths become a weakness
I was recently at a meeting where one member of the group, held forth for pretty much the whole day. She had a lot of knowledge in the field and was keen to share it with everyone else. Her background was performing arts and she was clearly comfortable in the role and eloquent in her delivery. She displayed many strengths, all admirable, but after a number of hours those very same strengths started to become a weakness without her even realising.
The confidence that comes from knowing our strengths is a huge asset….so is cultivating a level of self-awareness that recognises when they might not be working in your favour. It got me thinking about how some of my own strengths can do just that. Here’s just two of the many examples I could list!
Attention to detail
I think that paying attention to the finer details is the difference between good and great. Whether it is a piece of writing, or planning for a large event, I spend a lot of time making sure that every ‘i’ is dotted and every ‘t’ is crossed. Some would say I am quite obsessive about it and they would probably be right!
I am proud of how this strength plays out most of the time but I can also see that occasionally it gets out of control and I lose perspective. These days I try and remember that sometimes getting something finished is more important than getting it perfect….but it doesn’t always work!
Having the mental strength to keep going regardless is hugely positive in most situations. The internet is full of quotes encouraging us never to give up. But if doing so is at the cost of ignoring your intuition and having the courage to change course would be far more appropriate, then stamina becomes a limitation.
I remember having piano lessons as a child. I didn’t really enjoy them but carried on without question (no idea why!) for quite some time. Eventually my parents discovered the truth and immediately took the action that I hadn’t.
Without stamina, my life would have been very different. It has seen me through the most challenging of situations but it has also kept me in positions that I would have been better to abandon. As always it’s a fine line.
So how about you? Have your greatest strengths ever let you down?