Weaknesses Equal Strengths

In the past, I have had a problem with “black and white” thinking.  If something was good, it was good.  If something was bad, it was bad.  Opposites had two entirely different bins.  Because they were opposites, how could they possibly be one in the same?  How could they possibly share properties?  Wasn’t that the very definition of opposite?

One person was really responsible for setting this idea into motion.  I was coming up on my orange belt test, and I found that I was suddenly having difficulty executing basic techniques.  I had practiced these same techniques over months with much progress.  It seemed as if I became leaden and weighted.  I became extremely frustrated and distracted, making practice much more difficult.

My instructor asked, “Are you nervous?”

I hadn’t even considered it.  Anxiety had become automatic for me.  I took a moment and replied, “Yes.”

“Good,” she said.  I was taken aback.  How was anxiety a positive thing?  It was hindering me, and preventing me from progressing.  I thought that it might even be my doom, by causing me to fail my test.  She suggested, “Turn your mind off and focus that abundant energy into your techniques.  You don’t need to think about it anymore.  It’s all stored into your muscle memory.”

I took a moment to compose myself.  I threw all of that energy into firing off techniques.  Suddenly, I unweighted and pivoted with ease.  The forms were coming back together and my strength and agility were returning to me.  It seemed that by translating that nervous energy into a physical outlet, I had actually gained a significant asset.

There are two sides to every coin.  The point is, the two sides share a coin.  The coin itself allows the two sides to share properties, butt up against each other.  While one represents something, and the other side seems to be opposite, they are really one in the same.  All we have to do is flip the coin.

In my last article, “I Am the Best Me”, I touched upon gaining a different perspective on our own weaknesses.  Many of us are painfully aware of our own “flaws”.  They are probably something that has become a primary focus at one point or another.  , In the search for answers and solutions, we’ve invested an abundance of time and energy into putting them under the microscope and dissecting them.  There is a certain idea that if we deconstruct them, then we may be able to reassemble them into a strength.  It pushes us to put an exhausting, but fruitless effort into transforming an aspect of ourselves that is just simply a part of our nature.

There are the obvious things we can’t change.  I’m 5’1” and 28 years old.  There is no hope that I will ever grow taller.  I can wobble around in heels all day, but it doesn’t adequately compensate for my natural size.  I have a naturally larger frame, so I can’t ever realistically expect to be thin like the models.  My feet are awkwardly large for a woman of my size.  Knowing that I can’t be anything different is a little discouraging in a certain light.

But, experience has taught me that those perceived flaws are actually advantages.  In martial arts, I can use certain physical qualities to my advantage.  Many taller people are long range fighters, due to their long limbs.  By moving in close, I can jam up their attacks and land quite a few blows.  A wider frame provides a natural opportunity for a greater muscle mass.  In combination with larger feet, I can have a stronger stance, making it more difficult for me to get knocked down.  And being small in general gives me speed and agility that other opponents may not have.

When we examine the more intangible things, such as character traits and personality, it’s a little less obvious.  This is especially so when we’re incorporating symptoms of disorder into the mix.  I’ve spent a lot of time splitting hairs between the two, in the attempt to discern what I could “fix” and what I couldn’t.  Although it initially provided relief by eliminating the idea that I was “irreparably damaged”, that microanalysis eventually ended up doing me more harm than providing benefits.  It sought to put everything under the microscope under a lens of negativity.

Personality from disorder isn’t a cut and dry as we initially perceive.  In time, I discovered that my personality and disorder had a complex relationship.  They shared many things, but there was one thing they both had in common.  My personality and disorder were both directly influenced by my value system.  It made me realize that they are really rooted in the same entity, my core self.

Perceived Flaws Translated Strength
Stubborn Willful
Anxious High Energy
Indecisive Flexible
Moody Sensitive
Worrisome Cautious
Temperamental Passionate
Aggressive Forceful
Dramatic Expressive
Withdrawn Reserved
Inconsistent Complex

That’s just to name a few.

When we redefine our weaknesses as strengths, we can begin to see how they benefit us.  All of these traits have developed my creative nature.  That creativity isn’t just applicable to writing and other artistic outlets.  It benefits my problem solving skills and personal relationships.  By understanding our true natures, we can start to redefine ourselves.  This aids in identifying personal dysfunctions as something beneficially functional.  This is the root of the development of adaptive strategies.

So, drag out the thesaurus and tell me – what are your strengths?

24 thoughts on “Weaknesses Equal Strengths

  1. This is beautiful. Your posts never fail to inspire me.

  2. I completely agree with Madison. You have a great deal of emotional honesty. It’s refreshing.

    • Hey, thanks! I’m thrilled to hear that you enjoyed the read. Pardon me if I’m a little awkward at taking compliments, LOL. I’m still navigating the social appropriateness of pride in myself and maintaining humility.

  3. I too appreciate your post. I am new to following your blog, but again, I was touched. I was surprised to learn you are only 28. Not that the young can’t be, but you seem so wise.
    I’m having trouble with your question, “What are your strengths?” It was hard to find something for perfectionism. A thesaurus was no help. “Anal rententive”? Thanks. I had to use my own brain for this one. One of my strengths is that I am detail oriented. I see many things others don’t. I’m not sure this balances. What do you think?

  4. Perfectionist = a lot of things. Detail oriented. Enthusiast. Idealist (which is not always a bad thing!). It could also move into ambitious and determined.

    If it helps, I’ll be 29 at the beginning of next year. LOL. I’m flattered that you think so highly of me.

    I led a rather unusual life growing. I had older parents, both of which had their own respective mental health challenges. My father is a war veteran. I am the little sister of a man with classical autism. And I guess it does help that I grew up in the church (not Catholicism, but no judgement against that sect of Christianity). Probably growing up in poverty had something to do with it.

    I married younger than many people at the age of 23. I had my son at the end of that year. I’ll tell you, there’s nothing that matures the mind quite like having a family. In two years time, I went from party girl to domestication.

    My son was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder just before he turned three. My family had been there before, and we were well acquainted with the signs. Although we knew, it was still earth shattering to have it confirmed.

    My son has taught me so much about life. He and I couldn’t be different in terms of personality. He’s so laid back, and does things in his own time. He treats his life like one big adventure. Things don’t interest them unless they are fun. He’s far more assertive than I am, and has no hesitation about making his wishes clear.

    The lessons I learned? Why keep running running into the same brick wall? Events will unfold as they should. Constant worrying is a distraction from all of the other things I could be doing. Life doesn’t have to be so serious. Always have the courage to speak up and never let anyone push me around. Change isn’t all positive or negative, it’s what we make of it. And always be excited about tomorrow.

    • Adding to the lessons i learnt today from your post, this last words got me soft
      ‘Change isn’t all positive or negative, it’s what we make of it. And always be excited about tomorrow.’
      Am a music producer and hearing your story summarized is enough to inspire me write about my story. You are a survivor and nothing can change that.

  5. I think even more highly of you! 🙂

  6. This is a beautiful blog. Thank you so much for sharing it.

    I was drawn to it on the name alone, which is utterly fantastic! Then I began reading and the rest is history.

    • I’d like to thank you so much for reading it. Really, it would probably be just a volcano spewing sunshine without others who really believe in it.

      The name actually came from something pretty funny. I had earned myself the nickname “Sunny” at work in that period of time. This was before my whole people pleasing, doormat days were completely over. And that’s when I started to feel like a ticking time bomb. I was in the very beginning of my treatment for bipolar disorder, and as much as I really didn’t want to admit it, I was pretty volatile.

  7. How many of us could say a similar thing about ourselves, at some point in our lives or another? I have the utmost admiration for you, in your openness, creativity, humor and generosity in wanting to share what you do, resulting in less loneliness for many. I’m sure I speak for others when I say we’re grateful!

    The title is genius. Expresses something about the weather of our human emotions that is otherwise hard to put into words. I look forward to reading more of your onward and upward motion. 🙂

  8. Well, Lulu, as usual, you have put together another wonderful post. I gobbled it up. I have read the book Personality Plus that uses many descriptive words in regards to personality and taking each strength or weakness and flipping it. We can take conversely any strength and to the extreme can work against us,

    I have often used my anxiety as fuel to run into things as well. And when it got taken away from me due to alleged psychosis, among other things, I was left to refigure out life without my energy source. I sort of liked it in some ways, but….. At any rate…..

    I’m in the hospital still and feel as light as a feather. And, no this is not due to medication. Although I feel like I have been on a ? high of some sort. The doctor and I think we have me figured out. 95% hedging towards Aspergers. Am not sure if tacked on or in place of other certain diagnoses.

    I will be here for a month to continue in their DBT and trauma education among other groups. Yes, at times I want to desperately take some medication, cause the energy buzz feels like drinking three Jolts. Exaggeration, but it still feels like I am experiencing a natural amphetamine high.

    Tally Ho
    and Cheerio

    Lor (laurabeee)

    • Thanks Lor! I’m so happy that you enjoyed the article. And I’m even happier to see you here! Hi!

      We can take anything to the extreme. This dials right back to the value, “Everything in moderation”. There is a saying in this particular martial arts that I practice that advises against “overambition”. That’s partially where I picked up practicing moderation. It pretty much says that we must temporarily accept our limitations until we build a skill level that takes us beyond them. That’s in my next article about developing adaptive strategies.

      I should probably add to the values list; “Glance before leaping.” Only a glance, though. If we’re not observing our direction, then it’s too easy to get sidetracked. However, if we’re peering over that edge too far, many of us may have the tendency to talk ourselves out of the plunge, however equipped we may be to handle it. I’ve been at both extremes, and neither worked well for me.

      Now, there is no predicting when we’ll have that abundance of energy. Again, this is something that I intend to address is in the next article, or maybe articles, because it is getting rather large. We can’t run on high all of the time, and that’s okay. Ultimately, we can adapt our behaviors around our own particular tempos. No sense in pushing oneself far beyond what we are capable of. For instance, there is one practice that my instructors encourage. We can understand our own skill levels, and do what we can. Then, we can go a half step beyond that to push for just a little more. It promotes steady growth without risking any damage.

      It’s lovely to hear you are feeling so wonderful. It must be so reassuring to be in such a supportive place. And it must be encouraging to have answers and see so much progress.

      Aspergers? Curious! It probably makes sense when applied in certain ways. My brother has what practitioners refer to as “classical autism” and my son has “pervasive development disorder – NOS”. There are significant differences between certain diagnoses on “The Spectrum”. As professionals have mentioned, the differences are notable in various developmental domains.

      Classical autism encompasses the greater majority of symptoms that globally affect the developmental domains, save cognition in youth, and motor in adulthood. This is especially so in the social and emotional domains. My brother’s expressive language domain is nearly the developmental level of an adult, however his receptive language is still very much affected by delays in other critical domains.

      My son is very different. The defining feature of PDD-NOS is a delay in language, but the lack of delay in the aptitude of the social and emotional domains. My son’s expressive language is noticeable delayed, but his receptive language is not as delayed. However, though he is socially awkward, he is still inclined to be social, whereas other diagnoses on The Spectrum can be observed as having that delay.

      Which brings me to Aspergers. Aspergers can be observed as having an aptitude in the language domain, however it notably affects the social domain. It’s likely that many adults diagnosed with mental health disorders (especially social anxiety and GAD) may have had a delay in a social domain overlooked. Today’s society generally accepts a certain degree of social awkwardness due to it’s commonality, though it may cause the affected person much distress.

      I wouldn’t be surprised if it were co-morbid with mental health disorders. Autism spectrum disorder often has an OCD component almost built into the diagnosis (though I don’t agree due to it’s absence in some affected people, and feel it should be treated separately). My brother becomes particularly distressed by change, and has to have things a certain way. He has ritualized behaviors, and because of the social and emotional delays, he really can’t explain the function (or rather, dysfunction).

      Conversely, I find these behaviors absent in my son. Beast is an adventurous little boy, whereas my brother is exceptionally timid. My son treats the world like his own personal playground, seeking thrills and new experiences. He balks at routines. In fact, he didn’t have the expected adjustment period to any significant life change we’ve been through in the last year. My husband and I had more difficulty than he did!

      And I’m completely on a tangent now. I thought I’d share a little about the spectrum, or at least diagnostic criteria and what I’ve observed personally.

      While I understand that there isn’t a generalized pharmacological treatment for ASD (and for most symptoms, I don’t agree that there needs to be), I do support treatment of the anxiety that may accompany it. My brother recently began taking Ativan for his anxiety. However, what you are experiencing may not be anxiety at all. Occasionally, a hyperactivity component may be present. It is the one symptom that both my son and my brother share. That may be something that you are experiencing. Has hyperactivity been something you’ve encountered throughout your lifetime?

      Take care! And I hope to hear back from you soon!

      • Whoa! That was quite the reply; I’m spinning. I’m just as perplexed as ever again. Since my comments, the doctor is back to bipolar. He asked about childhood obsessions/fascinations with figuring things out. I forgot how he worded it, but I could not recall any.

        However, I have been thinking further about it and I did have the social problems. I need to clarify with him what he considers fascinations. I studied figure skaters on TV till the cows would come home and then go and practice for hours in the frigid temperatures till dark, skating to the music piped into the air from local speakers. And yes, I would be alone, lost in the whole aura of it all.

        Figure skating lessons were out of the question due to cost and quite frankly, I stunk at following verbal instructions. I would be lost in no time. Voices sounded like all the adults in the TV episodes of Charlie Brown, wha, wha, wha, wha, wha sound with your nose plugged.

        I would flit and fleet about the living room lost in some made up ballet to the classical music blaring from the stereo. I so badly wanted to be a dancer because I struggled terribly with the verbal aspect. I felt more comfortable in the domain of adults rather than my peers. I have improved in the communication realm of things but still struggle. At other times, you can’t shut me up. Hmmm!

        Much time in my younger grades were spent with extra speech therapy, grammar and the like. It paid off as I did become an acute speller. Acute in a good way I must add.

        Summers were spent swimming in our local pool six homes down the street from where I grew up. Lessons in the morning, three hours in the afternoon, and two in the evening. We went in groups lazing around the pool but I felt the best and most at ease alone swimming under the waterline; in the silence challenging myself to see how long I could hold my breath before I would be forced to the surface like a killer whale cresting; coughing, spluttering, and gasping, a smile on my face. I had beaten my previous marked mental image along the edge of the pool.

        I would often count things, though not always. I understand this is a component of OCD. Personally for me, I think it was sheer boredom, a way to occupy an otherwise busy mind.

        The doctor here is really not sure what to make of me. I refuse medication, he’s not sure what to do. I’m managing without it. I’m having occasional crying jag melt downs. To be expected, the grieving aspect of my life continues. Triggers are everywhere. Sleep is squeaking by again averaging 5-6 hours before wakening. He is a good doctor from what I hear but finds me perplexing. It is almost like chasing the whole DSM-IV around a roller coaster.

        Oh well, what can I say, I’m me. And I’m back in a slowed down half lethargic lowish sad kinda melancholia state, hiding in unoccupied rooms having been upset by several things this past few days. I talk in order to be kind and only if necessary. Actually, I was slowed down before the upsetting things, but they sure did not help.

        I never intend to take things to the extreme, it just happens.

        Well, that was more than I planned on, as usual.

        🙂 Lor

        • I think you’re very brave to be facing your demons without medication. And it’s a noble effort to be doing it so intensively. For me, it was a pretty unguided process that had to occur over many years, creating a host of dysfunctions and damaging relationships along the way.

          I feel like you’re embarking on a mission of self-discovery. You’re getting to know the nature of yourself and your disorder outside of medicine. They can stick any label on it that they like, but it won’t serve to provide you any insight on yourself. And despite any of the negative characteristics that could be pinned on you, you are you.

          The extremes are a part of you. So, let it out of the cage. Express yourself in the ways that you know how. Let yourself truly feel and the extremes will start to come closer together. Once you give yourself permission to be you, then you will start to unfold as you are.

          I do hope things are going well for you. I’m glad you are in such a safe and supportive place that will assist you in figuring things out. I truly believe that your reactions are perfectly understandable, given your situation. And I also believe in your ability to carve your own path to wellness.

  9. I really need to get my own blog going. Sometime!

  10. Love this post! Especially the line: “There is a certain idea that if we deconstruct them, then we may be able to reassemble them into a strength.” This misconception has led so many people astray on their path to self acceptance and wellness. You really write wonderfully 🙂

    Personally, I’ve had to put this concept into practice in my own life in a very concrete way. My ability to focus my attention with an intensity and for a duration that might put me into a circus sideshow has allowed me many accomplishments. On the flip side, the same gift can slip so easily into the negative. It has, it does, and I know it always will. But every time I find myself caught in a mental loop I say softly, gently, to my deepest self… “you are blessed to be able to focus so intently.” The emotional connections of that statement are often enough to break the loop.

    Also, by understanding how to negotiate with the negative aspect of this gift (because I really do consider it a treasure) I can now negotiate with the perfectionist side and allow myself room to breathe during a project. I think anyone who tends towards the extreme, on whatever spectrum, is desperately looking for that space… that room to breathe.

    • I really do believe that deconstructing something is really a practice of putting something under the microscope. It’s kind of like a magnifying mirror. It blows the whole image way out of proportion and has the tendency to draw our focus toward the flaws.

      I’ll give a literal example. Recently, I’ve been experiencing acne breakouts. Seriously ironic, considering I had pretty decent skin as a teenager. I thought those days were well behind me. So, in an attempt to really get an idea of what was going on, I took a gander into the magnifying mirror. Horror of horrors, dark marks and acne scars!

      Not exactly. The mirror really blew that out of proportion entirely. Surely, I’ll have some dark marks for awhile, but they aren’t likely to end up as scars. The only thing that exercise really did for me was end up making me more insecure.

      Which brings me to my next point. We are who we are. I’m terrible at advanced mathematical concepts beyond basic math and percentages and fractions. And yet, I spent a great deal of time pounding away at that brick wall in various tutoring programs. It seems that there is this common societal idea that we cannot be well rounded people without constantly trying to “improve” on our shortcomings.

      However, there is a whole different train of thought when it comes to developmentally delayed children. As parents and educators, we are encouraged to study those children to identify their strengths. Then, we use those as a launching point to assist in developing their delayed areas. Instead of encouraging those children to continue to drive themselves into that impenetrable wall, we teach them how to circumnavigate it. That is a far more productive than the older teaching philosophies that are still applicable to typically developing children.

      That ties directly in with your position on an extreme. I wouldn’t even term it as an “extreme”, because that has so many negative connotations. “Extreme, so why can’t you dial it back?” That’s the same as saying, “You’re extremely tall, so why can’t you just shrink a little?” It’s an abundance that we should celebrate, as you said.

      In children with autism spectrum disorder, their “extremes” are termed “gifts”. My brother, though no longer a child, was considered to have the “gift” of extraordinary long-term memory. My son has a “gift” of an unusually high aptitude in the arts. Though not yet perfect, he can attempts to replicate many things he sees and hears through drawing and singing. As a former music teacher, I can tell you that he can already find a pitch better than some third graders, and he remembers long phrases of song better than the greater majority of second graders.

      So, why aren’t we all encouraged to celebrate our “extremes”, better referred to as abundances, as gifts? You’re definitely do. I’m attempting to. You mentioned perfectionism, and I too experience the same thing. But, instead of perfectionism, I consider it to be “attention to detail” or “determination upon improvement”. It’s that drive toward “success”, or maybe even the avoidance of “failure”, that really prompts me to put that pause to breathe in. There is no success or failure, only progress.

      • So true about the mirror analogy! Altering your spacial perspective started messing with your importance perspective and time perspective. Acne sucks, don’t get me wrong, but I’m glad you were able to get your perspectives back in perspective – man, that sounded awkward. It’s been so exciting with all the recent autism work that challenges previous language and value assignments. Who says pattern recognition is any less beautiful a trait than social dexterity? Yes, this social world of ours will be harder for them to navigate, and their language for communicating and acknowledging love will require a somewhat more indirect translation – but working with them in the way they experience this world, not against it, is definitely the best way to help them grow.

  11. Pingback: Sunny With a Chance Of Armageddon | Celebrating Our Gifts

  12. So touching, i was trying to write on a boy who suffered a psychopathological form of social anxiety out of dejection. He had a great creativity in music and this anxiety was about turning into a serious phobia that would make it difficult for him to express his ability to stand in front of the crowd and sing… it came up my mind when you talked about how personality and disorder had a complex relationship that also helps.. he found love and was ready to help himself… i love your post, they are motivating.

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