I think one of the things we struggle with the most in life is living in balance. Not the balance that comes from listening to what we truly desire while also complying with certain external expectations. Nor the steadiness that comes from taking time out to reflect before we return to the noise of 21st century reality.
This is the kind of balance that we all believe is essential to moving forward towards our goals. But what we don't realize that more often than not, what keeps us stuck is an imbalance that is way more fundamental to who we are. I'm talking about the balance of wholeness. The balance of knowing our strengths as well as our weaknesses.
Research shows that most of us cannot name our strengths even though we're quite good at spotting our weaknesses. And so we now have an abundance of strengths recognition questionnaires that can help us do so.
But I think this is only part of the story. What we often call weaknesses are the personal qualities that limit us from being an 'acceptable' commodity. I've often asked clients about their weaknesses, and invariably I hear answers such as "I'm shy", "I give up too soon", "I'm impulsive"... It seems that we've gotten used to talking about ourselves as a marketable product, and the only reason we know our weaknesses so well is to move past them and become more 'perfect'.
It's this perfection in ourselves that throws us out of balance. And often we're totally oblivious of it. Until certain triggers, relationships, or experiences in life bring us to a place of stuck-ness and we're forced to take a deep look.
And what we realize is that often the real weaknesses that keep us stuck are the ones we aren't even aware of. They're the needs we silenced a long, long time ago. They're the parts of us we rejected because they were unacceptable to those around us. They're the traits that annoy us the most in others because perhaps, just perhaps, they take us back to unhealed arts of ourselves.
And somewhere down the road, they raise their voice not by calling out our name, nor by letting us know theirs, but by holding us back from our goals and dreams. These are the weaknesses that we need to become aware of. And no amount of surveys or polls can help us do so.
Because this takes an inner journey - one that connects us to our dark and painful side - the side that we're wired to avoid. So how to we do we become better at accepting and facing our fears?
What Triggers Me?
Think back to the past week or month. What is something that triggered you? Do similar situations consistently trigger you? I've had clients who get triggered by something as seemingly small as when their partner forgets to pick up the laundry. Or as apparently important as their need to take a break. Some get when circumstances stop them from taking action. Or when they receive feedback.
How Would Others React?
This is a great indication of whether we've touched upon a weakness. When others can generally respond differently to a similar situation, we need to reflect on why we're so upset. Take the case of receiving feedback for example. None of us like to be told what we didn't do well. But some of us can take this criticism and use it to better ourselves. While others can either close down in shame or erupt in anger, blame and vengeance.
What Meaning Am I Giving?
If your reaction tends to be more extreme that that of others, you may want to reflect on the meaning you're giving the situation. If your partner did indeed forget to pick up the laundry, do you think they're a self-centered, egoistic person you don't want to associate with. Or if you slept in until 11 on a Sunday morning, does it mean you're a lazy, unmotivated creature who'll never get far in life? Of course your thoughts may not be so extreme, but perhaps the meaning you're giving the situation is.
Question the Meaning
This is certainly not easy! Our beliefs about the world feel true to us - and stepping outside of these beliefs and questioning whether there's another way of viewing the situation can feel inauthentic and untrue. And yet, its here that we're able to connect to what we've been avoiding and get to know our real 'weaknesses' that are pulling us away from our deeply held goals and dreams.
Next week, I'll be writing about Facing our Weaknesses. In the meantime, I want you to reflect on the questions above and get to KNOW your weaknesses. Please leave your comments below so you can begin to voice what has perhaps never spoken.
Homaira Kabir is a positive psychology coach and cognitive behavioral therapist. She offers courses and coaching to help women develop the self-confidence and inner strength to identify and achieve their biggest and boldest goals. Sign up for her free quiz on learning to grow authentic self-worth.
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