[Image description: A person is measuring on a piece of paper. They wear a red hat and black watch. There is a copy of Oh, the Places You’ll Go on the table with a cell phone.]
Perhaps because I’m about to begin the daunting process of finding a new job, I’ve spent the last few weeks mulling over my strengths and weaknesses. And what I mean to say is, I’ve spent the last few weeks concentrating on my professional strengths so that in my personal downtime, I’m left to wonder, “what am I bad at?” And I’m not implying that I’m not bad at anything but…I’m bad at knowing what I’m bad at. And I’m very good at knowing what I’m good at.
I had to take a 100+ question strength finder test for work, and one of my results was “maximizer” (the writer and literature person in me hates that the labels are not consistent, i.e. all nouns or adjectives, but anyways…). To paraphrase my results, that means that excellence is the standard I hold myself, and others, to. I get special pleasure in refining people’s strengths to produce excellence. It’s “more fun…more productive…and counterintuitively, more demanding” to be this way – and I avoid people who try to make me well rounded. Instead, I just want to focus on what I’m good at. So the irony is not lost on me that I’m struggling to find my weaknesses with this maximizing trait.
But here’s the thing that always comes up when I consider my weaknesses: they’re also my strengths. This strength finder also said I have “responsibility” (cringing), which means that I take personal ownership of my involvement in situations. And while that’s bad for obvious reasons – the world does not revolve around me and we’d be in a lot of trouble if it did – that means that I care very, very deeply about the things I’m involved in. I’m supremely responsible and I also get pulled into obligations I didn’t sign up for, but still deliver. And there’s a rabbit hole I could fall into about how all of those strengths influence each other and at time become weaknesses.
Now, I’ve already written on here about how I’m trying to come to terms with my weaknesses or flaws. But I actually think that’s dangerous territory. It leads me to label things like my anxiety disorder as a personal weakness (contrary to what two partners have said, this is not true). My anxiety is neither here nor there – it’s just a fact of life. Sure, it’s probably contributed to much of my success in life because I feel like the world will literally implode unless I do my best. But I’ve learned that self-pride is more motivating than that fear of failure. In being a “maximizer,” I spent this week ignoring obvious signs of anxiety in favor of delivering results, and that ended in a moderate panic attack, which I had to see as just…being. It wasn’t good or bad. It shouldn’t have been a humiliating thing, nor was it necessarily a “good” thing. It was a wake up call and good if only because it required me to stop the behaviors I was leaving unchecked.
I’m actually trying to move away from the idea of having “strengths” or “weaknesses” at all, unless I’m asked during a job interview. The parts of myself simply are. At times those traits work in my favor, and at others, I could’ve benefited from other ones. But no part of me is inherently better or worse than another, and I think focusing on strengths or weaknesses creates such a dichotomy.
All of that to say, I’m not weak. At all. And neither are you.
Image from nappy.co