I think most of us come across certain philosophies or truths that stick with us in life. Something that hits so hard and rings so true that it shapes how we see ourselves, others or the world. I was considering this and realized that I found mine just within the last few years. As truths tend to be, it’s simple and may seem obvious once you’ve heard it. But, it has had a significant impact on me and my introspective experience, as well as how I see other people.
My truth is that the thing that is best about you, is also what’s worst about you. A softer way to put this would be that your strength is also your weakness. I have put this on trial repeatedly, and it continues to hold up under scrutiny. It has told me so much about myself and helped me move to correcting some of the things I find lacking, but without all the negative self-talk that I have often berated myself with. There is more to the coin than just the ugly side if you flip it over—the thing that drives you to the behavior you may be ashamed of or want to change.
One of my strengths is my mental acuity. My processor is very fast, and I can grasp most things quickly. You would think this would be an enormous advantage—and sometimes, it is. But it also causes me to skim through things, missing details, and to be impatient. I always have lived in a hurry to get to the point. This has caused inaccuracies in my work at times and lacking a deep understanding of many things that would benefit me if I had taken the time to fully download the information. I only recently put these two things about me together. I had forever felt so much shame and failure when I submitted something with a mistake or tried to regurgitate something I found interesting, only to realize I had missed a key element or elements. Then I finally stopped to consider what the shiny side of this coin was. I then remembered someone saying, “Slow is smooth and smooth is fast,” and recalled learning in a leadership class that people who think and speak quickly can slow down, but people who do not, cannot speed up. That had already helped me temper my impatience with others when I wanted so much to finish their sentences or ask them to “get to the point.” It became obvious that speed was my enemy and that the only way to correct my inaccuracies was to slow down, which had always felt counterintuitive because of my processing speed.
I think it is important for us to be aware of both our strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes, it’s hard to see one or the other, especially when we cannot connect the negative to anything positive in us. This two-sides-of-the-coin approach has given me more insight to my own by helping me find that connection. There is something about a weakness being born of a strength that makes it easier to accept and admit to oneself.
How I came to learn this truth was during my exploration of the Enneagram. For those who don’t know, it’s a personality typing system based on nine personality drivers. It is not astrology or based in anything mystical, although its origin story is a bit opaque. It came out decades ago but was recently revived. A friend introduced me to it, and I was instantly fascinated by it and was able to type myself very quickly. This was largely thanks to the host of the podcast I was listening to about the Enneagram who said that when you learned about the “lesser” attributes of the types, the one that makes you cringe the most is likely your own. This turned out to be very true for me.
Another personal example, coming from the negative end, is that I sometimes have extreme anxiety and have been known to lose sleep over conflicts at work or in my personal life. Even when I am not guilty of doing wrong, I still feel as though I am. I honestly hate this about myself. It is exhausting. It is also because I care so deeply about my connection with other people and how loyal I am that I struggle with this. Caring and loyalty are both great things that a person should want to be part of their makeup, and I do. Mastering my fear and anxiety is still something I am working through, but I have found that when I’m feeling these things, I can remind myself that it comes from a place of truth and good, and that helps to dull the edge. It sounds so silly, but it really has been helpful to literally tell myself these things out loud so that my subconscious can hear it and accept it as well.
I wish I could say that these are my only two weaknesses, but they are not. I have many, and they are all tied to things that I love very much about myself and would never want to change. Knowing this is such a gift as I work to become the better person or greater ape (shameless wink) that I want to be. I hope you find this useful in your own introspective work and when dealing with others.
If you’d like to learn more about the Enneagram, here are some resources I found useful:
“The Enneagram Journey” – Podcast
“The Road Back to You” – Book
There are infinite books and online resources, but I found author and speaker Suzanne Stabile to be the most reliable. I also am happy to share what little I know that may help you find your own type. Email me anytime at Mandy@GreaterApe.com.