Strengths Can Be Weaknesses, Weaknesses Can Be Strengths.

Isn’t it interesting how your strengths can also sometimes be your weaknesses, and your weaknesses can also sometimes be your strengths?

For example: somebody who is great at “laser focus,” pushing forward with an agenda, getting good stuff done, etc., may also be quite blinkered by that quality/state, and unable to take a step back and be sensitive to the people around them, struggle to see a bigger/different picture, not be flexible to change, unable to consider effectively other people’s realities, experiences and ideas, etc.

An opposite (ish) example: Someone who is very sensitive to others, and often quite easily able to empathise, relate to and communicate kindly with others, may also be very sensitive about themselves, and easily upset by people who cannot show the same quality of / levels of empathy, kindness and sensitivity, to them. [cough cough please be nice to me cough splutter] … 

[yes I know it’s a bit awkward that I flagged up what I think of as a strength/weakness that I have myself, in an off-key side note. Soz.]

Most potential human qualities have a negative side and a positive side, depending on the context, the intent, how they are applied, and other things.

[Side note: I was going to say ‘shadow side’ above, instead of negative side, then thought, no, that metaphor isn’t to my taste. Shade, shadows and darkness are vital. Sunshine isn’t always a good thing.]

I am reminded, once again, of one of my favourite quotes:

“When I am weak, then I am strong.” Charles Wesley, (1707-1788).

More human examples – somebody with high standards for themselves and a strong drive to achieve and contribute to the world, might be enjoying using that drive to accomplish and contribute – but they might also be beating themselves about the head with it, running themselves ragged by taking on too much, attaching their self esteem too tightly to their achievements so that they feel awful if they don’t meet their own goals/standards, etc. So that same drive and ‘aim for higher’ ethos has the potential to be used for making some great stuff happen. And it also has the potential to be used by somebody to make themselves miserable / ill – or indeed, be projected onto others in the form of very high expectations, that lead to disappointment / disillusionment / problems in (any kind of) relationships.

More human examples! Someone who worries a lot, might be draining themselves and their near and dear ones with constant worst-scenario thinking, and endless trains of thought that come with copious cortisol attached. That person may also be extremely capable of problem solving, spotting potential issues before they arise, and taking actions towards preventing or being prepared for certain issues. This can be especially helpful in some situations where the margin for error without nasty repercussions, is quite a narrow one, and/or the stakes are very high. It can however be draining if that person cannot ever switch off their worry-brain / problem-solver, even when they know a situation has lower stakes and a greater margin for potential going-wrong without nasty repercussions. So this quality can be useful, and can also be a burden.

How about a HOROSCOPE EXAMPLE! (Bah! HUMBUG! TISH TOSH AND POPPYCOCK! What is all this nonsense?) [Apologies, a logical thinker with posh vocab got in just then. He’s very dismissive of things he doesn’t understand, and quite a cynic. However he’s very good at setting boundaries, being practical, and protecting himself and others from charlatans.]

So, I’m a Capricorn. I don’t know much about this, but the main image I’ve been given throughout my life to match my star sign is that of a mermaid with goat’s horns, or some other sort of goat-mermaid hybrid. Apologies to any actual astrology experts – I’m just running with this image and the helpful metaphors. People can come to you to ask about actual astrology! That’s not what I’m discussing here – just the symbol, metaphors and some general qualities that most horoscope writers have harped on about Capricorns having. Anyway, this image of a goat-mermaid is one I quite enjoy. I think it holds symbolism that’s quite relevant to my general point about qualities being potentially both strengths AND weaknesses.

From the qualities Capricorns allegedly have, and other qualities too I expect, the goat and the mermaid are pretty vivid symbols. The goat can represent being organised, having determination and fortitude, and being a good leader! The goat can also represent, however, being controlling, stubborn and/or bossy. The mermaid can represent being creative, mysterious, and going with the flow easily. The mermaid can also represent, however, being ungrounded, flaky, unreliable, and/or floating away from the anchor of reality. These same symbols and their inherent qualities, can be both strengths and weaknesses, depending on how they interweave with each other, context, balance etc.

As you might know if you’ve read my blog, I have a chronic illness. Which is a definite physical weakness – and often an emotional and mental weakness too, when brain fog and the effects of illness on my life take their emotional toll. Living with a chronic illness, though, can help people to develop some very positive traits. Strength, fortitude, patience [hahahaha. Patience. I am patient. *Snort* Hahahahhaha!], understanding of others in similar situations, emotional intelligence, endurance of discomfort (to put it mildly), finding hope when it’s running out, remembering to focus on small daily joys, how to engage and communicate with people who do not understand your reality, self advocacy, setting boundaries, saying no, adapting to change, prioritising… the list goes on. There are many hugely positive emotional and mental strengths that can be developed through learning to live with chronic illness; despite the fact that having a chronic illness is a weakness, and reduces your ability to do what you love, cope with stressors, contribute etc.

Strengths and weaknesses. It’s not all black and white.

[Hold on! Is, “it’s not all black and white,” a phrase with a racist origin / undertone? And is there a different metaphorical/literal phrase for the same thing, that isn’t potentially adding to a problem? I don’t know how this phrase began or how different people respond to it, but I’m going to look for an alternative…]

Strengths and weaknesses. It’s not all clear-cut and straight forward.

[Although now I look it up, it seems like “clear-cut” is about deforestation… Hmm! I think there is a lot to explore about what implied things are embedded in the English language, but not in this article, which is awash with side notes already. Back to my main point.]

How might qualities that you perceive in yourself to be strengths, also be weaknesses?

How might qualities that you perceive in yourself to be weaknesses, also be strengths?

How might these reflections alter your view of yourself, and of others?

I hope you enjoy reflecting on these points. I look forward to hearing any reflections in the comments where I’ve shared this post on social media, or over a cuppa with a close one.

I think it’s a profound thing to think about – especially if you can reach right in to the things you think are worst about yourself, and see if there might possibly be a strength in that quality too? And if you can also identify the qualities you are most proud of / attached to, and reflect on whether there may be a negative side to those, that you are not yet aware of. Happy reflecting, folks!

Best wishes, Hannah-Rose Tristram