Several years ago I was going through some old school papers my mother had held onto and I found my kindergarten report card. My teacher had expressed that I was too sensitive and encourage my parents to work on dampening my sensitivities. It was clear from her comments that she considered my ability to read other people's emotions and experience them as my own as a weakness.
Later, when I was in college, and I discovered my voice, I was labeled the outspoken one and told that I needed to knock it off. It was like having flashbacks to childhood when it was made clear to me that children should be seen and not heard. Once again a “weakness” had been exposed.
I don't think that my experience is uncommon –
Might it be time to re-examine that trait (and old belief) and see if your weakness might actually be your greatest strength in disguise?
Three of my character traits that were, at one point in my life, labeled a weakness are certainly now among my greatest strengths. That being said, it took time for me to realize that. Do any of these “weaknesses” ring true for you?
- Sensitivity – I have always been a “highly sensitive person.” As the word “sensitive” was usually spoken with derision (or even worse, in a whisper!), I tried to deny and hide my sensitivity behind carefully constructed walls. Who are you calling sensitive? Not me! I can take anything you want to dish out. Bring it! I later realized that this attitude was a disservice – to me and to my loved ones. Yes, I’m sensitive. It’s what makes me a healer, an empath, and very good at what I do. Am I more sensitive than most people? Probably, but I no longer see that as a problem; rather, I see it as the gift that it is.
- Empathic ability – are you able to read and experience other people’s emotions at a heightened level? Me too. There’s actually likely a biological reason for this – women tend to have more mirror neurons (otherwise called monkey-see-monkey-do neurons) in their brains than men do. It’s why we cry at sad movies. Everyone has mirror neurons – it’s part of our genetic make-up, but some people have more than others. I’m not telling you to get tested for the number of mirror neurons you possess; what I’m saying is that if you are able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and feel their pain quickly and easily, you may be an empath (and likely have a lot of those mirror neurons). While this “flaw” of being “too emotional” used to be blamed on my being a “highly sensitive person,” I now understand that sensitivity and empathy may go together, but they may not. Furthermore, they are not the same things. Each trait has played its own role in making me the woman I am today, and they have each made me a better coach, mentor and teacher than I would have been without them. Is that a weakness? I don’t think so. I call my empathy and sensitivity strengths.
- Being assertive – Have you ever been told that you’re just too outspoken? That you should keep your opinions to yourself? Or been made to feel that way? After I discovered my voice as an undergraduate, I tried to suppress it, tried to bite my tongue. Some days it worked; some days it didn’t. My voice certainly never wanted to go back into hiding! Yes, there were times when I opened my mouth when I likely should have kept it closed, but usually if something wants to come out, it needs to be said at some level. Once I acknowledged that, I began to heal my old belief patterns that my voice wasn’t valued. I began to express myself in ways that were authentic for me. As I did so, other women began to seek me out, wanting to know how they took could find their voices and express themselves openly and honestly. I don’t see that as a weakness at all.
Do I regret not realizing that these “weakness” were in fact strengths earlier in life? Absolutely not. Our mess is our message, after all.
Might that “weakness” hold the key to your greatest strength?
August, a month ruled by Leo, is a perfect time to examine your strengths – and “weaknesses.” Take this golden opportunity to transmute your perceptions of yourself and release old patterns and limiting beliefs. Take a tip from Leo the Lion: It’s not only time to speak your truth; it’s time to Roar!