Friday, September 2, 2011

Weakness

Over the course of the past week I've heard clients say, in some way or another, that they hate their own weakness. I want to take a minute today to write what my feelings are on the subject. 

So I have to ask: What's so terrible about weakness? Where did we ever learn that we have to be strong all the time, regardless of circumstances? And what is the cost of pretending to be strong?

There is not shortage of messages that tell us we should be strong, in our media, from our families, from our jobs. Signs of weakness are undesirable in so many situations. Consider what happens if a presidential candidate cries, if a doctor says "I don't know," or if a parent admits making a poor decision. 

Beyond that, our reluctance to express weakness can keep us isolated. If I am not willing to show my weakness, I am reducing the quality of intimacy I can have with other people. Maybe I am not willing to be that intimate with everyone, but if I never show weakness, I am keeping an important part of myself from other people. 

One of the costs of ignoring or avoiding our weakness is that we lose our opportunity to develop actual strength in that area. I am fond of physical metaphor, so let me use one here. Suppose I am a powerlifter who has a weakness on one of my lifts. Or, suppose that I am a baseball player who has a weakness in some part of my game. If I am training for my particular sport, be it lifting or baseball, should I train the things that I do well, or should I train my weakness? If I train my weakness, I take the risk of looking foolish. But if I do not train my weakness, I will not improve my overall performance. 

Likewise, when we avoid that which we perceive as our weakness in our mental or emotional health, we avoid the opportunity to address our weakness, and possibly overcome it. 

The truth is that we all have weakness. We can compensate for them in various ways, but if we want to develop resiliency, if we want to face our worlds with our best possible selves, then let us acknowledge our weaknesses--and try to do it despite our fears. 



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