Strengths Over Weaknesses
Hi folks! Hope your week is off to a pleasant start! I, myself, have had a pretty good run, although the fact that this is my last week of Whole30 is making me a bit introspective. Because the program has caused me to directly confront my relationship with food, I've found myself pressing deeper into other parts of my life. In particular, I've been ruminating on my fear of...success. And I'm not talking about money or fame, but simply living a life of wholeness, contentment, and joy, without guilt or shame. This shift would involve many different parts, I'm sure, but one would have to be building on my strengths and allowing my weaknesses to simply be what they are. There's a bit of a problem with that...
The idea of focusing not on my failures, but my attributes fills me with fear.
It's completely unknown territory for me. The constant reminder of what I lack has become like a security blanket, its familiar warmth reaffirming the notion of never needing to step out or discover what I might really be capable of.
Yet when I came across the quote below while reading The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss, I actually had to put the book down and just...marinate on the concept. What would it mean to allow myself to be great (and encourage others to do the same)?
See, most of my life has been spent feverishly working on—and apologizing for—my failures. For a time, I simply assumed it was God's way of keeping me humble. My internal monologue generally looked something like this:
Yeah, I mean, you're okay at X, Y, and Z, but let's not linger too long on those, lest we forget how abysmal you are at A-W, y'know?
Since messages like this were coming from the outside, too, they became deeply internalized. Every time I accomplished something, I made sure to carefully temper the recognition by acknowledging what I still lacked. This is where the seeds of self-deprecation were sown, as well. I liked to make people laugh and feel comfortable, so making fun of my failures was a natural progression.
Looking back, I can see numerous instances of actively shrinking myself in order to ensure the comfort of others. I wanted so badly to be relatable—a fair bit of this had to do with being the only Black kid in class for most of my life—and approachable and loved.
Don't fly too high, Dara! You want the kids to like you, right? Show them you're just like them, that you're not so different, despite what they've seen on TV and in the movies. Honestly, you're not that remarkable, anyway, and you know you're not strong enough to stand up to the scrutiny! The higher you go, the more risk of public failure. No, better to stay right where family and friends are; they know what's best for you.
Now, a portion of this thought process is true. I am a sensitive introvert who cares what (some) people think and also eschews the spotlight. I believe those are characteristics I was born with. However, being raised in a verbally abusive home had a tremendous effect on my confidence and ability to take risks. Much of my energy was spent attempting to avoid confrontation, but the frighteningly-adept assaults still came, impossible to anticipate (believe me, I tried) and always finding their marks: my heart, mind, and spirit. The onslaughts were so effective they became easier to accept than praise because they conveyed more sincerity. All these years later, I barely remember the compliments; the insults are what I carry every day.
Still, I've come to realize the girl I was may have been powerless, but the woman I am today is not. Thus, it is up to me to remove these damaging thoughts from my psyche and regain control of my mind. The broken record of lies has been replaced with this truth: Using God-given strengths like perseverance, creativity, and intelligence, I can and will make the life I envision a reality. The disparaging words I heard growing up no longer matter; they were nothing more than an attempt to mask the failure of others. Now that I know who I really am—and who they are—I am free to write my own narrative and step into the fullness of my gifts.
What are your strengths? Have you ever been afraid to explore the full extent of your abilities? If so, why? Let's combat the fear, anxiety, and general negativity together! Tell me three (or more!) skills you possess and why. I want to encourage and celebrate YOU because YOU matter.