When you think of weakness what comes to mind? Is it the image of someone who is unable to move forward physically or mentally? Or perhaps someone who is just not as strong as you are at a particular task or activity? Too often weakness is treated as a bad word. No one strives to be weak and few want to accept when they are weak. Nonetheless, weakness is a fact of life. It’s natural. The more we choose to accept weakness, the more we can actually understand strength too.
For the longest time, I have struggled with the concept of weakness. I struggle to admit when I am feeling down and not as strong as I normally am. Most of the time, people refer to me as a strong friend or their “rock.” It can be a lot of pressure at times, but I feel like I handle the pressure well and focus on listening and picking others up around me. Nonetheless, I can’t always be their rock.
There are natural ebbs and flows in life that we need to accept. One cannot always be strong and I’m learning that is okay. It’s okay to take a mental health day. It’s okay to cry or punch a pillow when you’ve lost someone you love. Emotions – all emotions – are real and okay. Have you noticed people that are constantly putting on the strong game-face? Well, they experience all emotions too.
Not to be confused
In my blog post, Harder Than Hostility, I mentioned a time when someone called me weak. He said that he “thought I was strong, but I wasn’t.” While I know he was looking for a fight, as he sometimes does, I also realized that he was confusing weakness with another emotion. At the time, it was actually confidence. My emotions that day were far from weakness. In fact, it took strength not to take the bait to fight. The time I had spent on self-awareness was actually just starting to pay off.
He said that he “thought I was strong, but I wasn’t.”
Too often we call someone weak or we consider ourselves to be weak when we are experiencing different emotions. Do you disagree? Take a minute and scroll through the thesaurus on weak. Move past the synonyms and antonyms and start looking at the more related words: ailing, apprehensive, exhausted, flat, foolish, mortal, tender, and many more.
The next time the word “weak” is about to come out of your mouth, take a minute and pause. Is this person (or am I) truly weak or are they going through something? Step two of your pause would be to assess if calling them weak is actually beneficial – will it bring them down further or encourage them to try harder? We really do need to think before we speak.
Weakness: Acceptance or improvement
Once we have taken that time for self-awareness and naming the emotion properly, we have two choices: acceptance or improvement. I say acceptance because we have to also be aware that we can’t be “strong” in everything. I, for one, understand that I will never be an Olympic diver or a pickleball champion. These are skills I do not have nor do I have the interest to work on them.
The gem of weakness is in the improvement. In the hours of practice and commitment to better a skill, a project or ourselves. It’s in finding the right coach (whether that be internal or external) and understanding that all improvements take time. We didn’t run before we walked – and that’s a good thing! One step at a time. Before you know it your weakness could become your strength.
In the end, do not let anyone bring you down. Be proud of whoever you are. Embrace your strengths and be self-aware of your weaknesses. Choose between the things that mean something to you (improvements) and the things you just don’t really care that much about (acceptance). Remember that when you truly commit to something, of course, you can improve, but a monkey will never swim like a fish, and a fish will never climb a tree like a monkey. Own yourself exactly the way you are.