Unlearning What We Know About Weakness

We live in a success-glorifying society. We also live in a world in which people now have nine-second attention spans. So what do we get? A life that demands increasingly profound achievements coupled with the need for immediate social recognition. We condition ourselves to perform at our best when we are successful, happy, and strong. So when life throws the unexpected at us, we second-guess ourselves, stumbling through negative situations and berating the choices we have made. Have you ever really considered why we are so fueled by success but shaken by setbacks? Or why it’s so difficult to go through life when we have hit a low point? One root cause of this is the underlying fear of weakness. An even bigger problem is the fact that people associate weakness with vulnerability. Breaking news, folks: they’re not the same thing.

Vulnerability ≠ Weakness

For those of us on the constant chase for perfection, it’s a call to action to recognize that there is a huge difference between being vulnerable and being weak. Rather than suppressing your vulnerability, own it. Moments of regret, anger, or confusion should not be seen as moments of weakness, but rather moments of redirection and potential for clarity. Re-think those times in your life when you felt like giving in or giving up. Sometimes it’s during those perceived “weaknesses” that we are exposing our true strength to overcome.

Forgiveness ≠ Weakness

Forgiveness should not be seen as acceptance of defeat. People think that if they give someone a second chance, or if they are the one asking for amends, that they are compromising their own beliefs. This is not the case, however, if you allow yourself to view forgiveness as a way to both take control of a situation and let go of negative feelings. “When you forgive, you in no way change the past, but you sure do change the future.” – Bernard Meltzer

Not Knowing What To Say ≠ Weakness

We’ve all been there. Whether it’s during an important meeting or an intimate conversation with a friend, we’re sometimes caught off guard or can’t verbalize our thoughts properly. Don’t beat yourself up over not having a scripted life. It doesn’t make you any less of an employee or a friend. It takes courage to acknowledge that you don’t know everything. Take the pressure off yourself of trying to always be polished and ready. Some of the most powerfully-minded people are the ones that can embrace quiet moments.

Making Mistakes ≠ Weakness

Imagine if we lived in a mistake-glorifying society. Mistakes would be recognized and worked through in a more transparent way. People would be just as candid about their failures as they are about their successes. When you mess up, when you do the wrong thing despite what your gut is telling you, when you thought you were being helpful, when you show up late or don’t show up at all, you feel like your weaknesses are on full display for the world to see. Realize that you can blame your weaknesses, saying you didn’t have the right resources. Or you can separate your vulnerability from weakness entirely and identify it with the strength to change instead. You may have done something wrong but you are ready and willing to learn from it.

Vulnerability = Strength to Change

“When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability…To be alive is to be vulnerable.”

– Madeleine L’Engle

Image: Dustin Scarpitti