“I hear you’re doing great! But they said you don’t talk much.”
This is what the secretary in the main office told me at the end of my third day of subbing. I just began working part time for my local school district as a substitute secretary, and I was a few days into my assignment subbing for the secretary in a high school guidance office.
The “they” she was referring to were the high school’s guidance counselors I was assisting in the guidance office.
My heart sank when I heard this statement. Here I was doing the best I could, and even gaining a bit of confidence as I began figuring my way around, yet there it was again. The one ‘issue’ I have that never seems to go away.
“You don’t talk much.”
All my life, I have been an introvert. I was a shy child whose shyness morphed into social anxiety as a teenager. Speaking up and being noticed were excruciating for me. People would point out when my face turned red with anxiety, or made comments about how I never talked.
Somewhere along the line, I absorbed the message that being an introvert was bad, and there was something wrong with me.
Flash forward to college. Through the help of mentors and professors, I learned that being introverted wasn’t a fatal flaw. I could learn to control my anxiety, overcome my fears, and develop the skill of socializing.
By pushing myself to harness my introvertedness in college, I graduated summa cum laude with departmental honors, with a great group of close friends, and with the most confidence I’d ever had. People back home noticed a difference in me, and I could see a big difference in myself, too.
Having been on such a long and hard journey to overcome my social anxiousness, it hit me hard when I heard the recent comment that I wasn’t talking much at my job. I was instantly filled with immense frustration at myself. Why won’t I ever get over this??
The comment stirred up again the belief that something is wrong with me because I’m introverted.
Can you relate to this? Maybe there’s an area of yourself that seems impossible to change, or a part of your personality that won’t budge no matter how hard you fight it. And somewhere along the line, maybe you heard the message too that something is wrong with you.
Even though it felt awful to have my shyness pointed out again, I decided to use it as an opportunity to find the good in this innate weakness of mine.
Being an introvert, I’m a naturally independent person so I do really well completing tasks on my own without much supervision. I’m not obsessed with the sound of my own voice, so when I do choose to speak up in a group, I usually share well thought out, relevant comments that contribute to the conversation. I love to listen to others, which by definition means someone else is doing the talking. Many people have told me I’m phenomenal at listening, and I value making others feel heard by letting them share. And because I spend more time listening than I do trying to get a word in, I observe things a lot of other people might overlook.
Breaking all of this down into list form, here’s what I ended up with.
- Great listener
From this one frustrating weakness, I was able to pull out five really great strengths. There are more I could’ve added to the list, but hopefully you see the idea.
The idea is this: For every great weakness you possess, there is at least one great strength you equally possess.
Because the difference between a weakness and a strength is the ability to see its positive qualities.
So I want to challenge you. How can you turn your biggest weaknesses into strengths? Start by identifying the one or two areas of yourself that cause you the most frustration, then ask, How can this part of me be a good thing? In what ways does this area help me serve others? What other skills has this part of me helped to make stronger?
Maybe you’re on the flip side of me and have been told you talk too much—but you have a knack for making others feel comfortable in new situations. Maybe you struggle to remember details—but you can see the big picture in ways others can’t. Maybe staying motivated in school is really hard for you—but you have an unmatched passion for music, art, or some other area of interest.
There are always parts of ourselves to work on and make better. We’ll never fully arrive this side of heaven, but we can at least commit to improving and reframing those parts of us we can’t completely change.
I’d love to hear—what weaknesses do you struggle with and what strengths have you found in them?