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Have your strengths become a weakness?

Sometimes we are so good at doing something that it ends up working against us.

We all have strengths, and we all have our weaknesses. But how do we know when the things that we’re good at have started to hold us back?

I take the view that our strengths are those attributes we naturally gravitate towards, are good at and energise us. Weaknesses, by contrast, are traits that we find draining and difficult. While a weakness doesn’t mean we are incapable of doing something, it does mean that we are more inclined to avoid it.

Understanding our strengths and weaknesses can be helpful for understanding why we gravitate towards certain tasks and behaviours. It can also help us gain awareness about how those traits are serving us. Or not.

When a strength becomes problematic

While we tend to consider strengths as positive when dialled up too high they can actually become our downfall. They are the blind spot in our game plan. The very fact that we like doing something and find it easy means we can easily end up over using it.

Aristole recognised this and used the example of our response to fear. Those who are easily frightened and shy away from any risk might be considered cowards, while someone who faces up to their fears is brave. Yet what about those who take no heed of danger and forge forwards regardless of the risk? They aren’t courageous, they’re reckless. The difference being that they’ve taken a strength and dialled it up to the point it’s become a negative.

The same is true with all strengths. They run on a continuum from positive to negative.

Having zero sense of humour can be an issue, but so too can cracking a joke at inappropriate times. Being organised is fantastic, but what about if it drives you to inaction? We need to strike a balance in order for a strength to be truly beneficial.

How can I find out my strengths?

If you are curious about your own strengths and limitations you can complete a strengths questionnaire via Gallup or www.strengthsprofile.com. You could also reflect on those things you enjoy doing and are good at, versus those things you find challenging or exhausting. Also try asking some people close to you for feedback and see if they have the same view.

Once you have your list step back and ask how those attributes are serving you or holding you back. Are you turning your strength of planning into paralysis? Does your tendency to take personal responsibility mean you are always overloaded and resentful? Are your strengths being utilised in the best way possible or are they becoming your downfall?

Having an appreciation of how to best use your strengths is not only energising but can help you overcome your limitations.