A few years ago, I heard a new definition of strength: that a strength is an activity that strengthens you and a weakness is an activity that weakens you. I like this definition better than what I had previously thought, which is that strengths are the things you’re good at. It is entirely possible to be proficient at something, but for that thing to bring no joy, to feel like drudgery, to be painful, or to be challenging in tedious rather than interesting ways.
Marcus Buckingham, who I’m sure I heard on a podcast somewhere because that’s where I get all of my interesting non-fiction tidbits, explains strengths like this:
A strength is an activity that strengthens you. It draws you in, it makes time fly by while you’re doing it, and it makes you feel strong.Marcus Buckingham
Under this definition, I have lots of strengths. Gardening makes me feel strong in my body and my mind and my spirit. Learning makes me feel strong. Laughing, appreciating beauty and excellence, planning my flower beds, photography, helping friends and coworkers through sticky situations, being reliable, delivering on what I say I’ll do, sharing a different perspective, communicating clearly and effectively: all of these things make me feel strong.
It’s funny. One of the things I want to develop at work this year is my ability to communicate through visuals. I think of this as being a weakness, that I don’t use visuals enough, that I’m not good at them, that creating them doesn’t come naturally to me, and that it takes a lot of effort for me to make them because basically they’re the ultimate in editing: they require that you distill into a single image what would take hundreds of words to describe.
But what were the last two things I got completely absorbed by? That drew me in, made time fly, and made me want to stop everything else so I could keep working on them? Creating visuals. I’m antsy to finish this post so I can get back to plotting my flower beds on graph paper. And last week at work, I made a flow chart that I’d been avoiding for months because it was intimidating and complex and I had charter’s block, but once I drew a shitty rough draft on paper, just to get me started, the floodgates opened and I didn’t want to stop. I’m proud of the flow chart I ultimately made, though I’m sure it still needs work. But the surprise is that this thing I consider a weakness? It didn’t make me feel weak to make it. It made me feel strong.
So I guess the moral of the story is be aware of the stories you tell yourself about your strengths and weaknesses. A thing you avoid because you think it’s a weakness may turn out to be a strength.
This is my entry for Bloganuary day 25: Write about something that makes you feel strong.