Turn Your Weaknesses into Strengths
- Whitney Hopler Live It Editor
- 2004 1 Sep
Have you ever caught yourself making the same mistakes over and over? It’s frustrating to be plagued by weaknesses, but they don’t have to be your undoing. Inside every weakness lies the potential for growth. By recognizing and confronting your weaknesses, you can actually use them to build strengths.
Here are some ways you can turn your weaknesses into strengths:
Tackle different kinds of fear
Fears of rejection or abandonment: Try to determine the source of your fear and when it began. Consider whether or not the fear makes sense in the situation you’re facing. If it isn’t, redirect your thoughts to something else so you can spend your energy in healthy ways.
Fear of intimacy: Admit that you actually do desire intimacy. Make a list of the problems that avoiding intimacy is causing in your life. Compare the pain of losing relationships with the joy of accepting lasting relationships. Resist the urge to run when it arises, and redirect your energy into building relationships.
Fear of loss: Determine what you’re afraid of losing. Consider whether or not that fear is warranted, given your current circumstances. If it isn’t warranted, redirect your thoughts toward more productive things.
Fears of potential harm: Express your internal fears by talking about them with others. Take the emotional energy you had been using to try to protect yourself, and invest it into developing relationships with caring people.
Fears of failure or success: Decide to trust in God’s infinite wisdom for your future. Answer your “What if …?” questions and plan for how you can handle various scenarios if they do arise. Know that if you anticipate what may happen, plan for it, and trust God to lead you, your fears will evaporate.
Tackle different kinds of anxiety
Performance orientation: When feel the urge to do something, stop for a few moments and do nothing so your anxiety can pass. Then consider whether or not you truly need to proceed with whatever you were going to do. Identify what motivates you to undertake a task, and ask yourself if that motivator makes sense in your current situation.
Conflict avoidance: Discern why you avoid conflict. Make a list of the pros and cons of using conflict avoidance as a tool for dealing with issues so you can understand the impact of your behavior. Decide to approach issues more productively by working them out through conflict to resolutions.
Perfectionism: Realize that no person or thing in this fallen world can be perfect. Stop demanding the impossible from yourself. Rather than looking at life in terms of black and white, learn to live within continuums. Rather than procrastinating because you’re afraid of tackling a project, make decisions and act on them as quickly as possible.
Crisis orientation: Take all the skills that serve you well while handling crises – like leadership and creativity – and use them as often as you can in non-crisis situations. Relax more to moderate your levels of emotional intensity.
Emotional expression: Discover the origins of your fear of expressing emotions, and decide whether or not that fear makes sense now. Develop a vocabulary of emotion by listing all the feeling words you can and beginning to use those words accurately as you communicate with others. Practice asking people how they feel as you interact with them.
Tackle different kinds of insecurity
Needing to be right: Ask yourself why you need to be right, whether or not that’s a valid reason. Place a higher value on seeking the truth than on needing to be right. Ask God to give you patience and help you learn to listen to others and respect their views.
An insatiable need for approval: Challenge whether your need for approval is a need, or merely a desire. Focus on wanting approval rather than needing it. Understand that you can’t please everyone. Strive to please God instead of other people. Give approval to others, knowing that you will be encouraged and not diminished in the process.
Being controlling: Determine what you’re getting from your attempts to control: Do you feel more secure, or powerful? Look to God to provide your security and give you the power you need to live. Test your motives before you act so you can honestly say you’re not manipulating people. Give to others when you truly want to bless them, without thinking of what you can get in return.
Self-doubt: Answer you internal questions by reminding yourself that it’s normal to have weaknesses and that God loves you and will help you. Have the courage to take risks, relying on God’s unlimited power rather than your own limited resources.
Not taking responsibility: Consider the reasons behind your tendency to avoid responsibility. Look at the long-term results of avoiding responsibility to understand how your behavior will negatively affect your life. Review and reaffirm your values, making a point of not compromising your character. Realize that no one else is responsible for your success. Decide that you will act when God leads you.
Tackle different kinds of anger
Extreme responses to something unfair: Separate yourself from the issue so you can be objective about it. Remember that your identity should be based on who you are instead of what you’re fighting against. Identify the real issue that’s making you angry – the issue underlying the one that has triggered your anger – and resolve it.
Quickness to anger: Determine the reason for your anger and consider what resulted from your expression of it. If you discover that you were hoping to achieve something good through your anger, figure out a more effective way to achieve that good goal.
Extreme or unnegotiated expectations: Acknowledge that your standards are unrealistic for other people to meet. Be willing to negotiate with others to find mutually agreeable solutions.
Excessive need to be seen accurately: Resist the urge to defend yourself. Instead, let your behavior speak for you by living with integrity.
Self-loathing: Recognize the way you use your self-loathing as a tool to keep yourself on track. Decide to motivate yourself in healthier, more effective ways. Look beyond yourself to other people and focus on them instead of yourself. Know that by building close relationships, you’ll begin to feel better about yourself.
Tackle different kinds of pride
Mistaken self-perception: Determine why you perceive yourself in the way you do. Realize that you shouldn’t be defined by what other people think of you. Ask God to show you the way He sees you, and begin thinking of yourself that way.
Excessive self-reliance: Recognize the value of other people’s efforts. Appreciate people more than the tasks they perform. Share your responsibility and recognition with others.
Being over-responsible: Acknowledge the negative effects of too much stress on your health. Consider how your over-performing might be making others under-perform. Decide to invest your time and energy only in those efforts that God clearly calls you to undertake.
Disregard of others: Realize that you can learn a lot from other people, and make the time to genuinely listen to them. Appreciate people for who they are instead of what they can do for you.
Demanding agreement: Listen to yourself as you speak to hear whether or not you’re being too forceful. Listen to other people’s points of view, and respect their rights to disagree with you. Once you’ve made your point, resist repeating it again.
Tackle extremes and excesses of thought and behavior
Extreme thinking: Recognize that terms such as “all, every, none, never, hopeless, helpless, awful, and terrible” are extreme ways of labeling something. Think of what you want to say in terms of a continuum, and conform your thoughts and words to reality before you speak.
Extreme behaviors: Decide to stop wasting energy on behavior that doesn’t accomplish good things, and redirect it toward good goals. Determine who you want to be and let that determination drive how you behave. Ask someone close to you to help hold you accountable as you move toward change.
Emotional reactivity: Question every emotional reaction, asking yourself whether or not your current circumstances warrant it. Separate the past from the present. Seek the objective truth about issues.
Lack of integration: Identify and name your feelings. Seek to understand the thoughts behind your feelings. Listen to others carefully in a genuine attempt to understand them.
Isolation and dependency: Take responsibility for yourself and your development. Change your relationship styles with God’s help.
Tackle extremes and excesses of emotion
Being defined by others: Understand that you alone are responsible for the kind of person you become. Be willing to take risks and make mistakes in order to grow.
Moodiness: Recognize and accept that uncertainty is a natural part of life. Seek answers to all your questions. Don’t base your sense of well-being on any accomplishment or relationship with another person; base it on the only true source of security – God.
Depression: Don’t let the past unduly influence you; conform your life to current truth. Recognize your power in Christ to heal and overcome difficult circumstances.
Personalizing: Discover the underlying reasons for your tendency to personalize things that aren’t meant in that way. Train yourself to live in the current reality, and challenge your negative self-perceptions by reminding yourself of how God sees you.
Condemning conscience: Rather than assuming the worst, wait for clarification so you can truly understand a particular situation. If you feel guilty, ask yourself what it is you think you’re guilty of and why. Challenge and resist the guilt when it’s not based on anything you’ve done wrong.
Discomfort with compliments: Determine why you’re uncomfortable accepting compliments. Recognize that you’re worthy of recognition and encouragement.
Misunderstanding personal differences: Let go of your need to know it all and accept the fact that’s its okay to admit you don’t know something. Accept yourself as you are.
Distorted perceptions: Determine the purpose your perceptions serve in your life so you can see whether they accomplish good or ill. Challenge the truthfulness of your perceptions in different situations. Make a list of questions that will reveal the truth about a given situation without regard to other situations.
Fear of exposure: Catch yourself editing your responses to people and ask yourself why you’re doing that. Have the courage to say what you really think, and trust that God will help you handle the repercussions.
Protective paranoia: Realize that it’s not reasonable to believe that everyone is out to get you. When a paranoid thought enters your mind, refuse to entertain it. Replace it with another, more positive, thought.
Tackle excessive self-focus
Selfishness: Force yourself to consider others. Take the time to listen to them and seek to understand them. Be more concerned about their welfare than about how they can serve you.
Insensitivity: Be alert to other people’s responses to you. Notice when they seem upset, and seek to understand why. Ask someone to hold you accountable as you try to become more sensitive to other people’s thoughts and feelings.
Avoidant compartmentalizing: Discover the underlying reasons why you compartmentalize your life. Tear down the walls between the different parts of your life, being honest about how each aspect of your life affects the others. Never do anything that you wouldn’t want others to find out about. Have someone keep you accountable.
Excessive Self-awareness: Ask God to show you the underlying issues behind your behavior so you can begin to resolve them. Turn your focus outward to other people and seek to serve them as often as you can.
Impulsivity or impatience: Take the time to carefully consider the whole truth about something before making a decision about it. Don’t act at the point of urge. Examine the reasons why you’re thinking of acting. When you do act, keep your principles intact.
Tackle repeated, replicated, and compound weaknesses
Repeating weaknesses: When you make mistakes, acknowledge them and seek to learn from them.
Faulty assumptions: Question what other people say. Demand the whole truth, and be willing to accept it.
Replicating thoughts and behaviors: Identify unhealthy thought patterns and leave them in the past. Work on resolving current issues until you achieve successful solutions.
Mutually reactive weaknesses: Admit your weaknesses and take responsibility for them. Bring the weaknesses of others who are close to you to their attention in loving ways. Work together to overcome your weaknesses by offering each other encouragement, support, and accountability.
Compound or multiple weaknesses: Seek to identify, understand, and deal with each weakness individually. Consider how each weakness is related to the others, and ask God to show you how overcoming each one will lead to greater holistic health.
Adapted from Winning Over Weaknesses: How to Turn Them Into Strengths, copyright 2003 by Jesse Dillinger. Published by Vine Books, an imprint of Servant Publications, Ann Arbor, Mich., www.servantpub.com.
Jesse Dillinger is a marriage and family therapist with a private practice in San Diego, Ca. She is a public speaker and one of the contributors to the Soul Care Bible. Known for her “bottom-line” approach to life, Jesse uses the Bible as the basis for her advice. She says, “I understand the struggles of many others because I’ve been there myself. By the grace of God, I am no longer there, and they do not have to remain there either. I thank God for my past pain as He has taken my very worst and made it good.”