A neighbor may do some lawn trimming for you, and in his mind he is generously helping you out–he has the trimmer out, he is not in a hurry, and he knows you are busy. You look out and see him trimming your lawn and angrily think, Seriously?!? He can’t wait another day for me to get a chance to do it? He has to do it himself? Another person may look out and think, Oh my goodness, what a wonderful neighbor! I don’t know when I would be able to get to the trimming. Everything we have experienced colors our world differently. Not only do we see things differently, we feel things differently. Something that feels like a kind gesture to me may feel like a personal attack to someone else. It all depends on our past experiences and our values. It also depends on something else. Our weak spots.
Our weak spots are things that may or may not be true but that we fear about ourselves. When someone pokes a weak spot, it hurts—really badly. The person who became defensive about his neighbor trimming his lawn may be concerned with others thinking of him as lazy or disorganized. The dad who yells at the grocery store clerk for being out of formula may fear that he isn’t a good provider for his family.
Like everyone, I have a few weak spots. One is about my skills, or lack thereof, as a wife and mother. I am so not domestic. I can clean and organize, and I am an okay decorator, but that is the extent of my housewife-y skills. Now, to my credit, I have never actually been a housewife. I have always been a working mom. And, I can tell myself that until the cows come home, but in my heart I will always feel like a bit of a failure because I don’t bake, or cook delicious dinners, or clip coupons, or sew.
If someone’s comments hit that particular weak spot of mine, if I don’t pause to think first, I may react irrationally. A colleague might, for instance, start talking about her favorite dinner recipes and the rave reviews she gets from her family when she makes them. My gut reaction is to withdraw. Twinges of jealous and inadequacy arise in my heart. And even if her comments had nothing at all to do with me, I may perceive them as criticism. It’s irrational, I know. But that’s what our weak spots can do.
Have you ever been around someone who suddenly becomes defensive about a topic that had nothing to do with him or her? Well, unbeknownst to you, you were likely talking about something that hit a weak spot.
When we become aware of our own weak spots as well as those of the people we love, we become better equipped to maintain strong, positive relationships. Understanding that we all have weak spots helps us respond kindly to what we perceive as irrational behavior or reactions from others. And becoming self-aware means we don’t have to give in to our weak spots. That insight empowers us to do something about them.
Sometimes our weak spots are figments of our imaginations, and sometimes they are actual weaknesses, so first we need to do some reflection. When I sit down and think about my lack of domestic skills, if I list all the things I do for my family, it helps me put my feelings of inadequacy into perspective. I do a lot—both at home and at work. The fears I have about not being a domestic goddess are, at least in some areas, unfounded. But that reflection also helps me see areas where I can take steps to improve my skills, like trying a new recipe for dinner for my family once a week (well…maybe once a month). Simple, intentional actions make me feel better about myself and act as a balm on that weak spot.
So, what are your weak spots?
The greatest challenge in life is discovering who you are. The second greatest challenge is being happy with what you find. -Unknown
(This post comes from my book Through the Lens of Serendipity: Helping Others Discover the Best in Themselves (Even If Life Has Shown Them its Worst). You can check out the book using this link.)