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Finding Strengths in Weaknesses

Woman Leaping in the Air at the Beach

“Our strength grows out of our weaknesses.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

After writing my last post for Tiny Buddha, 5 Steps to Accept your Weaknesses, I had an intense few days involving an extremely spiritually and emotionally significant relationship that has recently ended, or at least ended in one form.

I found myself sobbing so uncontrollably in my kitchen that I was choking. Each day, there seemed to be another upwelling of grief. When I saw that my beloved ex-partner was potentially interested in someone else, that grief broke through with renewed intensity. These feelings are all normal and to be expected, of course.

But I noticed that when I let full vent to my emotions, without trying to be strong or stoic, I felt better. I still felt grief and sadness, but they felt right, somehow—not like suffering, not like something I had to overcome or escape.

This started me thinking about this characteristic I have of feeling emotions—and expressing them—very intensely.

In conversations with my ex, I often stressed how much love I had inside that I had wanted to give him.

Every time I expressed this, I felt a sensation like the love inside me was pressing up against my ribcage, wanting to get out, like a trapped bird. Expressing this feeling felt right, even within the pain of the breakup.

I realized that for my whole life I have felt emotions intensely, and in relationships, even the short-lived ones, I have always given of myself 100 percent. Though it always hurts to not get the same reception from someone you love, I got to thinking: This characteristic I have of giving love so totally—is this a strength or a weakness?

On one hand, it hurts, and I do tend to give myself away too quickly, without waiting to see if the other person is capable of meeting me in the same way. This can be seen as a weakness, something for me to work on tempering.

On the other hand, the fact that I have the capacity to give myself in this way, over and over, even when I’ve been hurt, can be seen as a strength. I don’t want to stop being able to do that. I like that about myself. I never want to let the pain of the past interfere with my ability to feel, fully, in the present–to give of myself and to express my inner self.

Though feelings can hurt, the ability to feel is a gift. And the ability to express feelings to others is a gift to them. To hold back emotions is to keep back a special gift from the world.

When we notice parts of ourselves that we consider weaknesses, I wonder if we can stop for a moment and look at them closely, to see if, somewhere, there are underlying strengths there as well.

If we have a tendency to get angry, for instance (as I do), doesn’t that also mean that we feel we are worthy of self-protection—that we feel things passionately?

If we sometimes overeat, can this also mean that we have an appreciation for the senses, or that we have the capacity and self-love to want to comfort ourselves when we are hurting?

Yes, we may need to work on expressing these emotions in a healthier way, but can we accept what we need to work on while also exploring the other side of the coin? Can we modify our behavior while still retaining the knowledge that, underneath the unhealthy behaviors are positive aspects that are longing to express themselves?

Can we actually use our weaknesses to discover our strengths?

I am passionate. I love fully and don’t hold back from my partners. I feel strongly and I am not afraid of expressing the truths of my soul. Though our culture may suggest  it’s better to hold back, to appear “reasonable” and calm, to me, this is one of my greatest strengths and gifts to the universe. It’s taken me a long time—forty years—to realize this.

What about you? Where are your strengths hidden within your weaknesses?

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About Melissa Kirk

Melissa Kirk is an editor, writer, and blogger living in the SF bay area and attempting to go with the flow and roll with the punches as much as possible. She writes for Psychology Today blogs here: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/test-case and has her personal blog here: http://www.joyattheheart.com/.

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  • http://www.ThePowerofReceiving.com Amanda

    A Rumi poem entitled The Guest House addresses this theme beginning with these words:

    This being human is a guest house.
    Every morning a new arrival.

    A joy, a depression, a meanness,
    some momentary awareness comes
    as an unexpected visitor.

    Welcome and entertain them all!
    Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,

  • Kimberli

    I think that your ability to give 100% at all times is a strength. I had to, unfortunately, end an 8-year relationship over 5 years ago. While I’ve dated a lot and learned a lot about myself, including falling in love briefly with a few, I often wonder if I will ever be able to give 100% of myself to someone again. I think it’s a self-protective urge now… in that relationship I compromised away too much of myself, and always put him first. I don’t want to give up that much of myself again. So, it’s s fine line, I suppose… I want to love that much again (and be loved that much in return) but without losing myself and what I want out of life. Maybe I just haven’t met the right person yet who I will be willing to give that much of myself to again. I think you are strong and very brave to give 100% of yourself over and over. I think if I found more worthy prospects I could do that more, but the people I really like don’t seem to feel the same way. The older I get, the more amazing it is to me that anyone can find THE right person for them. No one is perfect, but I’m not sure why it is s hard to find someone perfect for me. I wish you quick healing. I have been there. ;-)

  • Kimberli

    I think that your ability to give 100% at all times is a strength. I had to, unfortunately, end an 8-year relationship over 5 years ago. While I’ve dated a lot and learned a lot about myself, including falling in love briefly with a few, I often wonder if I will ever be able to give 100% of myself to someone again. I think it’s a self-protective urge now… in that relationship I compromised away too much of myself, and always put him first. I don’t want to give up that much of myself again. So, it’s s fine line, I suppose… I want to love that much again (and be loved that much in return) but without losing myself and what I want out of life. Maybe I just haven’t met the right person yet who I will be willing to give that much of myself to again. I think you are strong and very brave to give 100% of yourself over and over. I think if I found more worthy prospects I could do that more, but the people I really like don’t seem to feel the same way. The older I get, the more amazing it is to me that anyone can find THE right person for them. No one is perfect, but I’m not sure why it is s hard to find someone perfect for me. I wish you quick healing. I have been there. ;-)

  • saorren

    I totally think it’s a strength, cus I think I’m one of those who have great difficulty expressing my own feelings to the right person. Sometimes my body would convert negative feelings to physical pain so my mind could be numb enough to feel calm/stoic. It does feel like something’s gone wrong, but what can you do….

    Your ability to feel and express what you feel 100% is definitely a strength in my eyes, though it hurts… but then you get to LIVE.

  • Alas

    “When I saw that my beloved ex-partner was potentially interested in someone else, that grief broke through with renewed intensity. These feelings are all normal and to be expected, of course.”

    Normal and expected, sure. Yet they don’t make sense except from the perspective of a grasping, insecure ego. Why should it cause us grief that a beloved person, ex- or not, is happy about meeting somebody else? It seems like a perversion of the very essence of love that the happiness of someone we claim to hold dear would be a source of suffering for ourselves, don’t you think? (except perhaps in cases of clearly self-destructive or deluded “happiness”)
    Jealousy is a very natural and normal response, to be sure, but it has nothing to do with True Love.

  • http://lifesclassroom.blogspot.com TsQuest

    Wow, one of my blog readers suggested this post to me because she said it made her think of me. And again I say, “Wow.” because if I didn’t know any better, I’d swear it was ME who wrote it.

    Yes, I give fully. And yes, I beat myself up for my weaknesses. In looking at them, though, I feel like I am able to see fully the fears that lead to them. When I look at those fears, they dissolve. So, yes, in a way, perhaps I am finding my strengths by being aware of/dissolving my weaknesses.

    Thank you… for being beautiful you.

  • http://gumption.typepad.com Joe McCarthy

    For me, “strengths” and “weaknesses” are loaded terms, but I find that the most important gifts I have to offer typically arise out of my deepest wounds. As an example, I consider myself an irrepressible connector. Few things give me greater joy than introducing people to new and delightful people, places, things or ideas they didn’t know about (which is one of the reason I enjoy posting comments on blogs that include links to other potentially relevant resources). In addition to my online and offline personal connection activities, I have spent the last 14 years of my professional career designing & developing technologies that help people connect more effectively in physical spaces. However, I recently encountered – and blogged about – Dr. Brene Brown’s inspiring talk at TEDxHouston on Wholeheartedness: connection through courage, vulnerability and authenticity. Among the insights she shared:”Connection is why we’re here. It’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives. … [and yet] The one thing that keeps us out of connection is our fear that we’re not worthy of connection.”In her 6 years of research, she found that there are two types of people in the world: those who have a strong sense of worthiness and those who do not. And despite the story I make up about myself as being dedicated to connecting people, the real truth is that I’m one of those people who does not have a strong sense of worthiness of love and belonging. That is, my wound, or shadow, is that I feel disconnected (often painfully so), and I believe it is out of this shadow that my gift of helping others connect emerges. Now the trick is whether I can somehow use this insight to give myself the gift of connection.I mention this all here for two reasons. One is that I’m trying to be more courageous in being vulnerable and authentic. The other is that you already exhibit the kind of deep vulnerability and authenticity that Dr. Brown prescribes as the key to joy, creativity, belonging and love … and I thought you (and perhaps other readers) might enjoy her video – embedded in the post I reference above – if you haven’t already seen it.

  • katmeow

    It’s like you’re speaking from my soul. I love this. Thank you so much.

  • Kblake16

    I havebeen reading yo0ur posts for a few weeks now. I so look forward to them. This speaks to me directly regarding letting love open wide. I am very intense. I am often described this way. But it who I am and I have learned to be greatful for my strength. This describes finding our authenticity and losing the rest. Thanks you for all the posts.–Karen

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Hi Karen! I’m so glad you’ve been enjoying the Tiny Buddha emails. This post is actually by Melissa Kirk. The longer blog posts come from all different people, except for the one longer weekly post I write (I also write the “Tiny Wisdom” posts). I love knowing that so many of us deal with the same issues and feelings. We really are not all that different as people–and we’re all in this together! =)

  • Philippa

    I loved this posting. Thank you for revealing yourself so openly that we may learn from your words. That took true courage and your courage is appreciated

  • Kisane

    Thank you so much for sharing this personal strength with us… I am at the end of a similar situation and was wonderig that maybe I should lock some of me away for safe keeping in future, your words reminded me that I like who and it is important to remain true to me… I love your blog and read it daily!! :)

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Hi Kisane,

    I’m so glad you enjoyed this post! This one was actually by Melissa Kirk, one of the many contributors who have shared their wisdom here. (I published 2-4 guest posts per week). I also found it really powerful because I, too, could relate.

    Thanks for the kind words about Tiny Buddha. I’m so glad you like it!

    Lori

  • Guest

    I didn’t see jealousy in that bit at all. When an ex-partner moves on to someone else, it is an additional ending: the end of any remaining hope that reconcilation is possible. She used the word “grief” and meant it.

  • Anonymous

    Really liked that one. It’s true, we don’t get back what we give, but if you stop giving you just march around like Mr Bounderby from Dickens’s Hard Times – and we don’t want that!

  • Angela

    I have always felt that the intensity of my feelings were not something that I should feel ashamed of like I have been taught. I understand the power behind them can be destructive, however, and I think that is something I have to respect. However, the more love you give out, the more love you get so therefore I am not going to try and hide that love. I just have to be aware of the opposite feelings that can pop up just as intensly and be ready and able to deal with them in a positive manner.
    Great post and wonderful poem in the comment below!

  • Alicia

    Yes my hidden strengths are in my weakness

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  • Anonymous

    Strengths, weaknesses, weakened strengths, strengthened weakenesses. These words revolved inside my brain until they effectively meant the same thing. That’s because they are. Every strength can be seen as a weakness just as every weakness can be seen as a strength. It’s all in the eye of the perceiver, whether that’s yourself or someone else.
    What truly matters though is how much these strengths/weaknesses matter to you. Be grateful for them because they keep you connected to yourself and your life!

  • http://honeybtemple2.blogspot.com/ Melissa

    Hmmm…I just now read the comments to my articles, because I don’t get notified when people post comments and it rarely occurs to me to go look at them. I have to say that this comment, out of all of them, has been bugging me over the last couple of days, so I wanted to respond. I’m not sure if I should, but I feel compelled to. On one hand, you’re right, that true divine love is about wanting our beloved to be happy no matter what. And yes, I do have an ego, as we all do. But as humans and not gods, many of us – most of us, probably – continue to want things we can’t have and that may not even be good for us, and want those things to heal wounds in us that they were never meant to heal. You do it, I do it, we all do it.  It’s very normal for someone in a breakup, especially someone who doesn’t want to have broken up, to feel grief at signs that the other person is moving on. Go read any book about recovering from a breakup. It’s not so much about jealousy as about mourning the loss of something that one hoped would remain whole. When someone new is on the scene, that indicates that the relationship – the thing we want – is even further beyond our reach than it was before. There’s a new sense of loss. This may not be True Love with capital letters, but it is Human Love.

    I’m wondering why you felt it necessary to tell me how messed up I am, and in public, no less. It seems especially inappropriate after an article about acceptance, in which I was extremely honest about an experience that, as you noted, did not exactly show me in a noble light. I wonder if the scenario I describe actually triggered something in you that made it necessary for you to make me the bad guy. Just something to think about.

    Thanks for your comment!

  • http://honeybtemple2.blogspot.com/ Melissa

    Thank you for your support! :)

  • Trigresun28

    Hmm, you’re right. But don’t forget to learn from your mistakes.! cause, you can never feel the same emotions as intensely as your first lover.

    that means, you’re numbing your heart anyway in some way! It’s not 100% pure anymore. you can try to forget your past, but that’s only lying to yourself. your soul is overcovering darknesses constantly, until you become so diseased. there will be no way out. you will be like a living zombie, running after those feelings a slave to your desires. so what I recommend to you, if you do commit sins, ask for repentance, and try to figure out a way that will not interfere with your purity!keep yourself pure and clean, don’t take things easy in life! everything is a serious matter.

    Islam is my religion.(it’s all about rights)

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  • Amanda

    Thank you for sharing! I am very similar to you in that I love hard and I will not hold back in my relationships for the sake of keeping things even keeled. I often come off as being too blunt in my directness, especially when others are sensitive, they end up taking things personally. Ironically, I’m an extremely sensitive and emotional person myself – my strength is also my weakness. I’ve come to the conclusion that I love that I can express my feelings and emotions and that I would not trade this in for being numb, always calm, or emotionless. Everyday, I’m living to the fullest. I’m aware of my shortcomings, I’m just waiting for someone to come along who will accept me for me and all my faults and I can do the same for them.

  • Bluefire8872001

    This reminds me of myself, I …am a passionate person, I learn quickly and feel very strongly about things. Right and wrong matter to me, I have an intense urge to define, explore and identify truth. I am a philosopher by trade, and much of the time some of my fellows do not seem to ‘like’ how I go about philosophy. I do not just look at it logically because that is not the whole story, as human beings our emotions influence and totally color our logic, they are the foundation of our soul, to ignore those interconnections is to miss truth completely.

  • sofiqul hasan

    I think its really one of the nice blog that has allowed us to take so many different types of good recipes here.Thanks a lot for sharing it here.quotes about happiness

  • Michelle

    I am so happy I ran across this I often feel the same way I decided I would enter each relationship as my whole self just a little smarter but always true. And I often find myself believing in others who don’t even believe in themselves I started to realize I am blessed to be able to love someone wholeheartedly I get hurt often but I dream big with everyone involved . I am passionate in all I do I’m just like you it’s always good to be reminded by a like minded individual. Im 21 and your lesson helps me now Thanks :)