“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?
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 and also has a personal blog.