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Flawed Yet Fearless: 4 Steps To Embrace Your Strengths

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Caroline McGraw of A Wish Come Clear.

What happens when you want to live your dream, but you can’t see past your own personal roadblocks to make it a reality? When I get to this place in my writing and my life, I remember what I learned from my friend Leo*, a man with intellectual disabilities who lives at L’Arche Washington DC. (L’Arche is a faith community where people with and without intellectual disabilities create homes together.)

Once, when he was asked, “Leo, what does it mean to be human?” he furrowed his brow and replied, “To be humble.” When asked, “What does it look like, being humble?” he said, “Well. I don’t know. But I think it helps…to not be afraid of your faults.”

Leo taught me this: You don’t need to fear your faults anymore. The fear of your own frailty doesn’t serve you. If you let go of being afraid, you will have a strange and beautiful energy left over. With this new-found energy, you are able to see the flip side of your faults: your strengths. Recognizing and embracing your strengths is the first step to begin building the life you desire.

To embrace your strengths:

1. Select a particular habit that you’ve always viewed as detrimental to your success. Do you procrastinate on big projects or arrive late to work meetings or read other people’s blog posts when you should be writing your own? (I confess to that last one!) Once you’ve chosen a habit…

2. Look past your initial judgment, and listen for the messages your habit has for you. If you are only late to work-related meetings, your tardiness is telling you something! See your lack of punctuality as a cue rather than a curse, and you may change the trajectory of your career and your life.

However, if your habit is beneficial on one level but distracting on another, it will help to…

3. Set a boundary and stick to it. Forbidding a behavior only increases its allure. Plan to indulge in a beneficial but distracting habit as a reward, at a particular time. You may set a timer for an hour on Twitter, or decide that you’re going to have dessert every other night instead of every night. I give myself permission to read online for about an hour each day, but only after I’ve done some writing of my own.

Yes, you’ll have to train yourself to do this. As you retrain your brain, remember to…

4. Strategize, linking weaknesses with strengths. When you feel a habit becoming a roadblock, use a strength to steer around it. Freely acknowledge both, and use them to your benefit. If you have trouble getting started on big projects (weakness), but you respond well to direction (strength), can you ask a friend or colleague to prompt you to start?

If I have difficulty not reading online when I need to be writing (weakness), but I get inspired by new vistas (strength), I can get up and move to a location that has a great view and no internet access. (Hello, roof deck with a view of the National Cathedral!) It’s all about setting yourself up for success.

If you let go of being afraid of your faults, what strange and beautiful things could you create?

For me, not fearing my faults meant writing a book and starting A Wish Come Clear. I tend to be reticent about sharing my work, and I struggled against that timidity for a long time to no avail. Yet thanks to Leo’s words, I’ve learned to look at it differently. There’s a threefold strength behind my shyness. First, my timidity arises in part because the written word is powerful. I’ve seen how (in the words of Marisa de los Santos) writing “from the bones out” can transform both reader and writer. The prospect of change and connection can be intimidating, and I face that prospect each time I write. Next, the hesitancy I feel motivates me to make my writing excellent before I share it. The ‘weakness’ actually contributes positively to the quality of the work. Lastly, I’m scared to share my work because it is a part of who I am. Sharing it renders me vulnerable…and yet, paradoxically, this same vulnerability also gives me strength.

As a human being, you are an admixture of limits and potentials, missed chances and seized opportunities. So many small choices have led you to where you are today. Likewise, choosing to see strengths within weaknesses is a small shift in perspective. But a single feather can tip a scale. A single breath of air can ignite a flame, or dash it out. And a small shift can make all the difference.

*Names have been changed.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Summer Jess April 7, 2011, 5:22 am

    Printing and putting it on my desk! I love this, Tammy

    • Caroline April 7, 2011, 12:41 pm

      So glad you liked the post, Jess!

  • Kristin Noelle April 7, 2011, 5:43 am

    This is such a wonderful, positive approach to addressing blocks! Thank you so much!

    • Caroline April 7, 2011, 12:45 pm

      You’re most welcome, Kristin Noelle! RowdyKittens has been an invaluable resource and encouragement when I’ve felt self-critical in the past, so it felt fitting to write on that topic for Tammy! 🙂

  • Justin Guzman April 7, 2011, 8:12 am

    How funny is it that im trolling blog posts instead of writing my own. After reading the first point of your article I started laughing. You caught me doing exactly what I didnt need to be doing right now. I think this was a fantastic post and splashed water on me a bit. I must get off the blogs and go accomplish something see you later.
    thank you,

    • Caroline April 7, 2011, 12:46 pm

      What good timing…! Thanks Justin, and Happy writing 🙂

  • Joshua | The Minimalists April 7, 2011, 9:41 am


    #4 is something that a lot of writers struggle with online. I don’t have internet at home for this reason. At home, I read novels and write (but no internet). Good to see you posting here. See you around.

    Joshua Millburn

    • Caroline April 7, 2011, 12:47 pm

      Thanks Josh ~ good to know I’m not alone 🙂

  • marianney | A Life Set Free April 7, 2011, 10:04 am

    Like Justin, I too am trolling blogs instead of working on my own projects. But I’m so glad I read this, Caroline! I love that you suggest we not fear our weaknesses, but recognize them for what they are, and look for creative solutions to get around them. This is a brilliant perspective, thank you for another wonderfully written post!

    • Caroline April 7, 2011, 12:48 pm

      Marianney, I appreciate that! May the post help your projects to progress 🙂

  • Mallory April 7, 2011, 12:14 pm

    Love the idea of linking weaknesses with strengths. Thanks for sharing some great strategies. If it weren’t so cold, I’d be heading to a patio right now:)

    • Caroline April 7, 2011, 2:18 pm

      Me too, Mallory ~ stay warm! 🙂

  • Sonia Barton April 7, 2011, 5:16 pm

    Wonderful post! My brain definitely needs some training. Going to print this out for further note taking and analyzes.

    • Caroline April 8, 2011, 12:55 pm

      Thank you Sonia! So glad the post is helpful to you.

  • Layla April 8, 2011, 3:53 am

    I like the idea of setting boundaries but not cutting things out completely. I’ve been doing a (surprisingly) good job in studying for exams, but I think if I studied all the time I would feel deprived then one day decide to go read some blogs and spend the entire evening doing it.

    • Caroline April 8, 2011, 12:56 pm

      Great point, Layla! So true that “Forbidding a behavior only increases its allure.” 🙂

  • Holli April 8, 2011, 10:00 am

    This post is like a piece of a puzzle for my life right now. I am just starting to blog and find my voice – I have just narrowed in on what I am passionate about and I feel fear of vulnerability that sharing this passion will make people dislike me for being different than they are (particularly people in my family who read it).
    But, it is by allowing myself to be authentic, that I am finding myself feel more alive and full of joy.
    Thank you for being a part of my process and providing valuable suggestions.

    • Caroline April 8, 2011, 12:59 pm

      Holli, thank you for sharing this ~ honored to be part of your creative process! I stopped over to your site & loved your “unconventional answer” to Chris’s question. All the best with your writing 🙂

  • Lisa April 8, 2011, 11:03 am

    Thanks Caroline for sharing this! I have been hesitant in writing also, but never understood why. Your post pointed out to me that I’m running away from feeling vulnerable by sharing that inner part of myself that’s my writing. Wow – thanks!

    • Caroline April 8, 2011, 1:00 pm

      You’re most welcome, Lisa ~ it’s ironic how we tend to be afraid of the very thing that gives our writing its strength. Best wishes with your work!

  • Jennifer K April 8, 2011, 11:35 am

    Great advice.

    I was personally interested in this: “listen for the messages your habit has for you.” Mine is definitely procrastinating, especially on large projects. I’ve been working on figuring out why, and how to avoid the problem in the future. It has been interesting to discover some truths from that self-examination.

    • Caroline April 8, 2011, 1:01 pm

      Thanks Jennifer! (I was inspired by a friend who went in-depth to figure out some issues behind her chronic lack of punctuality.)

  • Tess The Bold Life April 9, 2011, 4:16 am

    I will listen to the messages put them in my journal, reflect, let go and move on. Love your about page and photo…did I mention the way you write?

  • Caroline April 9, 2011, 8:29 am

    Thank you Tess! I’m honored 🙂

  • Melody Jones April 10, 2011, 6:19 pm

    You must have had me in mind when you wrote this! I find I am often paralyzed by what I view as my weaknesses. Thank you for helping me see them differently.

  • Caroline April 11, 2011, 4:26 am

    Thank you Melody ~ so happy to hear that the re-framing is helpful for you in your life!

  • Ashley April 11, 2011, 7:49 pm

    This seems to be a recurring theme in my life lately – letting go of fears. It was an excellent reminder to read about it as related to my professional faults. Thank you Caroline!

  • Caroline April 12, 2011, 8:24 am

    You’re very welcome, Ashley.
    Gotta love those recurring themes… 😉

  • Sigal Friedlich-Zakai April 13, 2011, 3:07 am

    Thanks for such a positive and enlightening post!

  • Caroline April 13, 2011, 7:02 am

    You’re most welcome, Sigal. Thank you for reading!

  • Victoria April 13, 2011, 11:01 am

    Wow. This post was listed on an Etsy admin’s recommended reading list and boy, am I glad I clicked that link. Thank you for sharing Leo’s powerful words in such an authentic way – that’s talent.

  • Caroline April 13, 2011, 12:52 pm

    🙂 So glad you liked it, Victoria! Thanks for the feedback, the recommendation-by-proxy, and the affirmation!

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