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How to Keep Your Strengths from Becoming Weaknesses
“Our strength grows out of our weaknesses.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
In my youth, I strived to be “nice.” I tolerated a lot from others. I forgave easily and learned to “turn the other cheek.”
I made myself constantly available to other people and asked nothing in return. I remained loyal even if people mistreated me. I helped friends even when my need for help was greater. When friends started calling me their “angel,” I was proud at first.
But soon I became resentful of what that implied.
If my purpose was solely to help them, then who would help me?
I felt more like a doormat than an angel.
In my twenties, the proverbial pendulum swung the other way. I became protective of my emotional resources and was rather “prickly” at times.
The self-absorption that is typical of adolescence hit me a little later, as a reaction to feeling taken advantage of in previous years. I no longer wanted to be a helper because I no longer wanted to feel used.
This former strength of mine—helping—now felt like a weakness.
So for a time, I gave up something I truly valued, because I didn’t know how to use that strength without hurting myself.
But after a while, I began to feel a disconnect. It was still important to me to help people— friends, family, and strangers alike. But how could I do it in a way that wouldn’t lead to my downfall?
When a character strength becomes a weakness, how do we maintain what is important to us without harmful side effects?
If we really examine what’s meaningful to us, we often find there are values underlying our character traits that can guide us.
On the stage of life, values are the play directors and character traits are the performers. You don’t use the same performer for every role, so the director has to use the best performer for each role to drive the point home.