I’ve got quite a few pitfalls. How about you?
Some days, it comes naturally that I can reflect on myself positively and see what I bring to the world; I can feel good about who I am and connected to my ‘why’. And some days, it’s almost as if the only thing I see when I look in the mirror are my development points and places in my life where I am not doing well, at least as not as well as I’d like to. #helloinnercritic
To preface, let us recap on one of my favourite sayings from psychologist Dr Rick Hanson:
“The brain is like Velcro for negative experiences, but Teflon for positive ones.”
The same can be applied for just about anything, including identifying our strengths. Most of us can bring out a list as long as our arm saying what we’re not good at. But what about when it comes to saying what we are good at? That can be exponentially more difficult. We can fight this dynamic, seek to re-train our brain to look for the good. Sure, there is a lot of research behind that. But for now, let’s work with this pattern, go with the flow and see if we can perform some modern day alchemy to use those pitfalls as a portal to reveal our strengths.
I want to reference a model from Daniel Ofman (thank you to one of my readers and fellow coach for introducing me to this model last week - you know who you are!).
Ofman suggests that for every strength that is used to excess, we create a pitfall. When we intentionally work on the pitfall, we actually further develop and refine the strength. A caution - if we take that learning process too far, we can frustrate ourselves and end up worse-off, even resenting our strength. You might summarise the concept as strength-pitfall-learning-allergy.
Alright, I know that doesn’t make a lot of sense without you having read up on Ofman’s model, so let me use myself as an example.
I am someone with fairly high empathy, which some might say is a “strength”. When I am too much into feeling what other people need and want, and busy myself fulfilling those needs and wants and getting into the business of another person without being invited, a couple of things can happen:
1) I get resentful because I neglect my own needs and wants.
2) Other people feel emotionally / energetically invaded or unheard because I put too much weight in my own perception of someone else’s experience, and they close-off to me as a result.
So there we have the strength and the pitfall. Next step - what can I do to learn or develop in this area? Perhaps I can practice asking for permission and only access my gifts when invited, and I can learn to consider my own needs in the context of the needs of others. When this goes too far, and I am too careful or become driven foremost by my own needs, the allergy develops… I might shut off my intuition, miss important opportunities to check in on others or I might even risk becoming too self-focused, completely neglecting the needs of others in some instances. I think I'd be rather terrible at my work!
Our strengths and our pitfalls are constantly inviting us to find more balance. We often just miss the signals, focusing on what gets stuck in the Velcro.
Be my coach for a moment… if I came to you and said “my needs are never considered important by others, and people close off to me because I come on too strong”, would you recognise the gift that might be underneath? It’s not always obvious. This statement sounds really negative, but it’s actually a great descriptor of the dark side of my strength as described above. Hearing these kinds of statements tells me (and reminds me when I say it to myself...) that something needs some attention.
So let this be my invitation to you to consider unearthing your gifts, starting with your “pitfalls” if you must. You’re likely already expressing your gift without even knowing it. Perhaps a little refinement, or intentional learning, is all that’s needed. With compassion, of course.
Every shadow has a gift. And every gift has a shadow.
Walking the path with you.
Happy Wellness Wednesday. What will you do for your wellness today?