Finding Weakness

Vibrant but imperfect sunflower

Or “I’m not as strong as you think I am”

We all see post and self-help articles, memes and books, every day that tell us we are strong, that we are stronger than we believe, that we can find our inner strength in adversity.

Well, here I’m talking about the opposite.

Sometimes we do find that we’re stronger than we realised, but that shouldn’t dominate or overwhelm our weakness. “It’s OK not to be OK” (it’s OK to be many things), but sometimes a moment of “not OK” is inconvenient and we put on our outward show of being OK. Seeing an acquaintance carrying their week-old baby at school drop off is not the moment to fall apart, when you need to talk to your kid’s teacher about something. So you push down that pain and get on with the task in hand, you hide that weakness and stay strong to congratulate that new mum.

Finding your weakness

What is it that you just can’t cope with? That you find so so hard? Do you really dislike meeting new people? Do you find social media just too much? Is there a part of life that’s painful every time you have to face it?

For me, I find showing my real insecurities to friends really difficult. I’ve always felt like an outsider, like I don’t fit in. Right back at primary school, I have memories from when I was 5 or 6 of feeling different and being upset at being left out or excluded. We were an odd number of girls in my school year and I was always the one not in a pair. When 5 of us when up to high school together, the other four were paired off into forms together and I went alone to a form where I didn’t know anyone. Why? Because I was perceived as gregarious and independent, self-sufficient and friendly. Sure, I made friends but it was a really scary experience aged just 11 to spend all day with 30 girls I’d never met before.

The same thing happened when I went from high school to university. Someone, somewhere along the line, got the impression that I was independent and didn’t need to be housed with other first years, I ended up on a corridor with all third year students and I was thoroughly left out. Of course, I put on my armour of friendliness and went and made friends (or so I thought) with the next door set of rooms. Only to find come spring term that they were all getting a student house together, without me. I was still the outsider and I hadn’t even realised it.

Around the same time I met my “best friend”. We were on the same course together and we saw each other through breakups and arguments with other friends, through depression and exams. In my fourth year, I started to grow up. I chose to put myself somewhere as an outsider and went to France to study for my last year – met a group of other foreign students and made firm friends. My “best friend” was the only one to visit me there. In her, I thought I’d found that mythical beast of lifelong friendship.

Then, having known each other for 15 years, when small boy was a baby, out of the blue she ended our friendship. We’d grown apart apparently. The heartache was almost heartbreak, I cried. I miss her still. She knows that I will always be here for her. She could turn up on my doorstep in 10 years time and I’d welcome her with open arms.

The thing is that, the feeling of being an outsider, of being different, has never gone away. I’ve met and made new friends and many (most) of them only see the friendly, bubbly, gregarious armour that I wear most of the time. Only a very few see the real me underneath; the scared me, the lonely me knowing that most of them don’t realise how I feel, the little girl who never got picked for games or only so others could play tricks. Himself knows who I am, my work wife knows, a couple of close friends get it too. You guys reading this are getting the raw reality right now.

But that “best friend” from university? I’m unsure. Maybe she never saw beneath the armour and really believed I was strong, that I didn’t need her? Maybe she saw my weaknesses, but didn’t let that stop her cutting ties? Either option is really very sad. And realising that is what’s made me be more honest with the people around me now. I don’t want them to see me as this feisty, out-going, self-contained powerhouse of friendliness. I want them to know that its all a cover for being afraid of not being accepted, of being an outsider.

Seeing past the armour

So what I want to say is, look past someone’s perceived strengths and see their weaknesses, consider them and care for them, show your own and be proud to share what’s hiding behind the strong armour that you wear each day.

If we show those we care for, friends, family, even colleagues; that we see their weakness and we take it into account, we’re demonstrating “its OK no to be OK” instead of just saying it. No one is strong all the time, some of us have weaknesses that will always be there, that are unchangeable and that we should value for what they are – a sign of our humanity, our fallibility, our shared reality. The one thing that we all do share is that we’re all weak and we’re all strong – in different ways, but we all experience the same feelings of being not OK and, sometimes, of being OK. Whatever other things we have going on in our lives, wherever we come from, whatever we believe, however we identify ourselves; we all share a fear that our weaknesses will drive others away.

We shouldn’t try to conquer or correct or overcome our weaknesses. Let’s just acknowledge them, find a way to live with them and recognise and appreciate others’ weaknesses too. Our weakness make us who we are just as much as our strengths, they deserve to be celebrated too.

What’s your weakness? Share it and I’ll acknowledge it, appreciate it and it won’t change how I care for you.

48 thoughts on “Finding Weakness

  1. Thanks for sharing such a vulnerable, open and honest post, as I too can identify with much of what you have written. And agree it is so important for people to look past the armour of someone to avoid excluding them and making them feel any worse than they might already feel inside.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a wonderful post and I’m so glad I found it! I think the pressure of “putting on a brave face” all the time s not only bad for us, but also sometimes bad for the poeple around us as it creates a false sense of everyone having to be “OK” all of the time. We get closest to each other when we open up and show our weaknesses or allow others to show us theirs.

    On a related note, I really felt what you said about finding it hard to fit in! I ‘ve just been diagnosed with ADHD and I feel like it explains a lot of my social issues as a kid (and as an adult). I know people who got ASD diagnoses later in life who had the same “aha” moment, too. None of those things might apply to you, but I thought it was worth mentioning as your words sounded so familiar to me!

    I wish you all the best and thanks for sharing x

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Loved reading this! My boss always says to me it’s just as important to know your weaknesses as it is to know your strengths! And I really resonate with what you were saying about feeling like if you open up you’ll be left out! I was always the odd kid at school and it means I’ve got a very small, but incredibly close, group of friends! But I love them more because of it!

    Katie | katieemmabeauty.com

    Like

  4. Wow, very truthful post! It’s hard to lose friends or anyone in your life no matter what the reason is. But sometimes they do come back in your life at the right moment too. Hopefully your friend comes back or you find new friendships to carry you through.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much. I think she’s lost and it’s more important that I’ve learned how to be without her, if she comes back fine. If not that’s fine too. I can’t spend my whole life missing her or worrying about what changed, anymore than if it was an ex-boyfriend. My new friendships might be more honest and that’s probably a good outcome overall.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. The really messy me is only known by my husband and my best friend. I know I can show them my vulnerabilities, my spiky edges, my soft spots and my overflowing raw emotions and they accept me just as I am because I reciprocate that for them. It’s taken a long time to be okay with all the facets I have, good and bad and I’m sure I’ve got a lot more learning to do for the rest of my life. I can connect with your feeling here about being an outsider and I thank you for sharing it as being seen as strong all the time can create the inability to express our weaknesses. I so appreciate that you shared this and that you have some people who know you (and love you) as you are.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Such a great post – I can relate to a lot of this! Growing up, I was a year younger than everyone in my grade and I was extremely shy. Thankfully, I came out of my shell a bit in high school and college and things got better. Now, as a wife and mother, I am unapologetically me.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. It’s uncanny how timely this is! My blog post from 1 week ago is literally titled “It’s Okay to Not Be Okay” because I have been feeling this so deeply recently. This year has challenged us all so much and it’s healthy to acknowledge and accept our weaknesses and struggles. Thank you for sharing ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Reading this felt like taking a weight off my shoulders. You’re right, we can’t always be strong. One of my weaknesses is the fear of failure. I know it holds be back at times. Thank you for sharing, I felt like I was sitting with you as you shared.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I can totally relate to this. I feel like I had a similar thing growing up. I was always on the outside and always the quiet one or the forgotten one. I still am to some extent however now I’ve learnt to almost embrace it, it’s part of me and my character but there’s so much more to me than being the quiet one.

    Claire.X
    http://www.clairemac.co.uk

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I love the honesty in this post. I also like where you point out to look past other’s perceived strengths to see their weaknesses. This is very helpful indeed in my own life…with family! Thanks for helping me to see this!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I can relate. I’ve also been left out many times by my so-called friends. However, it doesn’t come close to what you’ve had to go through.

    All the best, Michelle (michellesclutterbox.com)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hate when I realise a group of people I thought were friend are actually just acquaintances. Like the school mums who went on a weekend away together and I found out on Facebook, I thought I was part of the group but it turned out I was just tolerated. Well sod them!

      Like

  12. What a heartfelt post. Like you, I felt like an outsider growing up. I was never “popular” although I did have a small group of friends from high school that I am still in touch with today. I saw my girls go through the same thing and I reminded them it’s about quality, not quantity.

    My weakness is probably perfectionism, although I have learned with age to lower my standards. It’s a work in progress.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. This whole article resonates with me. I’m sorry for the loneliness you felt and/or realized.

    The concept of pushing down inconvenient weakness also resonates with me a thousandfold. Not taking time for me, to recognize the weaknesses or the fails (or the exhaustion), is my weakness. I care for everyone and all the tasks before taking time fir my inconvenient feelings.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. A wonderfully honest post. I know what it’s like to be an outsider, as I’ve been one my whole life. I wasn’t popular at school; I was seen as a swot and I wasn’t taken seriously.
        Even though I have friends, I’m a very guarded person, (yeah the armour!) and I hate asking for help and lack confidence.

        Liked by 1 person

  14. I suspect many writers will
    identify with your feelings of being an outsider. It is because we are a bit different that we are able to see the world in a unique way and be creative but it has a downside.
    This morning before reading your post I was contemplating how I needed to find a balance between being strong, and positive during this lockdown to support my loved ones, and accepting that I don’t feel okay and indulging in self care withdrawing into my inner world. Exhausting trying to find this balance. A great post. Thanks for sharing. Your friend is missing so much more than you.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Oh my gosh this is so relatable – I too was a bit of an outsider, especially as a child, and now I always feel a bit insecure in my friendships because there’s always that thought at the back of my mind that I’ll be replaced. It’s absolutely awful! But yes I totally agree that we should be more open about our weaknesses because it’s exhausting putting on a front all of the time…

    Liked by 1 person

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