While it may sound simple, the daily task of putting a healthy meal on the dinner table fills me with dread and struggle. Eating healthy is a priority for our family, and with no particular food sensitivities, it should be easy enough, right? Even so, after juggling work, family activities, and trying to squeeze in a bit of exercise, there’s little time and energy left to cook a healthy dinner. All too often I find myself grateful for pizza delivery. But as soon as the pizza box is empty, I start criticizing myself for not making a healthy meal at home. This is soon followed by a cycle of regret and shame for not being able to manage my time, enjoying meal prepping and making my family’s health more of a priority. Why can’t I overcome these weaknesses and inability to do more for my family’s health?
Far too often we fail to recognize how we stick to our strengths because we either prefer them, or they come more naturally to us. We stay in our comfort zone, and for that reason we don’t develop our weaknesses. We may even add a layer of guilt and shame by overemphasizing our weaknesses, turning them into character flaws and thus criticizing ourselves for having them. Can you relate? Now, imagine how making peace with your weaknesses could be life changing. Making peace with having weakness allows you to do a couple of very important things in life:
- Appreciate that weaknesses are not personal flaws, rather they are undeveloped abilities.
- Identify weaknesses that you are motivated to convert into strengths, or at least non-weaknesses, and practice developing in these areas.
- Realize you’re human and are designed to live in community with others, whose strengths hopefully complement your weaknesses and vice versa.
Practicing mindfulness gives us an opportunity to experience and work with our weaknesses with more awareness, clarity, compassion…and possibly humor!
1. Strengthen your mindful awareness
Practicing mindfulness trains us to be more self-aware. We learn to observe our inner landscape — Our reactions, inclinations, when we’re excited about something or resisting it, when we feel good about what we’re doing and when we’re critical. This type of awareness provides a clearer picture of our personal strengths and weaknesses, how we are in relationship to them, and if it’s a healthy relationship. If our inner dialogue is one of being flawed, unworthy, or incapable when it comes to our weaknesses, it’s useful to consider where these beliefs about having weaknesses and what that means about us come from. Did we learn them from someone else? Would we think the same about our loved ones for having weaknesses? Awareness gives us the chance to pause and consider healthier possibilities for relating to our weaknesses. Ones where we celebrate our strengths more, and stop beating ourselves up for our weaknesses.
2. The gift of clarity
Mindful awareness brings the gift of clarity. Clarity allows us to see a weakness for what it is, without getting caught up in judging and criticizing it. This more objective stance can shift our focus away from judgment and onto deciding how to deal with it. Do we want to invest in developing this area of weakness, or to balance it out with a strength instead. You may not be inclined to develop your weaknesses for any number of reasons — no time, no interest, don’t imagine you’ll get better at it enough to invest the effort… Or you may find that it is worth it to you because of your values, interests, responsibilities, or simply to know for yourself that you can. If you decide to take the weakness under your wing and work on it, be sure that your motivations are positive and not out of insecurity and criticism.
3. Let weaknesses connect you
Often when we feel “less than” about something, we feel shame and perceive it as something we must overcome to be “good enough”- as a parent, friend, family, employee, leader… Instead of reaching out for support, we dig in and see this as an “I must fix me” project. It might be more liberating and fun to stop making yourself a fixer-upper project and use a weakness as a reason to reach out and deepen your connections. You weren’t meant to do everything perfectly. We’re social beings with varying abilities and preferences for how we use our gifts and time. Take a moment to consider who is really good at what you’re not. Let go of the criticism and shame and let some of your weaknesses be opportunities to count on others, and for them to count on you.
For me, accepting and mindfully working with my weaknesses is an ongoing process. But it has gotten easier, and I no longer tell myself it’s the end of the world when we call out for delivery. And while I have no interest in becoming a master chef, our family has made a pact to share the work of planning menus, grocery shopping and meal-prepping. Pizza delivery happens every now and then and that’s okay. I’ve learned to appreciate those effortless meals, rather than feel shame.
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Originally published at eMindful.