Today I was waiting for an appliance repairs company to drop off my washing machine. (I know this sounds like I’m going to tell you an incredibly boring story, but bear with me! I promise it gets more interesting… 🙂 )
Since I moved into my new apartment in June, my washing machine has broken a total of three times and I have dealt with the same repair company the whole time. Because it has broken so often, and I have to ring up and arrange for it to be picked up for repair, I’m now quite familiar with the receptionists who work at this company.
There are three or four receptionists at this company. One of them, I’m going to call her Debbie, always gives really good customer service, head and shoulders above the others. I can just tell she cares about customers. I’m a tenant, and so I’m not even the one who’s paying for the service (my landlady is), but that doesn’t matter to Debbie. She’s polite, helpful and just nice.
Today, the washing machine repair men came round to drop off the washing machine. I left them alone in the room to install it.
As they were working, I overheard them moaning about their co-worker Debbie. Apparently she’s too sensitive; too nice; takes it personally when people complain; not cut out for the job of being a receptionist.
How interesting, I thought. I don’t know what Debbie did to annoy them, but as a customer I thought Debbie was great.
Then I remembered that a weakness and a soul gift are two extremes on the same continuum. What does that mean? Let me explain.
The Two Sides Of The Same Coin
Debbie probably IS sensitive. That’s why she is nice to people. She’s tuned into what people need. She’s not one of those hard-nosed shop assistants who gives you terrible service and then doesn’t give a monkey’s when you complain. It gets to her when people are unhappy. She probably wants to make it right.
Yet, those men perceived that strength as a weakness. Maybe Debbie’s dedication to customer service is inconvenient for her co-workers who don’t care about pleasing customers. Soul gifts can definitely be viewed as weaknesses or strengths, depending on who’s doing the viewing and in what context.
Let me give you a similar example in my own life.
Sensitivity and Empathy – Weakness or Strength?
One of my biggest challenges in life has been my sensitivity. As a child, I was told I was “too sensitive”. I struggled with my overactive empathy for much of my life too. This made me an introvert, I disliked crowds and liked being alone, especially in nature. That way I wouldn’t soak up other peoples’ vibes.
Yet now I make a living from my sensitivity and empathy as a professional intuitive. People stopped telling me that I should get rid of it a long time ago and now it’s seen as a gift – NOT a problem – as long as I learn to use it in the right context.
It all depends on what you do with the ‘personality flaw’, that matters.
Want Some More Examples?
Here are some traits that are gifts, which also have downsides.
The Soul Gift of Self-Expression
Some people are naturally quiet. On the other hand, some people were born with the urge and desire to express themselves verbally. They have to. It’s painful for them not to do it.
The upside? They are great writers, great speakers, and great teachers.
The downside? They sometimes don’t shut up. And they want an audience – no, need an audience! If they don’t have one, they might even treat you as their audience, even though you aren’t interested in their latest hobby horse, like their new tropical fish aquarium. If they don’t express this big desire for self-expression in a way that honours what other people want to hear, they can be the ones that you try to get away from at parties.
That’s an example of a gift that’s become a burden through not being expressed in the appropriate context.
The Soul Gift of Healing and Helping
Have you ever been in a dysfunctional relationship where you desperately wanted to rescue the other person? Do people often tell you that you’re too good and too kind?
This is the downside of the healing gift, where you have the soul urge to help others to heal and improve their experience. If you’re not expressing it, it can rear its head in dysfunctional ways – like wanting to fix the people around you and giving too much. Expressed in a healthy way, you could be in a healing or helping profession or as a volunteer of some sort.
Overwhelmed by your empathy? Feeling the strain of taking on too much energy from other people?
Yes, this sucks. It makes you sensitive and other people might also see you as neurotic.
On the upside, you were born with the ability to experience what life is like for another person. You make a great mediator because you can see two sides of a story and can switch your point of view easily. Take John Gray, the author of the book: Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus.
Gray has the gift of empathy and using this gift, he has been able to clarify how some men and women experience their relationships. This man has brought a lot of healing to peoples’ relationships simply because he can help them to understand each other.
Empathy heals and builds bridges to other peoples’ experience. If you have this gift, part of your soul purpose will be to build those bridges on this planet so that we can understand each other better. It’s a fantastic gift, as well as a burden.
Here are some more traits…
Perfectionism – to some degree this helps to keep standards high (which is a good thing) and often brings a certain attention to detail. The downside is paralysis and procrastination.
Can you never finish a project or follow through? – maybe you’re a creator – someone who is good at starting projects and coming up with ideas. When you’re done thinking up ideas, you need someone to take the project and run with it.
Are you often accused of speaking your mind too directly and sometimes tactlessly? – these people often have high integrity and a dedication to seek (and speak) the truth. This is the upside.
Try this exercise
I invite you to write out a list of your top five weaknesses. What do you feel insecure about? What have people criticized you for in the past? What are the issues you’ve been trying to solve? See if you can find the upsides of having those ‘weaknesses’. Where has that weakness served you in the past?
If you can’t see the upside to your weakness, try posting them in the comments and I’ll see if I can find an upside.
Here are mine:
- Too empathic (good for my work)
- Need lots of alone time (when I get plenty of alone time, I think, and write and then I produce articles for this website.)
- Too perfectionist (have been told in the past by employers and clients that my work is of a high standard – I hope so 🙂 )
- A past tendency to rescue other people and to try to improve their lives for them – (This is now channelled into doing healing work with others.)
Yes, all of these can become flaws when taken to extremes, or expressed in the wrong context. But, many of these weaknesses I have built my career around. Strengths and weaknesses are just two ends of the same continuum, depending on how you express them, and how they are viewed by other people.
What about you? Did you recognize any of the soul gifts and personality flaws in this article?
Why not try the exercise above and post yours in the comments for us to see. Let’s celebrate our ‘weaknesses’!
PS – If you want more on life purpose, and soul gifts, I recorded this podcast with Alex Wu a few months ago on the topic of life purpose and our weaknesses pointing to our strengths. You can listen to it here.