On seeing your weaknesses as strengths

Art by  Andrew Wong

Words by Madeleine Dore

‘I’ve always had the belief that our greatest strengths are our greatest weaknesses.’
Del Kathryn Barton

In a recent interview with artist Del Kathryn Barton, I was struck by her commitment to her work – she starts the week rising at 5am, heads straight to the studio and works for a solid twelve hours or more. There is no hesitation, no procrastination, just a pure urgency to attend to the creative work before the week brings its distractions.

‘I've always believed in the potentiality of commitment,' says Barton. 'When you truly commit, so many extraordinary things become possible – I’m not a hesitator, I'm not a procrastinator, if anything I am too urgent and I might die young.'

I’ve always admired that kind of hunger for work and the ability to get straight into the task at hand, free from the whims of procrastination. Yet Del is the first to admit that while her ‘workhorse’ nature is often perceived as a strength, it isn't free from its own weakness.

‘It has only been in more recent years that I realised I do suffer from clinical anxiety and I have been living with that and managing that my whole life without having a paradigm around it.’

If our greatest strengths can house our greatest weaknesses, the opposite can also be true. Found within our weaknesses, flaws, and imperfections is also a certain kind of strength. Our character can often be found amongst our vulnerabilities – and being brave enough to embrace them is often how we can be most creative, most ourselves, however vague and uncertain that search can seem.

In the words of Leonard Cohen, 'There is a crack, a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in.' 

Instead of disguising your cracks, find your secret flaw and make it your strength. I’m prone to berating myself for procrastinating, but if I decided to instead view this flaw as a strength, I can begin to see that it is simply part of the process for me. I need lots of time to mull and think and analyse before it all comes rushing out.

'There is a crack, a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in.' – Leonard Cohen

Of course there are a million things we can wish to change about ourselves – our tardiness, our exercise or eating habits, our quick temper, our shyness, our self doubt. There is nothing  wrong with striving to overcome individual limitations, but it’s also freeing to, even for a moment, simply see these flaws as impermanent parts of ourselves that change as we do. 

Our weaknesses and our strengths are not set in stone. They cannot be categorised as simply ‘good’ nor ‘bad’. Sometimes they take on a shape of their own. Sometimes it’s a soaring drive and commitment to your work, and sometimes it’s an anxiety. They are equal parts of who we are and often we can’t throw away one without the other.

As poet David Whyte says, ‘Wanting soul life without the dark, warming intelligence of personal doubt is like expecting an egg without the brooding heat of the mother hen.’

Find your flaw and make it your strength. Risk sharing your vulnerability to uncover new parts of yourself. We are made up of countless strengths and weaknesses, mirroring and morphing depending on the viewpoint. See that you are both perfect, and yet imperfect at any given moment – and so is everybody else. 

Madeleine Dore