How To Effectively Turn Weaknesses Into Strengths

Eli Straw
How To Effectively Turn Weaknesses Into Strengths

We all have weaknesses. For some of us, these weaknesses are highlighted by the voice in our heads. Fixating on our shortcomings to the point where our whole identity is centered around them.

For others, weaknesses are aspects of ourselves that should be pushed under the rug. If we can convince ourselves the weaknesses are not real, then are they really weaknesses in the first place?

Yes, yes they are. Hiding from the fact we fall short in certain areas does not eliminate them from reality. Likewise, focusing too much on our weaknesses leads to low confidence, and terrible self-worth.

We know there’s no use avoiding weaknesses and there is definitely no good that comes out of centering our attention on them….so what choices are left?

Well, there is a way we can leverage these weaknesses to make ourselves even more skilled, confident, and valuable within our sport or professional life.

It involves identifying our weaknesses and transforming them into strengths!

Where Do Weaknesses Come From?

Why is it that we all must have certain strengths and weaknesses? How come we can’t all be good at everything? That sure would be nice. However, it’s simply not how the world operates.

There are many reasons some of us become strong in specific areas, while others are faced with it as a weakness. But there’s one in particular that largely pertains to the work I do with athletes and performers.

As a mental performance coach, I spend a lot of time brainstorming different ways individuals can improve their mindsets in order to increase their level of performance.

A huge chunk of this time is devoted to identifying and understanding weaknesses. The areas of strengths need much smaller attention given to them, since the individual already excels there.

What is required from me is to figure out how to turn a current problem into a performance enhancing skill.

This is also a practice I’ve done and continue to do on myself. Through my experience, what I’ve found to be the number one reason weaknesses develop is attention.

Strengths Grow Where Focus Flows

What areas of your life would you consider to be strengths?

For me, one that comes to mind is my work ethic. Ever since high school I’ve always had the ability to direct my mind towards a task and put forth diligent, continuous effort.

Beginning at fourteen years old, I would head to the weight room every day after school. From there, I went to the field to get an hour or so of private training in.

After that, I would either go to my Mom’s restaurant in my early years of high school, or head back to the gym my family owned to clean during my later years.

My work ethic has continued to this day, and is a strength I very much cherish. However, I simultaneously developed a weakness over these years. It grew very difficult for me to speak publicly.

Now, one may say this was always a weakness, though it wasn’t as apparent early on. When I was younger, I performed in plays and never remember having too much trouble giving presentations in class.

Transition into college, and this weakness was drastically highlighted by the extreme nerves I would feel when having to speak in front of the class.

So why was it that my work ethic grew into a strength while public speaking slowly developed into a weakness? The reason has to do with attention.

Throughout high school and college, I gave daily attention to the amount of effort I put forth towards my goals. One, because working hard was and still is a virtue of mine, and two, because I wanted to become a great baseball player.

On the other hand, public speaking wasn’t something that mattered much to me. I gave little focus towards the development of  the skill, and as a result, what little talents I had in the activity were quickly transferred into a weakness.

"Why is it that we all must have certain strengths and weaknesses? How come we can’t all be good at everything? That sure would be nice. However, it’s simply not how the world operates."

Why We Must Give Attention To Weaknesses

My lack of skill in public speaking reared its ugly head time and again throughout college. I often skipped class out of fear, and my self-confidence plummeted each time I allowed myself to avoid a situation I knew would result in me speaking.

But there was always a voice in my head telling me one day I would turn this into a strength. I can guarantee you at the time, there was little belief in that voice. However, it turned out to not be far from the truth.

A little over a year ago, my sister asked me to give a toast at her wedding. Not wanting to be a coward any longer, a decision was made on my part to put my work ethic to use in building up the skill of public speaking.

I spent a lot of time writing, memorizing, and practicing my speech. I would visualize performing it in front of the guests, and seeing myself deliver it perfectly.

Fast forward to her wedding night and I killed it! Now, I’m not to the point where public speaking can be stated as a full blown strength, but it is no longer a weakness of mine. That is why it’s so crucial to give attention to our weaknesses.

By doing so, the power to change is provided to us. If I had simply said, “No, sorry I can’t give the speech, I’m no good at public speaking,” how do you think I would have felt?

Like a coward!

Plus, I would have missed out on the chance to improve myself, which is one of the greatest adventures any of us can embark on.

Though, there is one fact about this story I would like to point out. I mentioned when I was in college, I felt badly and saw a drop in self-confidence when faced with public speaking. That was due to the faulty attention given towards my weakness.  

Be Careful With Your Attention

When I focused on the fact I was too scared to speak in class, the way I saw myself went from bad to worse. That’s something we really must be careful of when talking about improving weaknesses.

If you feel powerless right now to change a weak area about yourself, yet you tend to dwell on it, how do you think that’s gonna impact your self-worth and confidence?

What will happen is you begin to adopt a self-deprecating voice in your head, telling you how terrible you are. This results in increased anxiety, and places you at the risk of depression.

So if you have the tendency to dwell on your weaknesses, you must put a stop to that! There is no use seeing your flaws for any longer than the time it takes to make the decision to put together an action plan.

That is what I failed to do in college but was successful at achieving recently. I used to feel hopeless, not knowing how to improve as a speaker.

But, by taking control of the situation and making strides to improve, I realized the power I held to change what was once a weakness into an area where I could excel!  

"If you feel powerless right now to change a weak area about yourself, yet you tend to dwell on it, how do you think that’s gonna impact your self-worth and confidence? What will happen is you begin to adopt a self-deprecating voice in your head, telling you how terrible you are."

Turn Your Weaknesses Into Strengths

I have used the strategy I am about to outline in the past and will continue to use it moving forward. The reason being, it’s universal no matter what areas of our lives we wish to improve.

It is a general system that works no matter what weakness you plug in. But there’s another reason I will continue to use this strategy. I believe that personal progress is a lifelong journey, one we should all continually be on.

There is never going to be a point where I say, “I have no weaknesses.” That’s just not how it works as a human being. Areas will always show their faces, helping us to identify new aspects of ourselves that require attention.

So view this strategy as a tool you will be able to use moving forward. With it, you gain an incredible power to transform any weakness you find into a strength.

Step 1: Identify Your Main Weaknesses

Without the understanding of what areas of your life tend to be weaknesses, there is no hope of you improving them. So, the first step is going to be an introspective process of examining yourself objectively.

The reason I say objectively is that we do not want to have this step backfire on us. If we aren’t careful, scanning our lives to find weaknesses can result in a dramatic decrease in self-worth and self-confidence.

It is vital you set aside some time to perform this work. Prepare yourself for what’s about to happen, and remind yourself that identifying weaknesses is not meant to tear you down.

Quite the opposite actually. The reason you are locating such areas is to provide yourself with much needed information to make progress moving forward.

Something that helps me a lot when performing this type of work is pretending as though I’m analyzing someone else. By doing so, I force myself to take an objective view, allowing me to truly uncover my weaknesses without beating myself up in the process.

Step 2: Perform A Deep Dive

Now that you have your main weaknesses identified, it’s time to dig deeper.

You want to really get to the nitty gritty of what causes that area to be a weakness. What is it about the activity or aspect of yourself that is truly the reason you’ve identified it as a weakness?

For example, when seeking to turn public speaking from a weakness into a strength, there were deeper challenges that needed to be addressed. One such challenge was social anxiety.

I had developed to the point where social interactions resulted in intense feelings of insecurity. In such a state, speaking publicly was not very likely. So, working through the social anxiety became a top priority.

Something else I realized during my deep dive was that holding a piece of paper to read off of really increased my anxiety. The reason for this was an experience I had in college when I had to present something in front of the class.

I won’t go into the details, but what happened was, I stood in front of the class, holding a piece of paper, and my hands were trembling so much that you could hear and see the paper waving while I was speaking.

So, I knew I wanted to memorize whatever I was going to say when public speaking.

For yourself, sit down with your weaknesses and work to get to the bottom of what truly causes the weakness to be described as such.

"You want to really get to the nitty gritty of what causes that area to be a weakness. What is it about the activity or aspect of yourself that is truly the reason you’ve identified it as a weakness?"

Step 3: Put Together an Action Plan

You’ve now come to the point where looking into the past will be of little help any further. It’s time to turn your sights onto the future, asking yourself, “What steps need to be taken in order to turn this weakness into a strength?”

There are tons of different strategies you can use, tools and techniques you can employ, and so on. But one truth remains constant no matter what weakness you are working through or what tools you use:

You must put forth consistent, deliberate effort!

Nothing is going to change without you putting in the work to make it happen. There is a reason the weakness is a weakness right now and not a strength. You haven’t given it the focus required to become skilled in that area.

If your goal is to transform it into a strength, focused work is a requirement. Craft a plan of action for yourself that you can realistically follow.

Don’t overwhelm yourself, though. Be sure the plan you create is something you can stick to. There is little point in working for eight hours a day on a skill for three days, only to quit due to burnout.

Fifteen minutes a day over the course of weeks and months will produce incredible results!

Take your weaknesses, outline an action plan that will turn them into strengths, and get to work.

Step 4: Attack Limiting Beliefs

With the new plan you have in place, you are putting forth the necessary physical work to turn your weaknesses into strengths. However, there is another aspect you must pay attention to along the way.

Right now, there are beliefs you hold towards yourself. These have become ingrained in your mind throughout the years. For myself, a major belief I held (and still struggle with) was seeing myself as a shy and anxious person.

That was my self-perception, and let me tell you, it is incredibly difficult to act against our personal identity. Our brains love harmony, so sooner or later, it will work it’s way back to a harmonious state. This means having our actions align with our beliefs.

What we must do is attack these limiting beliefs, altering the way we see ourselves.

Two powerful tools to do so include self-talk and mental imagery. Self-talk works to alter the way you speak to yourself. This shifts your internal dialogue and works wonders on altering your self-perception.

The next is mental imagery. Now imagery works because our brains respond to visualization in a similar manner to a real life event. So, you can train your mind to see yourself acting in a different way, and it will perceive it as actually having happened.

Perform both of these over time, and you will be amazed at the shift which takes place within your mind.

Final Thoughts

None of us want to have weaknesses, but the truth is, we all do. Every single one of us has aspects of our lives that would benefit from some additional attention.

The good news is, you can turn weaknesses into strengths, if given enough time and effort. The steps outlined in this article provide you with a terrific framework to get started.

All that’s left is for you to put them into action. No change will come if you continue to dwell on your weaknesses, allowing them to eat at your self-confidence. Accept that they are there, now decide on what you’re going to do about them.

I hope you enjoyed this article, and if you did, please feel free to share it with your friends. Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of success in all that you do.

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