What if (what you thought) was a weakness was in fact your greatest strength?

by Katie on December 8, 2014

I have always considered myself a shy person. Kind of an introvert.

Of course, I can also be outgoing, social, and enjoy being around others. I’ve performed on stage in front of hundreds of people, have done public speaking on occasion, and can put myself out there when I need to.

But my nature is more on the quiet side. I am more comfortable observing, not always being the center of attention. And this is especially true when I am with a large group of people whom I don’t know well.

I have always considered this to be a huge weakness. Something I desperately wanted to change.

Growing up, the popular girls seemed like total extroverts. They were funnier, more outspoken, and louder. I moved a bit slower and more quietly. It took me longer to open up, to fully express myself.

Treating my introverted nature like a deficiency, this is always something I have tried to “overcome”. Something I needed to “work on”. My quiet disposition was holding me back, I thought. I assumed my quiet nature was a drag that kept me from reaching my true potential.

But slowly, I am learning to view this part of myself differently. I am learning to instead embrace this quality as one of my greatest strengths.

The Game Changer

Last year I completed a yearlong counseling training program. One of the reasons I took the course was to get out of my comfort zone, to hopefully bring some extroverted qualities into my life. Learning how to be a counselor, and how to connect with each other on a deep and emotional level, was a very intense experience.

Our large group class was broken into smaller “home” groups of about 20 people. These were the people with which we spent the most time. So inherently we were supposed to bond, and become really close.

Throughout the year I struggled because I always felt like I didn’t say enough in the group, didn’t contribute enough. I never felt like I totally fit in. Everyone else seemed more open. More talkative. More connected. I often felt unimportant to the group because I didn’t contribute or stand out enough. The entire year was challenging because I felt this way.

But on our last day of the class, our home group leader said something that left me speechless.

We were going around the room, thanking other members of the group for their contributions, expressing gratitude. She looked me in the eye and said-“Katie, thank you for your quiet power. You didn’t always say a lot, but when you did we knew to pay attention because you chose your words wisely. Your words always had clarity and wisdom behind them.”

Wow. Quiet power?? That had always seemed like an oxymoron to me. I was stunned. I had never looked at it that way. To me, my quietness was a complete weakness.

The entire year I had wanted to be different, to stand out more, to overcome my quiet nature. And here was someone actually thanking me for my quiet power.

Maybe my “weakness” wasn’t a weakness at all, but in fact one of my greatest gifts and strengths.

Other members of the group affirmed her statements and thanked me for my quiet and powerful presence in the group. It was a game changer for me. For once I started to value my instinctive quietness, my true nature, instead of wanting to change it. It was a gift, not something to get rid of. Or wish away.

It’s a slow process, but I’m learning to celebrate all of my qualities. Even the ones that I’ve always wanted to be different. I’m learning to accept myself fully.

I may not be the most talkative all of the time, or the most outspoken, the one who speaks up first.

But I am an amazing listener. I am curious. I choose my words wisely. I observe. I am perceptive, conscious of people’s feelings and body language. I listen and think before I speak. Doing this helps me connect with others, and helps me to empathize and view a situation from another’s eyes.

I will continue to take steps out of my comfort zone. Which may include speaking up and raising my hand when I would otherwise and more comfortably stay silent. But shifting my perspective, realizing that how I show up in the world is enough. That I’m okay as is. That I don’t need fixing. And that my quiet power can also be a force in the world. That has made all the difference.

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