We judge others by their behavior. We judge ourselves by our intentions.
Ever since taking that personality test I’ve been thinking about personal strengths and weaknesses, and have come to some interesting conclusions.
Recently I was talking to my dear friend Marie who has endured a hellish past two years, rife with all sorts of problems from the medical to the personal. She’s doing much better now (from an outsider’s perspective at least) and last monday in particular the girl got empowered. She got good and mad at her situation for the first time in a long time, got a bunch of people in line where they were slacking, and generally went about setting the world to rights. She says this is out of character for her, and to a degree that’s true, but what really flummoxed me was that she said she was angry at herself for ever having been a “pushover” in her situation (incidentally, not a word that springs to my mind to describe this woman). In fact, the thing that I’ve always admired most about Marie is her poise: the way she seemed to handle adversity with grace, gentleness, and quiet determination. I never thought that what I saw as a real strength would be something she saw as a major life obstacle!
But then I considered myself. Quite a few people recently have told me that they admire my “assertiveness,” “strong will,” and “boldness,” but that aspect of my personality is always something I’ve had mixed feelings about. I developed a rather aggressive, stand-offish (in some ways) personality to defend myself when no one else in my life seemed able to, to take care of myself when I was well and truly on my own. I’ll be the first to admit that this forcefulness–not to say intractability– has literally saved my sanity a few times (plus getting a waiter’s attention in any restaurant in Europe would be impossible without it), but that I don’t necessarily like it. Being bold and appearing confident can be useful, but it can also be abrasive (it earned me the nickname Ice Queen in high school: sometimes it was said with odd admiration, sometimes is wasn’t) . But still people can like this aspect of me, this facet of my personality that I am sometimes grudgingly thankful for, sometimes outright dislike, but am always willing to use.
Maybe it isn’t too odd that what we see as our greatest weaknesses other see as our greatest strengths. In the end, we’re probably both right.