Strengths are weaknesses

I used to think that our strengths and our weaknesses were two sides of the same coin. That with each strength a weakness comes attached. If you wanted to be friends or love somebody you needed to evaluate if you could live with the weaknesses that come with their strengths.

Two things recently happened that changed my way of thinking about it. First, I finished reading “The Naked Sun” by Asimov, where at the end of the novel the detective Elijah Baley lists the strengths of the spacers as their main weaknesses. Spacers’ robots and their long lives, what was considered their strengths, ultimately prove to be also their weaknesses.

Second, this morning on a team zoom call my manager said that she is getting involved into one of our projects on managerial level. And I felt relieved as she said that because this project has been quite a mess till now, with different teams participating and many arguments. I thought to myself that my manager being so measured and objective was the best person to bring some structure to this new project. And it caught me by surprise because these are the qualities that in each annual review I listed as her weaknesses. I had to write something in that portion of the review and these were the only things that came to mind, her being very measured, being able to keep the distance, always being able to have an “outside” perspective. Till I got to know her better I had an impression that she wasn’t passionate about the work we do. And now the same exact qualities that came to mind as her weaknesses were also her strengths.

This made me question if our weaknesses are our strengths and vice versa. I thought about my own strengths and weaknesses. I can push things through and make it happen, this is my strength. I don’t give up. And this is also my weakness, I destroy things (relationships, feelings, people) on the way. I work a lot, I am passionate about my work, this is my strength and it is also my biggest weakness. I do less of other things, I spend less time with kids, family, friends. I’m less passionate about family life or friendships.

I have a friend who is kind, it is his biggest strength and also his biggest weakness. I have a friend who is extremely smart, and this is also his strength and his weakness. I have a friend who is creative, and now that I am thinking about it, it is her strength and her weakness.

It seems like strengths and weaknesses are not the sides of the same coin. They are literally one same thing. Once something becomes your strength, it also becomes your weakness.