Love Your Flaws

Take another look at some of your most negative traits. You might just find that there's a surprising flip side.
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Turning Flaws into Assets

No one has ever accused me of being afraid to speak my mind. In fact, my guiding principle has always been that everyone's entitled to my opinion. This never went over well with bosses, boyfriends, family members -- pretty much the world at large. As a newspaper reporter my knuckles were rapped repeatedly for a certain...lack of objectivity? Both of my husbands and most of my boyfriends appreciated my hotheaded nature even less. (If I had a dollar for every time I heard "why do you have to make such a federal case of this?" I'd have far more money in my IRA.) Even my friendships suffered. But how was I supposed to say I liked a friend's new guy when he was clearly a jerk?

In hindsight I can see that I was sometimes -- okay, perhaps often -- unpleasant to be around. Stung by all the criticism, I tried to become more objective in my work and more easygoing with the people I loved. But being opinionated was still part of my nature. And eventually I got the chance to turn that flaw into a marketable skill when my boss offered me the opportunity to become a Sunday columnist, talking about my life, loves -- and opinions. Channeled into that appropriate place, my big mouth and endless pontificating turned out to be a huge plus. My career took off.

The details of my story are unique, but my struggle is universal, because every one has flaws. I'm talking about our annoying foibles, vices, and weaknesses. We're chronically late, or we lose our temper over inconsequential things or we're too shy to speak up for ourselves. Our flaws are frustrating to friends, families, bosses -- and perhaps most frustrating to ourselves.

But here's a novel idea: Take a breather from beating yourself up and have another look at those so-called bad traits. "You shouldn't be so quick to dismiss your flaws as completely negative," says Greg Hicks, coauthor of How We Choose to Be Happy. "Sometimes your greatest flaw is the key to your greatest strength."

Consider that there is a kinder, gentler side to being nitpicky (you pay attention to important details) or being a drama queen (you feel things deeply and are empathetic). Sure, you procrastinate -- but that's because you want everything to be perfect.

"Maybe you're frustrated that you never get enough done when you're at home during the day because you're so busy talking or e-mailing," says Hicks. "Stop a moment and think, what is the strength in that? You love people and have amazing, high-trust relationships and at the end of the day those are more important than dusting."

This doesn't mean that you should stop trying to improve yourself. But you can work more effectively on diminishing the negative aspect of your flaws when you celebrate the positive. Here are three steps you can take to help turn your flaws into assets.

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