The Weakness of My Strengths

I was recently trying to list out traits that I identify with at my core. Here’s how I see myself:

An empath: In most interactions, I’m trying to put myself in the other person’s shoes. This usually translates into thinking about the other person’s motivations, goals, and insecurities, in nearly every interaction of mine. This is a cognitive exercise for me.

Adventurous spirit: I love to set out and explore. I like to meet new people. Uncomfortable situations don’t usually faze me. I like learning, and am happy to discover that what I thought I knew may not always be correct. The Black Swan does not shock me; it’s an exciting discovery!

Problem-solver: When something doesn’t fit my mental model of how things should work, I step back and wonder why it might be the way it is. How can things change or adapt? How can I be part of the solution? And some other times, do I care enough about this problem – is this a battle I want to choose and participate in?

Community-builder: Communities are hard to build. A community is not a cult, and is not a congregation of yes-men. However, the community must have certain ideas, values, and beliefs in common- there must be a culture to bind it together. After all, the strength of the wolf is in the pack, and the strength of the pack is in the wolf.

When I shared these ideas of myself with a mentor, he pointed out that I certainly score high on openness to experience in his view. However, there are of course, certain pitfalls of being so.

Here are some that stood out to me upon a little reflection:

  1. Sometimes, I display a trait that I would describe as a marriage between gullibility and a sense of entitlement. I find myself thinking that others will be as candid with me as I am with them, especially during periods of tension, I expect it; nay, demand it!
  2. I have certainly learned to be tactful the hard way. I am rather desperate to be myself with everyone I meet. I crave to be brutally authentic with everyone and in every situation. However, I have learnt to see the merit in reading a situation, and responding accordingly. Tact has not yet become my second nature, so my go-to response is to request time before I’m expected to respond.
  3. I identify with the wolf as my spirit animal. Any quote about the wolf and its ways gets me fascinated. Here’s another one: throw me to the wolves and I’ll come back leading the pack. This comes from an intense desire to not just survive, but thrive. But many a time, this comes off a serious sense of detachment – it might seem like I don’t care. Yes, I don’t care enough to dwell on certain things, but some others might connect with it deeply – and they perhaps see me as non-committed in some of those situations.

However, I see myself learning to use my strengths to balance the other out. At some point, I might have a strong sense of wanderlust that makes me want to take off. But, empathy will probably help me gauge if my actions might be coming at a time when someone needs my presence the most. Hard decisions might need to be taken, but I’ll save that for when I reach the bridge.

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Who Am I?

Sometimes you associate with a sentiment too closely, and it assumes a part of your identity. If you aren’t careful, it can hijack the core of it. You build yourself around it. Your thinking, your philosophy, your calm and chaos, your highs and lows, your sleep and wakefulness, your grief and joy, your ecstasy and melancholy, your longing and indifference, your desire and repulsion, your dawn and dusk, your breath and quiet, your darkness and light, your need and gift,… your everything begins to revolve around this sentiment that has come to define you.

One day, you simply stop feeling it. You are panicking. You furiously search for it wherever you can. You rummage and burrow. You tear open and glean. You carefully unbutton and stitch it back together. Where could it have gone? You take a break, and sit in the sun. You look up and wonder why you are looking for it at all. After all, it was that which grieved you. You described it to strangers as your ailment. You sought help for it. You hoped for it to be healed. You yearned for it to be soothed. It was your glitch. And now it was gone.

“But there is a hollowness,” you moan.

Isn’t that a good thing? It can now be filled by whatever you would like to fill it with. But you are despondent for that which is lost. With distance, you see it solely for its beauty.

“Take your time,” you tell yourself in your head.

Some days you miss it, so much that you cannot do much but just curl up and ruminate. Some days you pick yourself up together, determined to create something new with your soul and mind. “We will concoct a bright, new, beautiful being together,” you reassure yourself. Some days, you just watch them days float by, and realize that you are just yet another individual, hoping for a chance to just be. There is no struggle, there is no oneness, there is no ‘you’ – just a fleck of the cosmos that is conscious. Muddled, but conscious. Like when you are drunk with wine, but you can still tell that you are. However, control over your actions feels like an unnecessary struggle against your better judgment. Just a fleck of cosmos with consciousness. Like an offhanded superpower.

So you let the hollowness be. A magical space, a rich void, a promising rut, a soft corner, a sleepy hollow, within your heart, reaching for your soul and engulfing it from within and without. This is a new way, but it is very becoming on me.