Why Your Strength Is Not Success

on February 9 | in Community Awareness, Individual Improvement | by | with Comments Off on Why Your Strength Is Not Success

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There are fit people who get their self-esteem by comparing themselves with people who are overweight. A lot of overweight people compare their intelligence to those who are uneducated and fit. People who work on their appearance, people who have families and responsibilities, people who make a lot of money all use this tactic. Even, or perhaps especially, activists and people who are on a spiritual path find extensive self-satisfaction in those who don’t progress in their chosen way.

For a lot of people, feeling good about yourself just means you consider yourself superior to others. Even in comparison with others who might appear more successful at the surface, they are judged to be lazy, dumb, or whatever the opposite of your strength is. No matter what your strength is, this sort of comparison prevents you from actually living life.

Your Strength Is Not Success

The problem with feeling full of self-satisfaction is that you can cope your way through life without actually having to connect with people or do anything. You don’t feel motivated to work on your weak points because you are, in essence, good enough just the way you are. And that’s true, you are good enough just the way you are – but that’s not because of your strengths. It’s because you are a living being and unlimited potentiality. You are able to grow and help others grow – just as everyone is. That’s why you’re good enough, not because you’re fit, smart, or rich.

Because being fit, smart, or rich just means that you’ve mastered one game in life. Being an activist, being spiritual, these are other games. None of these games are life itself. None of these games, or your success in them, define your worth and value. Just as the champion blackjack player and the champion chess player are not qualitatively comparable, just as one isn’t intrinsically a better human being than the other, you aren’t superior and complete just because of your victories and attributes.

Your Weakness Is Not Failure

It goes the other way, too. You can be extremely intelligent, fit, capable at making money, spiritual, or whatever and still feel badly and dissatisfied because you haven’t bumped up your game in the things you haven’t much pursued. There you go, physically fit and a champion of cultivated taste, but you can’t figure out why people like to read or how to give your loved ones financial security. Or there you go, rich and intelligent but hugely overweight and an oppressor of men. No wonder you feel badly about yourself, there’s some serious issues there.

Or are there? There’s always things to be worked on in our lives and in ourselves. Whatever current challenges face you, once you move past those tests you’ll surely face others. You won’t be free of all trials so long as you live – or if you did manage to be so free, you’d quickly invent new trials just to keep from turning into a vegetable. The fact that you have weaknesses doesn’t say anything about the quality of yourself, it simply exposes to you the paths you must walk next and the work that you have left undone.

Puzzle Pieces

Even if you move beyond comparing yourself to other people, these false senses of pride and shame can still arise by comparing yourself with who you want to be or who you were. The other person, in these judgments of strength and weakness, can be yourself. Snapshots of your past and hazy dream visions of your future can keep you trapped on a hamster exercise wheel just like comparing yourself to the Joneses.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be proud of your accomplishments or proud of who you are. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t work to correct parts of your life that aren’t working, that you shouldn’t have ambitions and goals. Far from either of those.

What I am saying is that our strengths and weaknesses are the preliminary indicators of the journeys we’re about to set out on. They are readings of temperature gauges, indicators of how we’ve become imbalanced. For the most part, we’ve all passed some tests and failed others.

Our strengths tell us how we can help the world. If you’re physically fit, you can help others become physically fit. If you’re literate and educated, you can become a creator of literacy and education. If you’re wealthy, teach people how to sustain themselves financially. People adept at presentation and appearance, people with families and responsibilities, activists, and people on spiritual paths who all attain some degree of accomplishment can all turn their misguided senses of pride into outbound gifts into the world.

Our weaknesses tell us how the world can help us. If you’re physically unfit, you need information and motivation to get back to health. If you’re illiterate and uneducated, you need to know how to go about discovering the wonderful worlds in books and academia. If you’re poor, you need to discover what is preventing you from being financially solvent and a good provider, should you need to be. And on and on.

Looked at in this way, there’s no reason for us to feel badly for what we need to work on or to feel self-satisfied and pompous for what we’re good at. Instead, we can consider how our lives have become an imbalanced puzzle piece and that, together, we compose a single fluid puzzle that is the state of our world at this point in time. There is no more virtue in the strength of our outbound connections than there is fault in the weakness of our inbound connections. Our action in this world is more about putting the puzzle together than it is about reshaping the piece we’re holding in our hand at the moment.

Keep on keeping on,
-M

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