We all have one. A weakness, an Achilles heel. For some, it is more obvious- perhaps a physical disability or chronic illness. For others, it is an internal battle- a mental illness, an insecurity, invisible.
In today’s age, where friendships are formed over the internet and text messages, it is easy to hide these shortcomings- using photographs and witty quips as a facade for what lies beneath. But the weakness remains and with it its ability to fester and silently crumble our confidence.
Some of us are more aware of our flaws than others, perhaps even too aware- obsessing over our failures; punishing ourselves as if that fixes the problem- while others choose to avoid confronting our demons, sweeping them under the proverbial rug where they grow and grow, only showing face during unrelated arguments.
Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” I could not agree more. Looking back, my saddest moments were when I 1) blamed others for my unhappiness 2) knew the root of a problem but refused to face it and 3) exhausted myself in an attempt to force someone else to recognize and fix their own problems.
Now, when my life feels imbalanced, I first look within. I try to break through the several smaller issues that easily distract me from the true root of the problem. Once identified, I take responsibility for my part- how did I contribute positively/negatively and what can I do now to improve it?
It is at this point that my achilles heel rears its ugly head- my inability to control the way others perceive me. I care way too much about the way other people feel about me. I envy strong-natured souls, unafraid to publicly announce their biased opinion, regardless of how it ostracizes them. Instead, I play the middle-ground, always empathizing with the other party in an attempt to understand their point-of-view, wanting to appear fair and considerate.
It has taken a lot of thought for me to understand why I am this way and, as is the case for many insecurities, it stems from my childhood. I am one of eight children; however, they are all half or step-siblings. To me, they have never been anything but “siblings” because they all entered my life by the time I was three years old, but to them, I was an addition- the youngest and in some cases, unexpected child. In an effort to “fit in” to three different families, I forced myself to be malleable, afraid that if I was deemed to have a difficult personality, I would be overlooked or avoided. Fast forward thirty years later and here I am: paralyzed when I have done everything I can to be easy-going and yet still sometimes misunderstood, powerless to change the other person’s perspective.
Once we recognize our weakness, it is up to us to either live with it or deal with it. I don’t want to live this way any longer so I am determined to deal with it. I don’t have a perfect answer but I know I can focus on what I DO HAVE: The nuclear family I am creating- the fact that my daughters won’t feel as misplaced as I felt growing up. I focus on my health- my gratitude for my healthy body and mind. And I focus on my strengths- what I am doing well, giving myself credit for what I have overcome to get to where I am today.
The truth is, Achille had only one weakness but in the end, it was the weakness that killed him. And I’ll be damned to allow this weakness to be my demise. I will take all the necessary time “To find yourself, think for yourself”, as Socrates said best. And I challenge you to do the same.