I have the privilege of doing a book study with several of my best girlfriends. I love these women. I’ve known them for years & I look forward to meeting with them every few weeks to share life, learning, & laughter.
Last week, our conversation sparked as we started to look at both the good and bad parts of ourselves. Not surprisingly, we were all pretty clear about the things that are wrong with us – impatient, judgmental, insecure, critical, controlling…
On & on we shared about the character defects we each seemed to struggle with. The conversation was genuine & the intentions were accountability & awareness. There were no real shocking revelations. Our lists were actually very similar but it’s hard to sit with others as you reflect vulnerably on these defects and the impact they’ve had on us & our relationships.
The conversation turned as we started to discuss our strengths. I was ready. I had a list of about 7 or 8 things I knew I offered the world & the relationships I’m in. These parts of me rang as true as the defects did & I was glad to focus on strengths to help us realize our building blocks for better relationships & healthier interactions with the world. I was excited to talk about the good stuff.
The conversation started to my right. I was to go last in the circle of friends. It took just a second for my first friend to shrug her shoulders & say “I got nothin'” I was confused for a second as light laughter broke out. I knew this women. She had made me laugh, been a listening ear, she was loyal, generous, supportive, reliable, funny, & kind. What does she mean “I got nothin.”?
My confusion grew even more as I sat & listened to the other three women comment “I’m so relieved. I couldn’t think of anything either.”
Wait…WHAT?!?What was going on? All we’re doing is looking at what’s good about us. This isn’t hard. There’s no detective work needed. There’s evidence at every turn of the beauty & strength in each of these women & they got nothin’???
My heart broke because I knew they meant it. They really couldn’t see what I see when I look at them or interact with them. Each of them share from the same list – brave, kind, reliable, safe, intelligent, strong, loyal… I could go on and on. But they couldn’t even list one.
My confusion grew to panic as I realized the conversation was circling back to me. Wait… I had a list. Suddenly, I felt embarrassed & awkward about my list of strengths. If four of these amazing women couldn’t see their beauty & strength, what did it say about me that I could? I was embarrassed to admit that I knew pretty clearly what I offered. My list included things like honest, genuine, dependable, trustworthy, loyal, intentional, thoughtful. I know these things to be true of me.
It took me a few minutes to find my footing but when I did, I shared openly about my embarrassment & fear of what I was feeling and the fear of what it said about me that I could list some strengths. Does that make me arrogant, haughty, bitchy? I didn’t feel that way when I wrote the list, nor was it an attempt to disrespect anyone else. Yet, their responses made me second guess my confidence.
I’ve spent a week or so mulling over this interaction. I sit with people all day long in groups & individual sessions. I know the pain we carry, the doubts we have, & the insecurities we face. I know the world is full of competition, performance, critique, & judgment. What does it say about or society that 4 amazing women would sit together and collectively not be able to identify one strength? What are we doing to ourselves?? To one another?
What I know is there’s no room for any of that in my life anymore. There’s room to celebrate, acknowledge & praise everyone for their strengths. Everyone offers something. I think we have a responsibility to know ourselves and to honor others – the good, the bad, the ugly, & the beauty.
It’s important to see ourselves in right size. We tend to magnify the flaws & minimize the strengths. There’s nothing wrong with celebrating what’s good, drawing attention to it, and leading our lives from that place. Why do we dumb ourselves down or have fear of shining light on our strengths? Why is it hard to stake claim in the fact that I’m a good person.
Most of us are too all or none about it. No-one is all good or all bad 100% of the time. As kind as I am, if you hurt my feelings, I can turn mean as a snake. It’s not all-or-none. But like ingredients that go into recipe, there are parts of all of us, in right portion that make the overall thing pretty good. We get what we look for. If we focus on what’s wrong, we’ll see what’s wrong. But if we start to look for what’s right & train our brain to look for those things, we’ll start to see them too.
My girls & I will follow up with one another next week. They’ve made a commitment to themselves & to the group to explore & identify their good parts. I can’t wait to hear & celebrate the good in each of them! And I really can’t wait to watch them start to believe it!