Did you grow up with the idea that we constantly need to work on our weaknesses?
For sure I did.
Society teaches us that we’re not enough from a young age, that we need to improve, that we are full of flaws.
My first memories go back to elementary school.
I’ve always been one of the top students in my class, starting from elementary school until later years at university.
However, all everyone seemed to care about were my areas of improvement, not my strengths.
During elementary school, the history class used to be a nightmare for me.
I didn’t understand why I needed to know irrelevant information of events that happened centuries ago, why I needed to memorise dates and names that wouldn’t serve me in life.
Teachers would force me to study additional hours to make sure my history grades would match all the other “A's " I was collecting in all other subjects.
Can you guess how much of that information I remember today?
Close to zero.
In high school, the same problem happened with the Latin language.
Why did I need to learn a language that was not even spoken anywhere in the world?
Again, hours and hours were spent memorising phrases and words that I don’t recollect at all today.
And, finally, during my Bachelor and Master’s degree, I just couldn’t deal with anything related to law.
As a matter of fact, the only exam I ever failed in my life was private law.
Throughout the years, I’ve spent a significant number of hours studying topics that didn’t really interest me, that I didn’t see any value in learning and for which I can’t recollect any useful information today.
Why am I telling you all this?
Because these simple examples can show you how much time we all waste trying to improve something we’re not really good at.
Imagine how many other useful things I could have done or learned if I spent that time differently.
But we all grow up with this idea that we need to overcome our weaknesses, instead of just focusing on our strengths.
And this is not entirely your fault – we were programmed to think in this way.
Societies, schools, institutions, universities, our families and companies all made us believe that we are weak and that we are not enough.
In my case, things became even worse in the business world.
During my first years in business, I worked for Vodafone, a tech giant with a great reputation.
I was one of the few young graduates in the Italian market to have been selected for their exclusive Graduate Program.
Every 6 months, I would rotate in a different company area, to complete an assignment in divisions such as Marketing, CRM, Operations and Sales, only to name a few.
In my third rotation, I was assigned to the Enterprise Sales team, where I inherited the worst portfolio of clients that no one else wanted to manage, and for which I was supposed to increase revenues by up-selling Vodafone’s corporate products.
No one ever trained me for that role, and everyone expected me to generate amazing results since day 1, because I was the young talent selected among many other candidates.
Today, I can say without any shame that I really hated that job.
I didn’t achieve even half of my targets in the first few months and I didn’t even believe in the product I was selling to the final customer.
Looking at that time from today’s perspective, I can only have compassion for my younger self, who was trying to be the best she could, in a role that was not at all suited for her.
But unfortunately, I was too young to understand this concept at that time.
I started to doubt myself and my abilities.
I started to believe that I was a failure.
I felt like a fraud, someone who was not worth being in that role (even if I was working an average of 12 hours per day for a really small salary).
I spent months waking up in the middle of the night with anxiety attacks.
If you are in your early 20s and you’ve just started your career journey, please remember that you cannot be good at everything.
This is exactly what I would tell my younger self and, if you’re going to remember only one thing from this post, this is what I’d like you to take away.
We all have strengths and weaknesses and you are not a failure if you find yourself in a situation where you’re asked to focus entirely or mostly on your weaknesses.
On one hand, I regret having spent so much time feeling bad about my abilities over the years.
On the other, I’m happy I went through all of these experiences because they were all lessons for life.
Today, I can teach these lessons to other people.
I’ve achieved considerable success in life and I consider myself an ambitious and driven person.
My weaknesses do not define me, my strengths do.
A radical shift of mindset happened for me when I completed a corporate training called “Native Genius”.
Native Genius is a term that describes the power of something you already have: your innate intelligence. I also like to call them your "superpowers".
It's also a method that activates that intelligence.
If you’re interested in learning more, you should check this amazing TEDx talk about native genius given by Kristen Wheeler, Founder of the Native Genius Lab: TEDx.
This training was a first step in discovering my true strengths, but also what lights me up and what I really enjoy doing.
From that moment on, my whole attitude towards work changed once and for all.
Today, I’m no longer concerned about my weaknesses.
For sure I’m always trying to learn and improve, but my weaknesses don’t make me feel like a failure anymore.
Instead, I always try to find someone who’s good in the things that I find challenging, and I can learn from them from a place of compassion towards myself.
I’ve become more aware of my strengths and all the activities that bring me joy, and I try to use them every single day.
Don’t be afraid to communicate your strengths and weaknesses to your team or your manager, it will only help them fuelling your professional growth
For everything you don't enjoy, there will be someone else who loves to do these things instead.
Imagine how fun the workplace would be if we all focused mostly on activities involving the use of our superpowers.
If you’re a business owner, imagine how easier would it be to delegate the activities that do not involve your superpowers, without the fear of being labeled as “weak”.
What are your superpowers?
I hope you'll be inspired to dedicate some time in finding them out :)