Admitting Your Weaknesses
In the movie Fatal Attraction, Michael Douglas has an extramarital affair with Glenn Close. When she discovers that he is married, she begins to use this information against him. She knows that she has information that will be damaging to his personal and professional life. It is not until he actually tells his wife about his affair that the character played by Glenn Close loses the power of negotiation. When Douglas told his wife that he had had an affair with Close, he took away her tool of destruction.
If you ever tell a lie to someone and another person finds out that you lied, that person has power over you until you admit the lie yourself. In doing this, you take the power away from the person who knows about the lie. You strip that person of his or her negative tool of persuasion. Once you admit the lie, his or her power is gone.
This is how subtraction works. Many people will find your weaknesses, your fears, your shortcomings, and once discovered, will use this knowledge against you at every turn. They become relentless in using this weapon to manipulate you.
The only way to combat this is to be comfortable in admitting your own shortcomings, thus taking the power away from other people to use this against you.
What is a weakness?
A weakness is something that you are not as adept at as others may be. It's a flaw that you might have. Your weakness may be that you lack patience, that you have a temper, that you don't particularly enjoy being around children, or that you talk too much. Weaknesses are not permanent, but they are deeply engrained in your personality and will take a concerted effort to overcome.
Perhaps the very first people to use this tool against you were your parents. They may not have known what they were doing, but they may have unwittingly used the power of your weaknesses to damage your self-esteem.
It may be that they were using the power to try to help you. Imagine the parent who has watched his or her child struggle and struggle with math. Then, the parent finds out that his or her child has voluntarily registered for a math competition at school. The parent may say to the child, “You know you have trouble in math and you should really rethink this. I really don't think you're going to be able to do it.”
The parent is trying to help the child avoid embarrassment, when in actuality he or she has used the child's weakness as a tool to damage the child's self-esteem. On the other hand, some parents would say this to keep the child from exploring new options or engaging in new activities. They would use the knowledge of the child's math problems to deliberately hurt the child's esteem.
Just because you call them your friends does not mean that they always are your “friends.” Sometimes, your friends can be the most vicious people you know.
Suppose that your friend found out that you were not very good at volleyball and a group of friends wanted to go play. Your friend may use this information against you in order to feel better about his or her own abilities. This person may jokingly cut you down in front of other friends just so that everyone knows your weakness.
“It is well, when judging a friend, to remember that he is judging you with the same godlike and superior impartiality.”
— Arnold Bennett
However, if you admit that weakness up front, make light of the fact that you don't play very well but say that you'd love to try, you have taken the power of hurt away from that “friend” to embarrass you.
Perhaps the most damaging relationship you can have is when your coworkers know your weaknesses. Often, they will use this power to advance their own career over yours. They may take every opportunity possible to let others in the environment know what your weaknesses are.
Suppose that a coworker finds out that you do not like to deal with conflict and that you have a very hard time being around people who are in conflict. Your coworker may use every opportunity to let others know this, thus planting the seed in people's minds that you would not make a very good manager because you can't deal with people in conflict.
Once that seed is planted, you will have a hard time addressing the issue unless you admit it up front, work to overcome it, and learn from those who do it well. By admitting the shortcoming on your own, you have taken the power away from that coworker.
Subtraction and Self-Esteem
Your self-esteem can be greatly enhanced or greatly damaged by this subtraction technique. If you discover that someone is using one of your weaknesses against you and you do nothing about this, your self-esteem, and maybe your career and relationships, may suffer.
However, if you become the first to admit that you don't like conflict, or you don't play volleyball very well, or that you don't know how to use PowerPoint, then no one can use that information against you, because it is already public knowledge.
It is okay to relinquish the thought that you are perfect. You are not, and no one else is either. Everyone has strengths, and everyone has weaknesses. The key is to acknowledge both. In doing so, you begin to understand the essence of being human. You begin to understand that life is a series of “haves and have nots,” of “can do and can't do,” and “knowing and not knowing.”
It is only when you refuse to admit your shortcomings and faults that another person can use them over you. By having the courage and the self-esteem to say, “You're right; I'm not perfect and never will be,” you have taken a monumental step in subtracting negative power away from others.