Should you acknowledge your weaknesses and flaws?

Sometimes in life, it turns out that the truth is the exact opposite of what we believed it to be.

For example, up until the sixties, pregnant women in the US were recommended to smoke. Not until in the eighties(!) did people, in general, learn that it permanently hurts the child (1).

We can call these “truths” toxic advice. These are the advice we think will help us – when in reality they end up hurting us!

When it comes to success, there’s a common toxic advice that I want to talk about today.

I’ve always been told that the way to succeed in life is to psyche up; to tell yourself that you’re great and focus on all the things you do great – not on your flaws and weaknesses.

It sounds like the right thing to do, right?

As it turns out, the opposite is true. The advice above will make you feel WORSE about yourself and it will make it HARDER for you to succeed. Let me show you why.

To become really good at something we have to be brave enough (and go through the pain) of looking at where we CAN improve. We need to acknowledge and accept our weaknesses.

As an example, it’s first when someone finally accepts that they have a problem with drinking that they can start looking for ways to get out of it. (Up until the point they accept it as a problem, they’ve been in denial of it.)

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I have so many flaws and weaknesses that I know about – and many more that I probably don’t yet know exist. Because I accept that they are there today, I can work on them.

When it comes to business, I tend to over-work details. I tend to want to do things myself rather than delegating. Thanks to accepting that I have these flaws, I can account for them. When it comes to social life, all my social flaws and my commitment to improving them is what has turned into SocialPro.

behind the scenesBehind the scenes during the production of SocialPro’s flagship program “Confident in 60 Days”.

There’s a book called “Principles”, written by one of the most successful people in the world, Ray Dalio. (He owns the world’s largest hedge fund.) In his book, he writes about what has been a factor in making him so successful:

“Thinking about problems that are difficult to solve may make you anxious, but not thinking about them (and hence not dealing with them) should make you more anxious still. 

[…]Acknowledging your weaknesses is not the same as surrendering to them. It’s the first step toward overcoming them.”

Great coaches know about this. They first make their clients accept that they have flaws and weaknesses. They then help them deal with these flaws. To be able to deal with them, we first need to accept that we have them.

But what about staying positive and being happy with who you are?

Ok, so here’s where people get confused.

There’s the good and bad kind of self-criticism:

  • Bad self-criticism: “I’m way too undisciplined. I suck.”
  • Good self-criticism: “I’m undisciplined. What could I do to become more disciplined? I can buy a well-reviewed book on self-discipline and make sure to put its methods to use.”

It’s no coincidence that one of the most successful therapy forms in the world is “ACT” or “Acceptance and commitment therapy” (2). You first ACCEPT your current situation. You then COMMIT to changing it.

Interestingly enough, we become both happier AND more successful in life when we combine these two views on life: Accept whatever situation you’re in. Commit to changing it.

But what about things we CAN’T change about ourselves or that aren’t worth the effort it would take to change them?
It’s even more important that we accept those things.

I have a pretty bright voice. I´m not too tall. I’m way too pale. Thanks to accepting these traits rather than ruminating over them, I can be much more comfortable with who I am and stop caring so much about what others think. I can move on in life instead of being controlled by my flaws.

Read more:
How I stopped caring what others think.

What are your weaknesses? Is there any of them you want to commit to change? The first step is to write it down. I’m excited to hear in the comments below!

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David Morin is the founder of SocialPro. He's been writing about social skills since 2012. Follow on Twitter or read more.

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4 thoughts on “Should you acknowledge your weaknesses and flaws?”

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  1. Jealousy and over-thinking is two problems I’m working really hard with. This things make me feel mentally bad, ugly and unlovable. But when I’m thinking deeper have these weaknesses helped me a lot. Some times I think that my weaknesses has distroyed my life, but I can do something with them, I can learn. Mostly I notice when I’m overthinking or getting jealous and then I speak to myself. In the mirror or just in my phone camera, “you are beautiful and you’re doing you’re best” and that makes me more confident. I can solve problems and getting more and more confident with help from my weaknesses. Remember that all weaknesses don’t just have a bad side.

  2. Of late I realized that certain tendencies seem to be holding be back. Things like feeling resentful, jealous, that others are better than I am or do much better than I do. So I decided to face them down and with God’s help I am recognizing a freedom to just accept me for me, knowing that once those things are faced and acknowledged they can be replaced with more positive tendencies on time. Not saying it’s easy, it’s doable.

    I learnt a valuable lesson, we are sometimes crippled with feelings of inadequacy, feelings of what will people say about me if I do this or that. I learnt that people are not thinking about me like that (courtesy of Anna Light), they are busy trying to figure out things for themselves. So do what you have to do.

  3. I find mental maneuvers tend to be subtle. For instance, there’s a big difference in e-motion between acknowledging and accepting one’s weaknesses as opposed to ruminating and feeling down about them.

    When I was young, although I was always very self-aware/self-conscious, I wasn’t that aware of what went on in my mind. So I tended to ruminate on weaknesses as well as any perceived negative social experience, which compounded worry and anxiety.

    However, these days, I’m aware of the subtleties of my thoughts and I never ever even worry anymore about nothing.

    I accept my strengths AND weaknesses and as a result have more energy to develop myself.


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