Sunday, August 17, 2014

Seeing Your Strengths

I need to find a way to understand and use my strengths. I need to focus less on what I can't do.

This I just realized after having spent the last 90 minutes on a phone call with an online friend who was trying to get me to see my strengths. I have very little idea of how other people live, because I've never known anything other than my brain. She compliments me on my ability to figure out and assess my problems so well, and my ability to figure out what I need. The problem I have is in taking action to get what I need due to anxiety about it not being possible to get. Anxiety about whether my needs will be met. I am surprised at her compliments and have trouble imagining that most people aren't capable of the level of self-analysis that is for me there all the time without any effort.
 I am focused on my weaknesses to the exclusion of all else, so I am not able to use my strengths for anything. To figure out how to use my strengths, I would first need to figure out what they are, and this would require something I was always taught was at the height of selfishness - asking people to give me feedback, sometimes more than once, about the parts of me that are positive, and why, and to tell me enough times until I understand these things just as intimately as I understand my own faults (the knowledge of the latter which has been beat into me so many times it's a running tape in my head whenever I try to do the simplest of things).          

She says that it would be a shame to waste such a genuine, honest caring spirit and try to bring it down to the level of everyone else just because that is what the majority is.

I try to ask her how I help other people because this is not something I have much experience with. She says I inspire her to think about the way she's living her life and what she could do better or differently for more emotional richness, in a way she never has before. So is that what it is? I inspire people to think?
She also tells me that my genuineness inspires happy emotions in others, because they can sense and feel my happiness, my other emotions and it makes them feel, which they like. Some, anyway. A certain subset. I am so used to feeling like a burden on other people that it is like an exercise in brain gymnastics to even perceive that this could be true, but a worthy one.

Many people when I was in college would be drawn to me to have intense conversations about the way they felt about something - and would tell me "Gee, I never talk about this with anyone," and they just met me - but it would never turn into a friendship, and for that I blamed myself. Is it possible that they just preferred superficiality? Is it possible that I have a gift to help others be themselves and feel comfortable expressing themselves? One that might not lend itself well to the kind of superficial friendship that the world seems so enamored of, but that could be useful for those who really need it and are open to it?

I am different, but the only possible labels society gives me to think about my differences are in terms of disability. Autism, depression, anxiety, whatever. But what if we labeled what people did right as much as we label what they did wrong? Caring, genuine, perceptive, insightful, these are all valid things... that we have no real term for. I don't really know what you *mean* when you call me this, because I have not run into an awful lot of people like this. I have been given no reason to think these traits are anything special or particularly useful. But what if I did?

What if they gave me a label of what I did right? If they gave me a label of what I did right, I could rise up to meet that and all the negatives wouldn't matter so much.

I have as much trouble being superficial as other people do being genuine, but she says not to waste your gift of being genuine by being superficial. The world has enough superficial people already. It doesn't need one more. It needs someone genuine, even if it doesn't know that yet.

What I need more than anything is people who will remind me of my own strengths.

Disability is a seductive identity, especially for someone who has never belonged to any other group. Labels of disability are helpful to a point, and the point is when it blinds you to all knowledge that you could ever be something more. Balance is hard to achieve.

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