4 Important Reasons You Need To Know Your Weaknesses

The reason you need to know your weaknesses is that through them, you can:

  • Identify vulnerabilities
  • Expose shortcomings
  • Encourage growth
  • Change behaviours

Weakness is usually something we try to hide. So, I want to share with you why you need to know your weaknesses to become better at work and in life generally.

Why We Try To Hide Our Weaknesses

First of all, why do we try to hide our weaknesses?  Perhaps it's because:

  • You want to maintain a particular image at work
  • Fear a weakness will hamper your career
  • Worry others will take advantage of you

While these are all valid reasons by failing to acknowledge your weaknesses, you deny the vital role they have in building your strengths.

One of my weaknesses is using complicated formulations in excel. I'd just joined a company, and one of the first things I had to do was present a spreadsheet of data to the leadership team.

Yes, you guessed it; the data was wrong. You'd think that would be the worst thing on earth.  But it wasn't.  What I learnt was my excel skills were not where I thought they were.  So for future meetings, I always asked a colleague to check through my data in advance.

weaknesses often get a bad reputation

Too much emphasis is put on a good reputation when it comes to our weaknesses - no wonder we hate to fail


Weakness Has A Bad Reputation

You see, weakness has a bad reputation; you might think having a weakness exposed will destroy your credibility. As a result, most people hide or ignore their weaknesses and play up their strengths.  The further up the ladder you climb, the more you may fear the repercussions.

The danger comes when we focus purely on our strengths.  We can become unaware or downplay how our weaknesses can have dire consequences.  The need to know your weaknesses is, therefore, essential.

Yes, your weakness can contribute to failure, which, let's face it, most of us want to avoid at all costs.  But, there is such a thing as failing forward.  By this, we can see the mistakes we make as feedback to help us move a weakness into a strength.

Why You Need To Know Your Weaknesses

The four reasons why you need to know your weaknesses are that failing:

  • identifies vulnerabilities
  • exposes shortcomings
  • encourages growth
  • creates behaviour change

So, let's have a look in more detail what I mean by these reasons.

why you need to know your weaknesses so you don't feel vulnerable

Our weaknesses can make us feel vulnerable which adds to our stress at work because we fear that people will cut us down to size

Failing Identifies Vulnerabilities

First of all, let's be upfront here.  We all have vulnerabilities. We have weak spots that at work can leave us exposed to attack.  The snide comments or judgements made by others. 

But because failing identifies our vulnerabilities, it allows us the opportunity to problem-solve. And with it comes a new opportunity.

You see, your vulnerabilities don't necessarily need you to change and become better at the thing you're not good at. Instead, some can be managed by working with someone who thrives where you are weak.  What a brilliant way to foster great teamwork. 

Think of it in terms of a team. I'm sure you can think of a team at work or even all the people in your department.  Everyone has a unique contribution to bring. But, boy, wouldn't it be boring if we were all the same!

You need to know your weakness so you can find someone who counters that as a strength.  Together you become an incredible force to be reckoned with.

As I mention in Reasons To Absolutely Celebrate Your Unique Strengths and Weaknesses, no two people are the same.  The workplace needs diverse strengths to excel properly - so celebrate your unique strengths and weaknesses.

Failing Exposes Shortcomings

Sometimes, we don't know what we don't know. Yet, you probably put yourself under a lot of stress about it! But, seriously, no one can know absolutely everything, not even successful leaders. Most VP's I've worked with acknowledge their weaknesses so recruit people into their team who fill the short gap of their skill in a particular area. 

But, failure can expose shortcomings and provide you with the opportunity to fix them.

You need to know your weaknesses because suffering from a failure and learning where you're weak helps you learn new skills or solve problems. Of course, you might feel bruised by the experience of a failure. You might even end up in the loo crying to yourself about your big F*** up.  Yes, it's tough at the time but, it can build strength and character and make you significantly better in the future.

You've heard the phrase – what doesn't kill you makes you strong – this is part of why you need to know your weakness so you can build character.

Confident women know that a shortcoming is not a reflection of their lack of talent.  Far from it, it actually makes them stronger.

we need to know our weaknesses so we can grow stronger as a result

weaknesses provide an opportunity to improve, to be stronger and build character

Failing Encourages Development

Failing is humbling, and it can make us feel really small. No one wants to fail unless there is an intent to seek out weaknesses.  Think about innovation.  Most creators will build something they don't expect to succeed the first time.  They are deliberately looking for the weakness so they can learn from it and improve it.

Unfortunately, for most people, failure is a reminder of imperfections.  But just as you can't be expected to know the answer to everything, you can't expect yourself to be perfect either.  The alternative is to run away and hide.

Failing forward means embracing failure as part of the process knowing, that the failure will spur you on to grow.

Failing Changes Behaviour

Nobody can be good at everything. Whilst it might not feel like it at the time, failure can produce important feedback. This is because you allow yourself to create changes that prevent or even avoid future failure.  

You empower yourself to take responsibility and make changes.

Here's an example.

Say, for example, you are late home from work. You're tired, hungry and longing for a soak in the bath to ease the stresses of the day.  In a rush to get your dinner out of the oven, you grab the nearest thing to you. 

As you pick up the hot dish, you feel pain.  The tea-towel you've used is too thin to protect your hands.   A second later, your brain registers pain, and you squeal and automatically release the dish.  If you're lucky, the dinner doesn't fall on the floor.

You now know that getting your dinner out of the oven will need a mitten glove in the future.

As a result of that mistake, you've learnt to change your behaviour.

If you’re prone to rush at things, and you know your weakness for doing this. You can learn through your experience that a more considered and slower approach might be better.

The same philosophy can be applied to other mistakes that you may make at work. For example, you get burnt once; you don't want to get burnt again, so you change your approach.

Besides, your manager is less likely to get annoyed with you if you learn from your mistake and don’t repeat it.

innovative products are created by need to know your weaknesses

Without knowing the weaknesses, innovation would be stifled

A Lesson From Industry

I mention this earlier, but I think it's worth repeating.  Most companies do trials for new products they are looking to bring to market.  To ensure success, they are looking to expose weaknesses.  They want to know where the failures are, so they actively seek them out.

By doing so, they're able to improve the product.

To them, failure isn't the end; it's an integral part of the process.

I don't know anyone who was able to do a presentation for the first time completely successfully.  But they do it anyway, knowing that there will be mistakes.  But practice let's them really test out where their weaknesses lie so that future presentations will be better.

Remember We Are Humans In Training

We are all humans in training.  We make mistakes; it's how we learn to get better.

The reason you need to know your weaknesses is that failure is positive if you're failing forward. Weaknesses discovered from failures offer valuable feedback that builds strength.      

When you learn to embrace your mistakes, you begin to see them as an opportunity to learn.  Subsequently, the fear you have about them can reduce.


About the author Alison

A qualified UK based coach with 30 years of experience in personal development.

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