I just finished reading Raising the Barre by Lauren Kessler on the recommendation of a friend. Even though I don’t dance, I love a good ballet movie or book so I checked it out from the library immediately. I won’t go into the whole premise of the book here but to quickly synopsize, it’s about a middle-aged woman who decides she’s going to dance in the Nutcracker and her journey to get there. At the very end of the book she writes:
“As I shimmy out of my ball gown and scurry around the hallway looking for the big plastic bin to deposit the character shoes I’ll never wear again, a clichéd bit of advice pops into my head: Play to your strengths. And I think about how wrong that is. You should, I tell myself, intend to remind myself from now on, play to your weakness. Because that’s what stretches you.”
This quote has been running through my head ever since I read it.
Play to your weakness.
I feel like you hear play to your strength all the time in the workforce, in sports, in life. But isn’t that just the ego trying to further pump you up? Where is the growth in constantly focusing on what you’re already good at? And what if you don’t like what you’re good at? I happen to be a very good project manager but that doesn’t mean it’s the only skill I want to be good at or work on. Yes, there is the fine tuning, the improvement of getting even better at a natural skill but is that true, reaching, leaping, stomach turning growth? Or is that kind of growth only realized when you try something that doesn’t come so naturally?
These questions circled my mind while I looked at my own strengths and weakness.
From a physical standpoint this has been really easy to analyze. There are certain yoga poses that I just love. They feel lovely in my body, I feel strong and steady in them and I do them over and over again. These usually consist of arm balances and bound twists. But, what if I started lingering in the poses that don’t feel great? What if I spent my entire practice in the poses I avoid? Namely, what if I got into upavistha konasana – wide legged forward fold – everyday? What if I breathed through that discomfort? What could I let go of, what would shift, where could I be stretched, how would my practice grow?
But the nice thing is, this idea doesn’t just have to be about the physical. What’s one thing do you consider your weakness? Public speaking, getting up early, running, organizing, initiating plans with friends?
Instead of avoiding, go ahead…play to your weakness. Meet the discomfort head on. It might be humbling, it might be tough, it might feel incredibly uncomfortable, you might want to turn right back around. But it might also feel good, empowering, exhilarating. It might open new doors, start you down a new path, set your mind afire.
I know! Stew on it for a bit. It’s a powerful concept.