Initially I had this post down as “personal weaknesses”, and had even referred to it as such in previous installments of this series. I didn’t like that. It’s not that I can’t admit that I have weaknesses, but calling them such seemed like I was giving up and giving in. In the corporate world, when I had to write performance reviews for me employees, we euphemistically called them “opportunities. They aren’t strengths, but they’re something that can be worked on. Since I’m coming from SWOT analysis perspective, that didn’t fit either. An opportunity isn’t a problem.
So I’ve settled on calling them personal obstacles. These are the potholes in the road that I have to navigate around on my journey. They’re things I have to live with, compensate for, and just sort of accept as part of my current reality.
My Top 3 Personal Obstacles
Unlike the prior two installments of this series, where I participated in surveys to determine my values and my strengths, I came up with these by brainstorming. It was easy enough to figure out what trips me up on any given day. These are issues I am painfully aware of. They can’t be fixed, only managed, which means they are wild cards. Any one of these can trip me up at any moment.
I didn’t put chronic pain on the list, because while it does affect my daily life, it’s been almost 40 years. There’s nothing new or different to be done. Dealing with it is part of my daily routine, like eating or sleeping. It’s more like background noise than an obstacle.
This goes to the top of the list. It’s also one of the reasons that I changed the wording from “weakness” to “obstacle”. Mental health issues aren’t a weakness, or a character flaw. They’re an illness. While I’ve been doing very well for several months, that doesn’t mean that a panic attack might not strike at any moment. Anxiety can put me down for minutes, or hours, or days. That’s an obstacle.
When I took the strengths tests, some of them included weaknesses as well. My results often contained phrases like self-doubt, lack of confidence, impostor syndrome, and fearfulness. I can recognize all of those as separate things, and I do experience them. Individually I can handle those issues, though. When they start punching my anxiety, that’s when real problems begin to take hold.
Lack of Flexibility
I hate surprises, and I hate squishy plans. I don’t like it when people show up unannounced. But if we have plans to meet at 4, you had best be there on time because I will be. I’m the person that needs to know where we’re going, how long it will take, who will be there, and what the agenda is. “Wing it” is not in my vocabulary. With no offense to anyone, I have often wondered if I’m on the spectrum. I get really angry and unreasonable when my routines are unexpectedly disrupted.
That doesn’t mean that I’m not adaptable. I just need a head’s up so I can be prepared. Today, for example, workmen showed up at the door unannounced, and pulled all of the vents in the apartment apart. I knew, vaguely, that they would be coming at some point over a 3-week period to do the work. No idea what day, or how long. Was this going to be a quick check, in and out, or would they be here all day? It completely screwed up my plans and wasted my time. If I knew when they would be here, I would have planned to be out, either running errands or working from a coffee shop. Long after they’ve gone, I’m still thrown off by the disruption.
My name is Berin, and I am not comfortable with people. I am an introvert who doesn’t like crowds or noisy social situations. It’s not that I can’t deal with people. I can be cordial and charming as hell. For years I dealt with the public, in retail management and corporate customer service functions. Those are things that I have been successful at. It’s just incredibly draining. I would prefer to live like a hermit.
Clearly this creates problems for me. Not just as a blogger, but an entrepreneur. I don’t like to schmooze, to network, or to talk to strangers in any capacity under any circumstances. Bad interactions in the corporate world and on the internet have driven me further away. I’m working on managing it, so that I can do what I need to do in a way that’s both effective and comfortable for me.
What to Do with This
When looking to make changes and solve problems, I acknowledge these as limitations I have to work with. It’s no different than having a limited budget for a project, or a tight deadline. If we can’t do this, because it costs too much money, what else can we do. Time constraints cut off some possibilities, but there are still other options. Working around my anxiety triggers, my need for structure, and my limited threshold of tolerance for social engagement are all just resource limitations.