The Importance of Context

While driving me to an interview for a summer job, my mom asked if I had thought out answers to questions that I would likely be asked. She asked me about my greatest strengths, what I would be able to offer the company, what questions I had prepared to seem interested and well-informed. When asking my greatest weakness, she laughed: “I know what I would say. I want to hear what you think.” She later told me that, in her eyes, my greatest weakness was my “inability to deal with stupid people.”

In my eyes, my greatest weakness is my perfectionism. I get too invested in small details of a project and lose sight of the big picture. I want everything to be so perfect. I don’t know what to do when it doesn’t turn out that way.

This perfectionism affects every aspect of my life. In some cases, it is positive. I work diligently and earn good grades on my assignments. In other cases, it is all-consuming. My anxiety takes over, and I become unable to separate my emotions from the task at hand. This isn’t just an issue for me. The more emotionally invested in a topic any of us become, the harder it is for us to take a step back. That’s why we can advise others away from their self-degrading comments but not isolate the same behavior in ourselves. That’s why we find it so much easier to love someone else than to love ourselves.

In short, it’s easy to see the good in other people. This is especially true for our friends. We love them and wouldn’t want them to feel that they are anything less than perfect. When they get down, we tell them everything we love about them to lift them up again. We would never validate their self-deprecation. We always try our best to lift our friends up when they seek to tear themselves down.

Now, do that for yourself.

In the context of school, work, or life, it sometimes seems impossible to take time specifically for self-care. It seems that caring for yourself must involve expensive, time-consuming activities: facials, yoga classes, massages, happy hours. But it can be as simple as putting everything into context: no time or money necessary.

Start by making two lists.

First, write down five things you’re passionate about: five things you love or love to do.

Next, write down five things you’re good at: five things you love about yourself.

The latter is a little harder. I know that sometimes I feel like I have nothing to offer the world. I feel that my life is defined by numbers: the annual cost of attending college, my weight, my GPA, the number of likes on my last instagram post, the salary I expect to earn once I graduate. It is so easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of my peers and forget what makes me myself; to forget the unique skills I have that others find impressive.

Remember that anything can be extraordinary if you believe it is. We are all good at different things, but it takes an outside perspective to be able to notice them. So, take a step back. Pick five things you’re good at. Whether they are simple or complex, unique or commonplace, these skills make you who you are. And they are amazing reasons to love yourself.

We all have our biggest weaknesses. But in job interviews and in life, it only takes a change of perspective to turn our weakness into strength.

Leana Reich

Leana Reich is a junior at the University of Pennsylvania studying Cultural and Linguistic Anthropology. She loves to explore cities, particularly by way of coffee shops and museums, and doesn’t properly understand how lucky she is to have lived at the beach her entire life. She does understand how lucky she is to have such an amazing mom as a role model and appreciates her every day.

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