My Greatest Strengths are my Greatest Weaknesses

I have this friend, Ada, who once told me her biggest professional pet peeve was when people answer the “what’s your greatest weakness?” question during interviews with something that’s actually a strength.

On the surface, it’s an easily agreeable pet peeve. You’ve spent the whole interview talking about how brilliant you are in your personal life, school life, and work life, why can’t you just name one weakness? That’s how I came into my technical interview prep as a bright-eyed freshman in college. I was interviewing with a private equity company, preparing my notes, and trying to think of some kind of weakness. In most interviews, they don’t straight up as you for your greatest weakness, but they have the question in roundabout sort of ways, so it’s important to have some sort of answer.

The more I thought about what my greatest weakness should be, the more stumped I was. I’m not trying to say that the reason I couldn’t think of a weakness was that I’m absolutely perfect and have no flaws (however, it’s still up for consideration). I found, time and time again, that the things I thought were my biggest flaws all seemed to come off like good traits. I saw the traits I had on my strengths list also showing up, in some part, on my weakness list. The more I thought about this, the more it began to morph into a new Calihan Philosophy.

Oftentimes we believe that weaknesses come from the categories in which we are lacking, however I believe that they more come from the categories we are prolific in because sometimes we can divulge too much. It’s as though these character traits we possess fluctuate among a spectrum. When we are at our best selves, they are strengths; at our worst, weaknesses.

I believe that my greatest strength is my discipline. When I set my mind to something it will get done… no matter what that journey looks like. I started playing club soccer in third grade and spent all my free time outside of school at the common ground near my house practicing… as a seven-year-old. The same happened in middle school and high school. Although my activities have changed in college, I would argue I have become even more obsessive. Especially when it comes to being an upperclassman and getting a good job after graduation. I believe it’s one of my parent’s greatest worries about me that I become too obsessive. Ditching friends, missing sleep, missing meals, just to study another case, send another note, or apply for another job. When things don’t work out, or I get rejected from a job I built the rest of my life around, everything crashes down. The earthquake and aftershocks are all happening at the same time. So the good attribute of being disciplined has now turned into an absolute obsession. My goals grab me by the neck and don’t let go until they’re complete, no matter what they have to go through to become complete.

With determination, it’s the same thing. If I decide one day that I want to work with a certain company, by the next morning I have reached out to at least five different people on LinkedIn, and made a game plan about getting the role. On the surface, it seems like a good characteristic to have, and sometimes it is. But also sometimes, it results in a huge lack of impatience. Earlier this month, I asked my friend Sevyn if she could ask her supervisor, Brielle, if I could have her email. Brielle is running a company in the industry I want to work in and I thought it would be beneficial to set up a lunch date together. It was Monday, and Sevyn said she would have it done by the end of the week.

I was taken aback. The end of the week? Why wouldn’t you just ask the day of? With each passing day Sevyn would come back home without speaking with her supervisor, I became more and more enraged at her. When I told my mom about the situation, she laughed and told me that I needed to be patient. Waiting only a week to get such an integral connection was nothing, most of the time it takes months. She told me that although I give myself a 12-hour deadline for all permeating tasks, not everyone is the same. So here I was enraged at Sevyn, when really it was just the toxicity of one of my greatest strengths coming out as chronic peevish impatience.

This overall unwavering on dates and the time and order in which I want things to happen is also thanks to my strong-mindedness. One of my high school friends once told me in a fit of rage, “your strong will is the thing I love most about you most of the time, but right now it’s the thing I hate the most about you!” She understood the Calihan Spectrum Theory before I did, it seems. My analytical thinking and uncompromising attitude oftentimes get into cahoots with one another to make me a little bit too much like Hannibal Smith from the A-Team who “love[s] it when a plan comes together”. When I lay out a strategic plan for a goal, I know it will work, but if it ever strays off of that path I am less sure, and therefore convinced it won’t work.

Another integral part of my personality is my independence. I’m not afraid to do things by myself, take the path that I want to, or stand up for myself. However as I’ve gotten older, especially with the addition of COVID, sometimes I feel as though I’ve gotten too good at being alone. Oftentimes I come back to my apartment at night and realize I haven’t talked to anyone all day. Leaving before my roommates woke up and stayed out the entire Saturday by myself, absolutely unbothered by it.

I moved out as soon as I turned 18, halfway across the country. I lived in an off-campus apartment so I truly had nobody telling me what I could and couldn’t do. From that point on I was the only authority figure I was required to listen to, except for being courteous to roommates. Recently we took a program trip to Toledo and this personality trait came out strong. We were ushered as a large group onto a bus and then forced to walk around with a tour group instead of exploring the city by ourselves. At the end of the day, the program managers posted pictures they had taken of us on the tour and I had my arms crossed in every single one of them. I was so used to traveling by myself and setting my own agenda in regard to sights I wanted to see that I spent the entirety of the day being infuriated by the lack of freedom. I just wanted to be set free on my own.

So what’s the point in figuring out this whole, “strengths and weaknesses are a spectrum” thing? All I can is that I know that another trait of mine is curiosity and being able to think introspectively and analytically about things, the weakness being this is not always necessary.

In the end, it’s just another stepping stone in the pathway of figuring out how we work best, and slowly putting our personality into words It’s the same reason we are interested in Enneagram (3) or Myers Briggs (INTJ) – to simply learn about our personality so that we can function, work, and interact at our highest level.

Yours truly,



3 responses to “My Greatest Strengths are my Greatest Weaknesses”

  1. […] Our greatest strengths are also our greatest weaknesses. Our weaknesses are not specifically traits that we may be lacking, or traits different than our strengths. They are traits that we already have – certain personality traits that when positive are strengths, yet when they become too much they become our weaknesses. It’s like a scale that moved back and forth depending on external and internal factors. […]


  2. I could have written this! lol – I agree – there is a fine line between strengths and weaknesses, and sometimes traits are both at the same time.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. […] If there’s one thing about me, it’s that if I want something I’m going to get it. Oftentimes I ponder whether this is a strength or a weakness, and have come to the conclusion it depends on the goal in mind. In this case, it’s a strength. […]


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