Faults, weaknesses, and vices are part of what makes a person who they are. We are not typically proud of them and we often seek to change them, but they are part of who we are. Faults are both subjective and situational. What you feel may be your weakness, others may see as a strength, and a trait that hinders you in one situation may be a boon in another.
I think the first step in coping with faults is being aware of them and understanding them. For some, identifying faults comes easy, for others it is painful, and for some it is near impossible to recognize them. There is also a line between knowing them privately and declaring them publicly. For some, such as myself, it is fairly easy to cross that line, for others, it is nearly impossible. Wisdom in some cases argues strongly that it is foolish to expose our weaknesses for there are always those who will try to take advantage of them.
So, what are my faults? I’ll attempt to give a good account, but as noted, I may not be the only authority on what they are. Others can see me in ways I cannot see myself. Whether they are right or not, I cannot know because when evaluating them, you have the same weaknesses that may keep you from seeing them, yet you have far more information than those who observe you so it is just as likely they may lack understanding. All that said, let’s get to it!
I find it hard to put a finger on exactly what this entails and how it plays out in my life. I do often work hard at many things and I have a good number of life achievements to show for that hard work. That said, often I excel at productivity and achieving goals by being clever and efficient rather than brute force. If I can find a way to do a job with less effort, I typically seize upon it. I tend to put in my maximum effort only on special occasions, not constantly or even frequently. I procrastinate and distract myself and have all manner of justifications for taking the easy roads in life.
This is often a struggle for me because I have often had success despite this fault. I do sometimes think that without it, I’d be an unstoppable dynamo, yet would I be happy if I didn’t dedicate time and space to relaxing and simply enjoying life’s pleasures? I also overcome it when the need arises, and there are times it seems I work harder than anyone to achieve a goal or stave off some disaster. I fool myself into thinking that my relaxation is part of a strategy to have reserves when times are tough.
Vanity and Ego
This one is very situational. Many times having endless self-confidence and esteem is a great thing. There are times when my confidence and belief in my abilities, combined with my sloth, lead me to underestimate a challenge and thus be unprepared when it comes. A lack of fear or anxiety can really dovetail with procrastination to make a big mess that could have easily been avoided. Ego is also a hindrance to benefiting from others criticism. While I know I should always listen and consider critique, I instinctively reject it out of a sense of self-superiority. And of course I can’t really know when I am truly right, or when I am just full of myself with the exception of situations where I have strong past experience. Finally, vanity and ego are often apparent to others and while they can lead to people admiring you, others will see you as a rival to be fought and in turn, I may see others with strong ego’s as rivals as well.
I think this is a fault I’ve gotten much better at coping with as I’ve gotten older. While my ego grows every more bold, I have learned a lot more humility and gained the wisdom to temper my instinct of self-aggrandizement. I do try to listen to criticism, and I’ve learned that if I give it time beyond my first reaction, I’m much more likely to take it in and evaluate it fairly. You might say this exercise in finding my own faults is part of how I cope with it.
This is one I have a hard time accepting and it can be frustrating to others. I often think that things are going to work out, perhaps not in an ideal way, but in a workable and acceptable way. Mind you, this is mostly only true when I have some hand in whatever it is. It is no doubt a result of my ego demanding that I if I set my mind to it, I can accomplish what needs to be accomplished. I think exacerbating this is I don’t tend to feel a sense of fear or panic about a difficult task. I take it on the same keel as any other challenge.
I have a hard time accepting this partly because most of the time I manage to accomplish things that others have been pessimistic about. It doesn’t always come off without any flaw, but most of the time I get the job done, even when the odds against it were pretty bad. I don’t have a 100% success record at everything I do, but I tend to feel mine is better than most. I also argue there is little purpose it getting worked up about a thing, that the personal energy is better spent working on it than worrying about it. Still, I have to admit this can be a flaw and if anyone is guilty of it, I probably am.
There is probably not a person on the planet that doesn’t struggle with being selfish. And as with most faults, there are possibly virtues to be had here. Market economics and even evolution are in some respects driven by selfish motivations. Yet, some of my life’s most regretful and shameful moments are where I needlessly sought my own interests at the expense of others. I can be both greedy and thoughtless at times, so self-absorbed I simply don’t notice the pain or difficulty others are in. I love to have attention and the spotlight and will grab it with gusto when I am not otherwise mindful. I try to be generous and think kindness is one of my virtues but there is always more work to be done in taming one’s selfishness and I’ve a way’s to go yet.
Looking back on my life I’ve certainly gotten more mindful of others. I recall in school I used to really monopolize the time in class for myself, always eager to show how smart I was. In college I realized what I was doing and scaled it back, letting others have a chance before jumping in. In work, I learned to not just show off but to help others show off their work as well. Fortunately as much as I love myself, I rally do like and want to help other people.
Aggression / Competitive
My instinct is to play the game of life with a tit for tat strategy. Do something nice to me, I will return the favor. Do something mean to me, and my teeth are bared right away. I don’t anger easily, but I don’t have to actually be angry to be aggressive. I am also a competitive person. I like having rivals and enjoy confrontation to some degree. Even with friends and allies I feel a sense of competition and challenge under the surface, a desire to prove myself better or raise my esteem. I am deeply competitive and I love being right. When I get worked up, I can be a real steamroller.
Fortunately, I hate hurting people so I only truly lash out at people defensively, and even then I feel some sense of guilt at having done so. I also try to help others be competitive and succeed even while I am doing battle with them. I figure it makes us both better in the end and I can be competitive in being helpful, challenging that instinct into something that helps others as much as myself.
I am not a disciplined person. I don’t do well following rules for the sake or rules, or artificially limiting my behavior because I or someone else has set a boundary. I am terrible about following diets, or keeping a good sleep schedule, brushing my teeth, and many other tasks that are based on regular disciplined activities. Not only do I break such boundaries willingly, I often simply can’t keep a regular routine in my mind. I am by nature reactive to my circumstances and flexible in my behavior.
My saving grace is I have a strong sense of honor and virtue. I don’t need rules to keep me in line most of the time. I like doing the right thing, the good thing, the nice thing, and so on. Where this is a real problem is in things that are really just good for me like dieting or brushing my teeth. Were I disciplined I’d do them all the time, but since I’m not, I wax and wane depending on what I desire at any given moment undermining long-term goals I don’t always hold in high esteem but probably should. Of course, it’s also infuriating to people who are very disciplined and must work with me.
Lack of Ambition
This is I think a strange trait for someone who is as competitive as I am. While I often have fantasies of greatness for myself, I am rarely motivated to pursue them. It’s as if that giant ego of mine doesn’t actually require any accomplishment to be fed, only the thought that if I wanted to I could accomplish such things. It’s clear to me that people who routinely come in first in one arena or another are driven to do so. Anything short of complete victory is a failure. I’m often perfectly happy with runner up or simply to be better than average.
I’ve never really come to terms with this. I once set my theme for the year as Ambition, and in some ways I did achieve a lot, but I’ve always been capable of achievement without ambition. I work hard, I work smart, and I tend to beat out other people who lack one or the other of those virtues. I sometimes really wish I could change this about myself, yet… I’ve never fully committed to trying to be the best at anything. It may well simply be a defense mechanism for that ego of mine, if you don’t give it your all, you can always hold the illusion you have what it takes to be the best.
I have a pretty long history of not respecting authority. I have quite a few anecdotes of times when I thumbed my nose at teachers, bosses, parents, and others who are supposed to in some way be my betters. I just don’t especially like or respect ideas of social hierarchy. Nor do I tend to respect ideas like tradition or sanctity. I nearly always sympathize with underdogs and dissidents. Unquestionably, there is some value in this, but I recognize I’ve often taken it to extremes that were unwise and it gives me some measure of false pride to buck the system, whatever it is.
This is a flaw I’ve learned to check to some degree. I try to be good about recognizing the virtues of people in leadership positions and the difficulties of their work. I also try to consider carefully both instruction and criticism. That said when I feel righteous about my cause I tilt and windmills in a needlessly direct way more often than not. I like standing up to authority too much and as a result, I suffer its wrath when a more subtle approach would give me better results.
This is one of those flaws that is normally considered a virtue, and on whole I hold it to be one of my virtues. That said, it’s gotten me into plenty of trouble when applied to the wrong people for the wrong reasons. I am very good at seeing the good in others and very bad at seeing deception, duplicity, and ill intent. Even when I do have doubts I am prone to talk myself out of them. You must stab me in the back quite a few times before I will simply stop trusting you all together and even then, I’m always looking for a reason to forgive.
I really don’t want to stop trusting people so I’m likely to keep this flaw for my whole life. I do use my wife’s insight to try and give me another perspective, or to talk to others who know those I might suspect of treachery. I have also learned to compartmentalize some relationships, avoiding trusting them in areas I know they are weak, but keeping them as allies in all other respects.
Poor Perception / Awareness
I am bad at noticing things unless I have put my mind to looking for them. I have a kind of tunnel vision / hearing / etc… that means when I am focused on one thought or expectation I can utterly miss something critical. At times, this can be almost comical in proportion. Related to my high levels of trust, I have a really hard time realizing when people don’t like me or are acting against my interests.
There is mental training you can do to work on awareness and perception, but I’ve never really given it a go. Most of the time it just isn’t necessary. When I really do need to enhance this, say if I am looking for my cell phone, I do know mental tricks I can do to help me zero in on what I’m searching for and when I am focused, I can be pretty good at picking up details.
Without modern spell-checking software I’d be doomed. I was abysmal at spelling when I was a kid, and despite being an active writer and reader for all my life, I’m still very poor at it. I can spell the same word incorrectly in more than one way in the same paragraph. I then read that paragraph and not see that either word was misspelled. I can look at a word with a missing letter and have to go through it one letter at a time to find it. My brain just kind of fills in the missing bits for me and only by careful step by step examination can I realize it isn’t there.
I simply compensate this with software. I do try to correct the errors myself so I will better learn how to spell words. Often I am a bit infuriated at how arbitrary English spelling and pronunciation are. I am bad at wrote memorization and understand and learn by systems, cause and effect, rule and consequence. English only has a loose relationship with cause and effect!
Generally speaking, everyone’s memory is worse than they think it is. Many studies have shown you can be absolutely sure of a memory when it is in fact absolutely false. That said, mine seems a bit worse than many. I especially have challenges with any wrote memorization. For my mind, every memory needs a reason or reference. Things connected only by sequence are near impossible for me to keep consistent in my head. I’m terrible with people’s names, especially if I know other people with the same name. To my mind, everything needs a unique label and identifier, preferably with some root meaning.
I’m not sure how to deal with this one. For people’s names, I just try to use them a lot while looking at the person or thinking about them. Eventually, it sinks in and sticks. For everything else I try to write stuff down where I can find it later. I keep a lot of reminders and bookmarks and other things so I can try to remember things. The flip side of my mind seems to be I’m great with understanding connections between different things and understand new information very quickly by connecting it to things I already know.
Fat and out of shape
According to the BMI I am morbidly obese at 6’3″ and 325lb. Folks tend not to see me as a “fat guy” because I’m built pretty square and I dress to minimize it. Still, it’s there and not hard to see. I also hate to exercise and love to eat and sit at the computer all day. As a result, I have problems with my back and issues with high blood sugar when I eat especially poorly. What makes things worse is I really dislike hard exercise. While others feel a good workout reduces their stress and makes them feel invigorated, it makes me feel angry and stupid, sort of like the incredible hulk.
Lucky for me my new lifestyle gets me regular hikes and walks. I also manage to diet from time to time to try and get my blood sugar or weight under control and generally dieting works very well for me. The problem is that whole discipline thing I mentioned earlier, it makes these efforts inconsistent. I’m also blessed with some great DNA and despite my weakness here I am overall very healthy, rarely taking ill and almost never needing actual medical attention.
I love food. I can eat huge quantities of the stuff. I ate so much in college I gained more than 100lb and permanently damaged my bodies ability to deal with high blood sugar levels. Put a plate of food in front of me that I like and I will keep eating until it is gone. I may pace myself, but sooner or later it’s all going in my tummy. I will bravely take the last cutlet, sausage, sweet roll, or what have you in the dish while others demure. I’ll wait to give everyone a shot at it, but I won’t refuse it if offered or if others have passed the opportunity.
For me, the easiest solution to this is not to put the food in front of me. If I just don’t buy lots of tasty easy food, then I don’t eat so much. Also, when my budget is a bit limited, I am more restrained in the food I order when eating out, leading to less consumption. I don’t really consider this any kind of moral failing, but none the less I recognize it is not healthy for me and the consequences of overeating can be pretty wretched so I try to keep them in mind when eating.