So what is your greatest weakness?

This blog is somewhat inspired by the recent work of my friend Breena Fain, check out her site here:

It is also inspired by this TEDTalk by Brene Brown:

It’s a classic interview question. I remember standing in a line with a bunch of other college students trying to get a job at American Eagle one summer. After the current employees told us how important it was to be outgoing, half of the interview candidates said their greatest weakness was being shy. I watched the manager roll her eyes each time the word shy was uttered. Those of us who didn’t say shy ended up with the jobs. It’s an important question. Knowing what you aren’t good at is just as important as knowing what you are good at. It may have taken me 25 years but I have finally figured out what my greatest weakness is: I don’t like looking like I have a weakness. Let me be clear, I know I have weaknesses, I just don’t want you to see them.

This blog post would turn into a novel if you really wanted to know the  “why” on that problem so let me just get to the part where I talk about how I am working toward fixing it. So let’s imagine this is like AA only for people with vulnerability issues. I have just walked up to the podium and….

Hi, my name is Kelly Millspaugh and I hate vulnerability. I hate feeling vulnerable. I want to always be in control. I never want to look like I need help or that I am weak. I have a paralyzing fear of being “needy” or “clingy” and as a result I keep people from getting close to me. To avoid being needy I never ask for help. To avoid being clingy I push people away. This has negatively effected my work and my relationships.

I usually see it coming and yet I continue to let it happen. Someone starts to get too close so I stop telling them the truth. I may start to talk about having a hard time but I do so with a tone that suggests I am joking. “Don’t I look like I am fine?” The problem is I do look like I am fine. I walk around with my head held high and a voice dripping with sarcasm and everyone believes I am fine. Even I believe it for a while. At work it becomes a bigger issue because I never ask for help. I think if I am given a task I should find the answers, asking for help means I am incompetent and you will avoid giving me projects in the future or worse fire me on the spot. Sound irrational? That’s because it is. If I ask my boss to clarify something, or if I am on the right path, that isn’t going to disappoint them. What will disappoint them is if I deliver something that is no where near what they wanted. So how am I actively working on this while I am in between jobs? Well practice makes perfect they say so I am working on this in my relationships.

I am letting people I care about know when I am having a bad day. I ask them for help and advice when I would usually just disappear for a day and keep it all in my own head. In short, I am letting people be there for me for the first time in…well…ever. It’s not easy for me to even write this post. I am telling everyone, even potential employers, about something that is very personal, but something that effects everything I do. I think the most important thing is that I am finally acknowledging that this is a problem and I want to change. I want to be more open and more collaborative. I love supporting other people and I rob them of the opportunity to return the favor by shutting them out. I know that change takes time and this isn’t going to happen overnight, but I feel like I am finally stepping out of a long dark tunnel and into a much brighter future.

On an even happier note: I found a place downtown! Hey (clearly old picture of my) future home!

Thanks for stopping by, and sorry this wasn’t about movies again.


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