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How Your Greatest Weakness Can Actually Be A Strength

So maybe you're a little obsessive, or messy, or impulsive. Looking for the silver lining can have an unexpected upside.

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Maybe it's that you're messy.

Now think hard about that weakness — would you say that there's maybe a silver lining to it?

Sure, you're impulsive. But you know in your bones that it means you're more creative than the average schmo.

Maybe you're messy and you can't find your things. But it also means you're laid-back and know how to go with the flow.

Or you worry a lot. But aren't you always prepared for anything?

According to new research from NYU, most people associate their weaknesses with potential strengths.

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It's called silver lining theory. "It's a belief about yourself," lead study author Alex Wesnousky, a Ph.D. candidate in social psychology at NYU, told BuzzFeed Life. "It's a self-theory that a negative trait you hold basically has a positive benefit in a different domain."

And according to one study in Wesnousky's research, about 90% of survey respondents believe in it. So you're in good company.

Here's something else the researchers learned: When people believe in silver lining theory, and specifically believe they have a weakness that has a silver lining, they're more likely to work hard at that positive attribute.

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Like, say you know you're impulsive. And you think impulsivity is tied to creativity. That makes you more likely to work your butt off at being creative.

The researchers tested this exact theory: In one of their studies, they had college students take a personality test. They then gave the participants bogus (randomized) feedback, telling them that their score on the test showed that they were impulsive, or that they weren't. Then the college students had to read an article that said that impulsivity is tied to creativity, or that it isn't.

As predicted, the students who both a) believed themselves to be impulsive and b) believed that creativity was linked to impulsivity... worked harder on future creativity-related tasks than the students who weren't primed the same way. Two other studies further confirmed these findings.

This in spite of the fact that the research is actually mixed on whether impulsivity and creativity are, in fact, tied.

"That's the really cool part about this," Wesnousky says. "There's research that goes both ways. Some research says it is related, and other research says it isn't. This research says that what's important is what you believe for yourself."