That’s right, you Don’t Need Superpowers. Today I bring you a blog post near and dear to my heart. I grew up reading DC and Marvel comic books. Watching Superhero tv shows and movies. The idea that someone could fly, and run faster than a speeding bullet was amazing. I personally loved how Batman was human, but he was able to beat even the biggest and most powerful villain. Every one of these characters had one thing in common. They were more than human. More than me.
I grew up in an environment that told me I could never measure up. My parents trained me on how to fail standardized testing. I also experienced a lot of physical abuse growing up. At an early age, I was told that Creator God, the most powerful being in all existence, hated me from birth because of what someone else did and that I would suffer in extreme pain forever. I believed this for most of my life. Only more recently did I learn, You Don’t Need Superpowers.
At the core of my upbringing, I was taught my parent’s shame cycles. I believed that I was less than and I needed to work to be more. I was raised in the upper-lower class. In school, I was taught that hard work made good things happen to you. The harder you worked, the better your life would be. I was also taught in school that I was dumber than others. This created a lot of Shame inside of me. It was painful to look in the mirror.
What do you do when you look in the mirror and see a monster? Let’s rephrase the question. What do you do when you are walking down the street and you see a crazed gunman shooting at people? I personally would run away and get help. I know my limits. So, when you see yourself in the mirror and see a monster, most people run. How do you run away from yourself tho?
This is where the split comes into play. It’s easier to create an object and live with that than to live with the monster. It would be easier to have the crazed gunman as a statue in your living room instead of having the gunman in your house shooting it up. This is the same way we treat ourselves. This could look different from person to person.
This split creates an alienation inside yourself. Let’s take a look at Frank’s life for a second. Frank grew up in a very traditional home. Showing any form of extreme emotions was frowned upon. As a man, Frank was to be in complete control of his emotions at all times like his father and grandfather. If he received punishment, if he expressed any emotions, the punishments would last longer. Fast forward a few decades. Frank is now a dad of 3 girls. Every time his girls express emotions, Frank immediately feels out of place. He starts to feel two ways, his daughters are broken and he was broken for feeling like this. This part of him is alienated from himself. He projects this part of himself in every relationship He is in.
Greater Than Vs Less Than
These exposures to our ugly statues; our shamed self is painful. There are many things people do to escape this hurt. In the end, this statue of self is either less than or more than human. Here are some examples of less than:
- A slob
- Family Scapegoat
Here are some examples of more than:
- Family Hero
- Celibate false man of God
As time moves on, these lies become truths in people’s lives. I believed the lies and became both the family scapegoat and the family hero. The less than makes me wormlike while the greater than disables my will, or grandiosity, bigger than life. This is where the need for superpowers comes into play.
Why did I want superpowers?
Looking back at my childhood, I can see why I was drawn to comic books. I was taught I was born less than everyone else. I believed I had to work hard for anyone to even notice me. As the middle boy, this was partially true. If I had superpowers people would notice me. In the comics, people would look up at Superman as he flew over. All eyes were on his greatness, not his weakness. Only the bad guys saw Superman’s weakness to Kryptonite. I wanted that power. The power for people to notice greatness beyond any other human standards. I knew I couldn’t be Superman, but that didn’t stop me from trying.
I am a product of this will wanting to will what cant be will and an idea of being wormlike or less than. The feeling of being wormlike was always painful and I wanted to escape at all costs. I studied magic, body language, emotional intelligence, and more. If I could see the bad coming, I would be able to handle it. I didn’t have to fear the boot of people stepping on me like a warm.
This concept bled into my work life. I would work extra hard without breaks and go much longer than others. I was called upon to complete work others would never do, couldn’t do, or will not do. A backup battery landed on my leg at my first IT job damaging my back. I didn’t take care of my back, and now I suffer. I had to prove my worth more than taking care of myself.
Why You Don’t Need Superpowers
Our Culture tells us, to work harder and get more rewards. This culture tells us we are bad (ineffective) if we don’t perform at our peak potential at all times. This concept repeats itself from generation to generation. The need to control has been present since the dawn of man. The act of using shame to control others is nothing new. This need to control is, in of itself, a form of shame.
You are Human
The truth is You Are Human. You have limits. Being human means, you have limits. Over the years, Superman went from jumping tall buildings to flying. He struggled with electricity. He also struggled with limits that were realistic. As the character developed, the need to be more and more grew. This was people’s need to feel like they were more than their limits. To make Superman more relatable, DC comics gave him a weakness of kryptonite. They gave him a limit because he reached a point where he was no longer relatable.
Don’t be Superman
See, we are not Superman, and let’s face it, we will never be. That’s a beautiful thing. Think about life being perfect and all-powerful, that would be boring. There is a real need for community. This need is because we all have different limits and skills. It’s beautiful and OK. I have no hands-on skills when it comes to doing any kind of repair work in my house. However, I am good with technology. I can sit here and tell myself, I am weak for not being able to patch the hole in my ceiling by myself, or I can speak with friends and family who can. By asking for help, I show my strength of being human. Its OK.
I recently heard an analogy about if everyone dug a ditch together for water in the same space, all we would have is a big hole and lots of hurt feelings. However, if everyone dug in their respective spaces, we would have a ditch big enough for water to flow.
Our culture tells us to run on all cylinders. Learn everything that ever was and even more. The thing about these concepts is they are impossible. These things are not human. Like myself, I hurt my back by picking up a heavy backup battery. I was trying to be more than my limits because that is what I believed I should be.
A young man recently told me he was struggling to learn every programming language for a potential programming job. It takes time to learn a language. It’s impossible to learn them all. This is what he was trying to do. He was led to believe, the more programming languages he knew, the more jobs he will get. Of course, this is a lie. The truth is, the more programming languages you learn well, opens more doors. The key is well. It’s impossible to learn all programming languages, so how would you learn them well?
It’s ok not to know everything. That’s simply impossible. It’s ok to take breaks and not push at 100% at all times. That’s how burnout happens. Did you know that the majority of millennials are burned out? Suicide rates have greatly increased in the past 20 years. Mental health issues keep climbing. A large percentage of Americans are on anti-depressants. All of this is because culture teaches us we have to be more than human or we are trash.
How do we break free? The first step would be to realize you have a limit. Discover what those limits are. If you can’t seem to study for 7 hours at a clip, then don’t. Find a healthy threshold and do that. Respect your limits. There is nothing wrong with them.
The next step is to set boundaries for yourself and others. I grew up believing that if you had boundaries, you didn’t love anyone. This translated to being a bad person. It wasn’t until later did I realize this was a lie to control me. Think of boundaries like doors. Do you want strangers in your home when you are not there? I don’t. The door is a boundary. The lock is you inforcing that boundary. The door is a good way to keep danger at bay. So are boundaries you set in your life.
Ever had a job that worked you 60 hours a week, but only paid for 40? That’s a boundary problem. This behavior is a refusal to respect you. At a previous job, I was expected to take on all the coding, the helpdesk, and projects all at the same time without the access needed to complete these tasks. I often found myself working 60 hours because I didn’t respect my time or my family. My boundaries were weak.
Breaking the statues
Those statues you have all over the place. Aspects you have frozen and beaten down over the years. Those aspects of yourself live inside those statues. You didn’t kill them. They are still there. It’s time to smash those statues and let those parts of you out. See them, address them, know them. Find why you feel like a bad person for getting angry. Discover why you feel less than when you don’t know something you shouldn’t know. Bring those parts back into yourself so you can be whole. This is the hardest part as there are so many of them. Free your gargoyles by shining love and care on them. I suggest a licensed therapist for this process. However, Don’t go gargoyle smashing alone.
In the book, boundaries for your soul, the author speaks about what is healthy and not. She points out that when exploring yourself, if you feel toxic shame, then it’s time to address that part of yourself. This is a lifelong process. The culture we live in encourages us to make statues instead of breaking them. When I catch myself fantasizing about superpowers, I remind myself, You Don’t Need Superpowers. Then I review the day to see where the stressor came from. In the book Indistractable, Nir teaches that every distraction happens because of a trigger. Grabbing your phone could be triggered by boredom and so on and so forth. Find the shame signal and break yet another statue.
You are human, and that is Good.
- Mental health Links
- Healing the Shame that Binds you By John Bradshaw
- Boundaries for your soul by Alison Cook and Kimberly Miller
- Indistractable by Nir Eyal
Please note, I am not a therapist. I have just lived through a lot in my life and want to share my experiences and knowledge. if you experience any issues while reading this blog, please speak to a licensed therapist.