My superpower

my son gives me strengthToday in the Mondo Beyondo Dream Lab Brené Brown discussed the definition of meaningful work—meaningful work as it relates to our personal gifts and nurturing our true selves. She encouraged us to think about our gifts as superpowers and to ask ourselves the question—What is it that I think I am really good at doing?

I have to be honest, I find the concept a bit prickly, just like that wool sweater you keep hidden away in the back of your closet because when you wear it, you pull it away in discomfort. Even writing this post about it makes me squirmy. I’ve got nothing. I’m not confident enough to own my own superpower.

So I asked my husband what he thought. I needed a starting point, some inspiration. He stood thoughtfully for a few moments and came up with Tornado Woman: Everything you try to achieve gets done. He described it like a swirling windstorm of activity with me as the conductor at its centre.

When he said it, I nodded and admitted I could see it like that too. I am that person. Or rather, I was that person. The thing is, it was that very windstorm that led to my undoing. Certainly it isn’t the personal gift that has helped me rise to the occasion and nurture my true self. I used to be good at juggling a lot of balls. I gave that up months ago.

So I’m back with nothing.

But here is a theory. An honest admission.

Brené argues that just as we all have a superpower, so do we have a kryptonite and I have a hunch that mine are integrally linked. I think my superpower is offering comfort to others, for the very basic reason that I seek it so intensely myself.

This realization runs very deep. I think it reaches back to the loss my mother at such a young age. Having enjoyed the comfort of a mother’s loving arms for such a short time, I’ve spent many years searching for a replacement. I never felt this more acutely then when I faced my deepest inner turmoil this past year. But it started even before that. When I had my boys, it was my undoing. Suddenly I recognized the feeling of a loving mother’s arms, but in a cruel and wondrous twist of fate, the emotions were reversed. I understood for the first time what I had lost by offering that very thing to my boys.

In the Gifts of Imperfection, Brené argues that “if we don’t use our talents to cultivate meaningful work, we struggle. We feel disconnected and weighed down by feelings of emptiness, frustration, resentment, shame, disappointment, fear and even grief.”

I’ve lived this. I felt it in the deepest, darkest recesses of my soul. I’ve craved comfort for so long. The loving arms of one who loves me for nothing more than just being. And so I believe my superpower has become offering to others what I lost many years ago.

I believe this is true, and to be completely honest I’ve only just worked this out now. More pieces falling into place. But as perfect as this fits, I’m having trouble owning it. I need to sit with it a bit.

Have you ever thought about your own superpower? Are you willing to own it? What would it mean to you? Are you cultivating it in your life?

Image: ‘my son gives me strength‘ by Jeff Meyer via a Creative Commons license.


26 thoughts on “My superpower

  1. I believe this to be true. That if we don’t have that meaningful work, we feel lost and confused and frustrated and and and….
    and it really is hard to NAME your superpower, to claim it and live it out.
    So I think it’s awesome that you’re claiming yours and that it’s such a beautiful gift. Because it is. You have the ability to see people in such a way that makes it possible for you to extend that comfort and love. So carry on with your superhero self–you’re amazing!

  2. Kelly says:

    Wow. I’m thinking and I can’t come up with a superpower. I’m generous but I think I cultivated generosity so as to please others. I’m accepting/tolerant of differences but it may be for the same reason — I don’t judge because I don’t want to be judged and found unworthy.

    Could it be that superpowers are always intrinsically linked to kryptonite? Or maybe once we “use our talents to cultivate meaningful work,” then the thread linking the cause and effect snaps and we’re able to fully embody those positive attributes without any darkness fueling them.

    Guess I need to sit with it for a while, too.

  3. I just this second sent a note to a friend saying something to effect of “our deepest wounds are the seeds of our greatest flowering.” I’m tracking right with you in what you’ve written here! My superpower is about growing trust – tenaciously. And, just like you, I think I do this because of knowing fear so deeply.

    Thanks for processing all of this out loud here.

  4. Christa says:

    Beautifully said.

    I have to admit that I am really struggling with this exercise. Too much kryptonite, perhaps?

    I’m very impressed by the way you are sorting it all out, Christine. Bravo.

  5. Wow, really honest and thought provoking. Lately I have been feeling super-unempowered but trying to climb out of it. I love writing and feel via the blog I love the conversations that are started. As I write this I’m much more in touch with what I’m not good at but trying to turn that around.

  6. Ellie says:

    I love this concept – of superpowers, of kryptonite.

    And like you, I think my superpower and my kryptonite are inextricably woven together… sometimes I use my power for good and sometimes for evil, and I’m finally realizing that when I use it for evil the person I’m wounding is myself.

    My superpower is compassion. I get a pit in my stomach and feel all quivery writing that down, but as Brene also talks about the “who do you think you are?” is just another part of the Shame Tape. I’m really working at not letting “who do you think you are?” hold me back from naming and claiming my strengths.

    The dark side of compassion is I give so many pieces of myself away that I don’t leave enough self-compassion for me. The I get resentful and martyr-ish…. not a fun place to be. So for me the struggle is finding the balance.

    Thank you for this thought provoking and insightful post. You’re doing such amazing, brave work and I’m loving watching you stretch your wings and fly.



  7. Wow, this is really thought-provoking. When I first started thinking “what am I really good at,” I was thinking more along the lines of tasks: writing, baking, stuff like that. Digging deeper is hard. But one thing I keep alighting on, especially with the superpower-can-be-Kryptonite angle, is generosity. I am generous with my time, I am generous with my money, I am generous with my knowledge and energy. Heck, I’m even generous with my words–I can’t stand to write a blog post of fewer than 1000 words for fear I might not spell every point out clearly in a way each and every reader will understand 🙂

    But far too many times I’ve tried to make things right for other people by being generous while undercutting myself, and it has led to some fairly disastrous situations for me. In fact, if I had to trace back every major problem in my life, they almost all have a common root: I’ve tried to give away something I didn’t have to give, or something I didn’t really want to give, in the interest of making the other person happy/whole/not broke or whatever.

    I’m working on this, and have definitely gotten better at protecting my own interests. Still, to not give when I “could” (even if I only barely could, and not even really then) feels greedy to me. I would not be who I am without being generous. I just have to constantly temper it.

  8. Frelle says:

    I just want to say “yeah that” to HeatheroftheEO’s comment. So much of what Brene writes about resonates with me. And I totally agree on having felt that ache, that frustration, in not being able to do what I do best. I am coming closer to pinpointing what I do best after about a year of solid self reflection in the midst of separation and divorce. Your words are powerful today, on my first visit to your blog. Its good to meet you and to hear from your heart.

  9. What an interesting idea–and like you, it makes me squirm a little. Me? With a Superpower?
    I think that the comments here are so thoughtful; it is probably true that superpowers and kryptonite are linked in intricate ways.

    I’m intuitive, sensitive, compassionate. But sometimes I feel like I can’t ever “turn them off,” and I just walk around feeling like an open wound.

  10. The idea of owning a superpower is something I’ve probably thought a little about, but not in the way it has been defined by Brene. I’ve always tried to perservere, but sometimes at a very high cost. Is it a superpower if it has negative consequences sometimes? I don’t know. But I believe that my desire to perservere is related to my ability to let go. Thanks for your post.

  11. Wow, this is some awesome food for thought here. I love the pairing of a superpower and a kryptonite – definitely seems like an accurate reflection of our strongest strength and intertwined weakness. So fascinating!

    I’ll come back to this post…

  12. ShannonL says:

    I love this post, the idea, and all of the thoughtful comments. This assignment would be very difficult for me. I feel like I am a generalist – both at work and in my personal life. I’m a little-bit-of-this, a little-bit-of-that, but I’ve never felt like I had one true strength, quality, or “gift”. In some ways it works well for me… I’m flexible, I can go with the flow. But other times I wish I could just break out and be something MORE.

    Thanks, once again, for sharing, Christine. I will continue to sit with this, too.

    PS: You are a very comforting, nurturing person. You make it very easy to talk to you and you are empathetic and caring. I have confided in you about things that I haven’t told anybody other than my mom and husband. I’m glad you were there during that time in my life. xo

  13. Chantal says:

    I love this post, especially since I have started on my own path of self reflection recently (as we discussed last week). The only thing I can think of for my superpower is that I have a deep desire to help people discover what they need to be happy in life. I love talking to people and discussing change and direction. The ironic thing being that I myself have been going in the wrong direction for years and have reached a point where I cannot stand it anymore. So I guess it is time for me to discover what makes me happy. This is a lot harder than I thought 🙂

  14. I think my husband would give me the same power and like you I think it is probably my kryptonite as well. It is hard to think in these terms without actually feeling like a tornado and that a tornado is coming. I think maybe I need to tone down my superpower, if it is even one, to enjoy life, my family and my friends more. Thanks so much for helping us all to think about this.

  15. denise says:

    I think is a wonderful, and yes, confounding, thought. How powerful–we ALL have a superpower that thrashes and kicks until we start utilizing it. Hmmmm…now you’ve got me thinking. And I think it’s smart that you’re sitting with your ideas. Like a stew, better when left to improve with time. xoxo

  16. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by caredotcom, One Crafty Mother. One Crafty Mother said: What's your superpower? What's your kryptonite? A very thought provoking post by @CoffeesCommutes – […]

  17. I love this concept of a superpower (and possibly more than one?) – don’t we all have something wondrous in us to be proud of, and to share with others?

    I also believe in the importance of a meaningful life. I cannot imagine living any other way. It might be easier to do so, but it seems to me it would be an empty sort of ease.

    What a remarkable journey you are making, Christine. And taking us along, to learn with you.

  18. Kate says:

    I prickle too at the thought of a superpower. It feels vain ( but I’m sure that’s just my gremlins talking). It is scary. As I read I couldn’t think of my strengths, or even my successes clearly. But slowly, sitting with your powerful words, I think I am best at friendship. I build strong lasting connections. But, I never know how or when to cut ties. And this can hurt.

    I wonder if anyone has a deep gift that isn’t a double edged sword?

  19. Celeste says:

    When I first read your post I felt the same way about myself. I have always been a hard worker and could accomplish whatever I set out to do. But not being able to figure out what it is that I really want to do has kind of put a damper on that part of me.

    As I read the comments I continued to think. What is it about me that makes me special? What is my gift? Right now, in my life, in my circle of friends, acquaintances, and coworkers, I am the one that thinks about things differently. Mostly human behavior. I try to uncover another persepective and that allows me to feel compassion for others. My kryptonite is that I too often keep to myself the thoughts and feelings that make me feel vulnerable. I am (slowly) working toward living more authentically.

  20. What powerful and poignant words, Christine. Although I haven’t experienced the loss of a parent, I have felt that childhood wounds come back quite easily, now that I’m a mother. I remember what it felt like to both have my needs met, and to feel that they were ignored. Being a mother brings that back, and sometimes makes me want to be the perfect mother to my kids to compensate (a dangerous trap since there is no perfect mother). But I try to remind myself that, as an adult, I can choose to surround myself with people who see and acknowledge the entirety of me.

    I like the question of superhero, and feel that my ability to multi-task and meet the needs of others is definitely a strength. But, yes, it can take its toll if I don’t turn that ability to nurture toward myself as well. This is the ultimate dilemma that many therapists (like me) seem to have.

  21. Leslie says:

    This definitely makes it sound like you can count insight and self-awareness among your superpowers, too. And re: the importance of using our talents to cultivate meaningful work – oh yes. This is a particular struggle for my husband, who ever wants to feel good and right about what he’s doing, especially professionally. Meanwhile, I find it all too easy to just BE – a comfortable place, sure, but not one with a lot of progress. Cheers to more pieces falling into place!

  22. This is Super poignant to me. I echo the sentiments that resonate: superpowers and kryptonite are linked. It makes sense though because shadow helps Light to be shaped. When I look at a lovely sunset on the mountains it is always enhanced by the shadows at play.

    I’m having too hard a day to find my superpwer. But this is a strong image and will stick with me. It will come back.

    Christine, I love knowing that out of the sorrow that was losing your mother you’ve found a way to give and give. I hope those loving arms that want to reach out extend to yourself. Do you find that, as you learn to be a mother to your children that you are a better mother to yourself? I have found this to be true for me and, as such, I am doubly grateful to my kiddos. In loving them I love myself better. Total score.

  23. I read this the other day and had to come back so I could comment. It’s beautiful, Christine. I do think that regardless of our upbringing, we think about it more and experience those childhood emotions when we have our own kids.

    I think your superpower is being a really good friend and a seeker. You are always looking for the richness of experience, in making meaning from mundane moments.

    To use Tori Amos’s word (from “Silent All These Years”), you’re a girl “who thinks really deep thoughts.”

    • Oh, and one other thing, which Rebecca’s comment made me think about. Maybe we mothers need to stop thinking we are superhuman and just let ourselves be human. That’s okay. Men have done it for centuries. My kid pretends he’s superhuman all the time, because he knows that it’s only pretend, that world. (At least I hope he knows.)

  24. Wow, there is so much here Christine. I read through it twice, and then clicked over to your Cinderella post and read that, too. I’m glad that pieces are beginning to click into place. But I know what you mean about that superpower question. Like I said, I read through this twice, I think to give myself time to figure out an answer…and I got nothing. I feel like I do a million things, all not really well, and most usually at the expense of something else. Not exactly a great way to live.

    Thanks for giving me A LOT of food for thought.

  25. I love this idea. My superpower is honesty. Which is hilarious because I am the best liar and used to lie for amusement and for no reason at all. And I believe that honesty invites other people’s honesty letting us all be close to our true selves. Letting us all feel a little less unique. A little less alone.
    I think that one of your superpowers is fearlessness. You just don’t know it yet.

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