Superheroes Don’t Exist

Family emergencies can serve as a reminder that there is much more to life than work – these times can offer an amazing opportunity to pause and reflect on our own priorities.

Unfortunately, even during periods of grief or illness, we tend to measure ourselves against others who appear to have achieved superhero status.

As social media has become a part of our daily lives, we see images of superheroes all around us – their plethora of blog posts, never-ending networking and dizzying schedules are on public display. For the rest of us, those who seem to never slow down (and never fail) often are used as the measuring stick of success.

The Real Deal

Most of us know that when you see someone else’s marriage, you don’t really know what goes on “behind closed doors.” The same is true for professional dynamos – those who seem to have superhero stamina and smarts are actually real people with real problems and real failings.

What’s more, sometimes we assign superhero status to those who would readily admit they are far from it, if asked. Fellow Solo PR Pro, Laura Scholz (whose energy has always been a marvel to me), bravely recounted her struggles on her blog recently.

This is not to say the world isn’t filled with heroes – I’m sure we all have many heroes of the human, mortal variety who inspire us daily and keep life interesting. But superheroes only exist in comic books and movies, and constantly trying to be one will only leave us exhausted, unsatisfied and empty.

I loved it when Stuart Smalley, the old self-help-addicted character on Saturday Night Live, said, “I’m should-ing all over myself.” How often do you catch yourself should-ing? What are your tips for avoiding superhero syndrome?

Image credit: Carla216

  • KarenSwim

    Kellye, this is a perfect article that is a reminder to keep things in perspective. I have definitely should-ed all over myself and set myself up for failure by comparing what I see externally in others to my own efforts. When I find myself doing that, it is often a sign that I need to disconnect temporarily and regroup. When I quiet the outside noise I can get to the root of what's driving the comparison such as frustration over a project, or insecurity about a new direction. Then I go to work at what's making me feel as though I'm falling short. I wish I could say that I have mastered this but as you pointed out superheroes don't exist. 🙂

  • Hi Kellye,

    I smiled as I was reading this as my latest business column for IABC's CW Bulletin is entitled “It Doesn't Take a Superhero.” In it, I've identified nine things that have helped me with priority setting and time management. If you or others are interested, the column's at http://www.iabc.com/cwb/archive/2010/0710/Indep….

    Thanks,
    Daria

  • Wow, what an interesting mind-meld we had! Thanks for sharing the link to your article, which has excellent tips for making time for business activities – I recommend everyone give it a read.

  • I think when you say “insecurity,” you're spot on. When we find ourselves trying to achieve super-human success on every front and fail (because it's not possible), it inevitably leads to self doubt and comparison to others. Your tip to disconnect and regroup is excellent, thanks for sharing!

  • Thanks so much for the shout-out, Kellye. Your energy amazes ME. I find that honest and real is the only way I know how to be. I'm never going to be perfect, and I'm never going to be the best, so I just focus on being me. And when your well is dry, well, you need to go fill it. The rest of life can wait. Take care.

  • There you go, spreading your wisdom around again! Love it.

  • Yes, measuring up is a nerve-racking experience if you're constantly comparing yourself with others. I try to follow a philosophy of being “an occasional hero” — after all, you DO hit the jackpot at times.

  • Good post. As Stuart Smalley, now the junior Senator from Minnesota, has I'm sure said: Don't compare your insides with other people's outsides. I love social media (and advertising) but by its very nature it tends to filter, photo shop, reduce to snappy case histories, and mythologize.

  • That sounds like an excellent philosophy! We can enjoy the moments we “hit the jackpot,” while realizing that the pinnacles of success come in waves.

  • “Mythologize” is the perfect word! Reputations build around a person (either by accident or by design), and in some cases the subject of adoration can barely recognize themselves.

    I've heard Cindy Crawford quoted as saying, “even I don't look like Cindy Crawford when I look at the mirror in the morning.” Perceptions and reality often don't match, and it's best to keep this in mind when admiring “other people's outsides.”

  • I'm a little late to the game, Kellye (having my own superhero issues lately), but I think you all have hit on something. One of the great things about social networking is that is gives us all the power to connect. I've been a fairly confident person for the past 10 years or so and don't often compare myself to others. I learned awhile ago that was a recipe for disaster and insecurity.

    But, I'm finding that I am 2nd guessing myself and comparing my energy, ability to connect, intellect and PR prowess more and more as my stream fills with brilliant people who seem to have more time and energy that I'll have have again.

    This was a huge epiphany for me, actually. I might have to write about this.

  • Thanks for commenting, Jen. When you say “…brilliant people who seem to have more time and energy,” I think the key word there is *seem.* Online we only see soundbytes from those around us, and it's easy to feel less-than in comparison (I wrote this post as a reminder to myself, BTW!). Can't wait to hear more from you on the topic.