Have you ever been asked the question " If you could have a superpower, what would it be?"
Well, it seems like I already have one although it's not one that you ever see in the Marvel Comic books.
Nor is it one that I would have necessarily chosen.
My weird superpower seems to be that I have the ability to make people cry.
It's not like I'm mean or anything. I don't go around pinching them hard or calling them bad names. And it's not really that I MAKE them cry. They just find themselves crying whenever they are hanging out with me.
This is something that I have never set OUT to do. It's not on my agenda, and it's not something that I plan for.
Although during all the many years that I was in private practice as a psychotherapist having someone cry during a session was always seen as a good thing.
Now what, you may be asking, DO I do which seems to facilitate this outpouring of weepiness. I think that my real gift is not actually making people cry. That is just a by product.
I think the gift I was given to help make the world a better place ( and I think that all of our innate gifts serve that function) is that I know how to put my own concerns and opinions aside for a while and give people my undivided, heartfelt, gently compassionate, non-judging attention. I make them feel safe. And seen. And like they are very important.
In other words... I really know how to listen to someone.
I have built my intuitive painting empire on this particular talent. I love listening to people. I am totally fascinated and intrigued by what goes on inside of people's souls and minds. And my heart always goes out to their pain and suffering as well as being able to jump up and down in celebration of their triumphs and their joys.
I enjoy listening. And listening deeply. I can get inside of someone's experience and understand what they are going through, beam on them and shower them with acceptance, with no effort at all. For me it's not a big deal.
For a long time, I never really thought much about it. I had the attitude that if I could do it then it must be something ANYONE could do. I had a hard time valuing this quality as anything special.
It only became obvious to me that it WAS something special when people would continually remark upon my ability.
Sometimes they would tell me with an air of incredulousness, more rarely with an edge of resentment and other times it would come across with a feeling of gratitude.
They would say things like "Wow. That's amazing! How do you DO that? How do you be so non-judgmental and seem really get where the other person is coming from? How are you able to be so incredibly empathetic?"
And I would look at them and say "Huh???" It's kind of like asking somebody "How do you breathe?" or "How do you make your heart beat?"
I also started to get an even bigger clue when I discovered that people were willing to pay me money to do this.
Once I had a job as a bookkeeper. Don't even ASK how that ever happened. And I lasted all of two weeks before I was ignominiously fired. So, no. Bookkeeping or anything to do with numbers and keeping track of small pieces of paper? Definitely NOT one of my superpowers.
It helps to know what you are NOT good at. That's a very good start. But you also need to eventually identify your superpower. Because EVERYONE has a superpower. No one has been left out of the superpower club.
Everyone has a gift that is precious and needed by friends, family and community. Everyone has a genius, an expertise, an offering, a generous capability that is part of your basic makeup that helps, heals and inspires anyone who comes in contact with you.
I can hear some of the naysayers in the crowd now saying things like "Maybe you THINK everyone has a superpower, but not me. There's nothing about me that is particularly worthy or significant."
And I'm here to tell you... in the nicest way possible... that you are dead wrong!! If you are alive and breathing that means you have something precious and wondrous to share with the world.
So if you're really not sure what it is, how DO you discover this inborn brilliance that is part of your birthright as a human being?
The first way to find out is to come right out and ASK people who know you to tell you what they love about you. Or if that's too scary, just notice the nice things that people in your life already say about you.
Recognizing where your talents lie is patently and often glaringly obvious to people outside of you, but not so much TO you. Because that would mean you would have to value yourself.
The second way is to ask yourself the question "What is easy for you? What do you enjoy doing so much that you can't help but do it? That you would do no matter what? That you can't STOP yourself from doing, even if you tried? What expresses itself so naturally and is so easy peasy that you take it for granted?"
Because one of the conflicts that folks have around claiming their superpower is the belief that it has to be something difficult to be worthwhile. We all carry remnants of some Puritan ethic that tells us our purpose has to be something HARD. Something that you STRUGGLE with. Something that is always a bit out of your reach.
And I am here, once again, to say to you: No, no, NO..... your purpose on this planet is meant to flow out of you like a clear, cascading, mountain stream.
Which doesn't mean that you might not want to spend time and energy developing it. I had lots of basic raw material around empathy and compassion to begin with but gained an enormous amount by putting myself in situations where I could be inspired and guided by others to take this nascent gift and turn it into something beautifully polished and skilled.
But developing it was something that was fun for me. I enjoyed the process of growing my empathetic, listening skills. It most often felt like play. Which is another reason I had a hard time taking it seriously. Because how could something that I experienced as so natural and so much fun be a POWER of any sort?
But it was. And still is. And the same is true for you.
So, if you already know what your superpower is, let it shine. Give it some room to breathe and LOTS of room to express itself. And watch how happy doing that makes you and those who have the great good fortune of being part of your life.
And if you don't yet have a name for it? If you're too scared or ashamed to admit that you might have something of great value to give to the world? First of all, be gentle with yourself. Try to remember that it's OK to ask for help around this.
And finally, it doesn't REALLY matter whether or not you ever call it anything. Because your gift is pouring out of you all the time ANYWAY.
It would just be nice if you got to feel really good about yourself and to enjoy it as much as everyone else.