Superpowers and the Fears which Inspire Them

superpowers chart

I happened across this chart the other day and the first thing which struck me about it was that one of the most popular superpowers – Strength – is diametrically opposed to one of the most popular fears – Weakness.

We all have things which we consider to be weaknesses, our Achilles’ heel, and we often worry that these will cause our downfall somehow. That someone will figure out what the chink in our armor is, what our kryptonite is, and use it to hurt us. We spend a great amount of effort trying to eradicate our weaknesses, heal them, cover them up, hide them, protect them, or overcompensate for them by making our strengths stronger. We rarely realise how useful our weaknesses are and can be, as they seem more of a burden than a blessing. If only I wasn’t so… If only I could be more or less… Yet often it is our weaknesses which are the source and inspiration of our strengths.

Traits we admire, such as compassion and empathy are born from personal suffering, without our own inner wounds we could never understand the wounds of others. If we had no weakness, we would have no personal reference point to allow us to connect with others on a deep and meaningful level. The way in which our wounds, weaknesses, and vulnerabilities connect us surpasses the ability of our strengths to bring us together.

Strengths tend to compete with each other, therefore separating us. Teamwork often relies on the interplay of strengths and weaknesses, and picking our team members is often based on one person’s strength balancing out the weakness of another. You are only as strong as your weakest link can be interpreted in more ways than one, and there are times when the strongest link is the weakest link in the chain. Too much confidence can be as much of a weakness as too much diffidence. Invincibility knows no danger, and without an awareness of danger a fool rushes in and drags others with them. Come on, it’s only a small gap, jump, and if you fall those sharp rocks below will cushion the landing, see you on the other side, last one over is a rotten egg.

So what does the superpower which we desire to have the most, tell us about our greatest fear, and can this lead to better understanding of the wounds and weaknesses which hide within us. How they work, how they motivate us, and how they tie in with our strengths.

I asked myself which superpower appealed to me the most, to see what it would reveal about the fear which was spurring me on to have that superpower, the fear which may be at the basis of much of what I do in an attempt to alleviate it, escape its clutches and perhaps even get rid of it. These are the sort of questions I ask myself all the time, for fun and in pursuit of knowledge. So it seemed like a good one, but when messing with our fears we invariably invoke the power of the fear, and its need to remain hidden.

So my fear might prompt me to choose an answer based on what result I want rather than being honest with myself. I might choose the superpower based on which fear I want to have, one which I think is manageable and doesn’t frighten me as much as the one which I actually live with every day and every moment of my life.

Also, I’m prone to being logical, especially as a defense mechanism. So I might assess which superpower would be the most practical one to have. Such as right now the weather is overcast… no, I don’t want weather controlling abilities… but when it is overcast the flies come out and play. Their version of playing is driving me crazy, so a fly-zapping telekinetic power would be really useful at this moment. If I can modify it to zap humans too when they are being as irritating as flies… that would be evil… perhaps I’m more suited to being a supervillain than a superhero.

All the superpowers are attractive to the imagination, and quite a few of them would come in handy in the day to day. But which one do I yearn for? Maybe it is one which I have always longed to discover that I have.

I searched my mind to recall what I wished for as a child. Children tend to be more honest than adults, especially to themselves. I had a few I wanted as a child, but most of them were for fun. Magic, flying, teleportation, breathing underwater… some of which are sort of available in clumsy human form. But the one superpower which I know I wanted, which I know is intrinsically linked to a deep and very painful wound is Invisibility.

As a child some of my happiest moments were when no one noticed me, some of the worst times were when I was noticed. Ergo being invisible was good, being visible was bad. To this day, even after experiences which have shown me that being noticed can be pleasant, that it is nice to have one’s existence confirmed by another, I still cringe as an instinctive initial reflex. Oh no, I’ve been seen!

Being noticed always felt like the most excruciatingly painful experience. This led to my becoming very shy. When you are very shy, you long to be left alone, unobserved, free to do, be, and just live quietly. When I was being ignored, unwatched, I blossomed and became a happy flower. When I was watched, I shrunk and withered, and felt I was a weed which could only redeem itself by dying. Everything I was, did, was wrong, bad, criticised, and dissected under a harsh microscope.

However the strength inspired by this weakness was that I gradually became autonomous. Since the feedback on myself which I received was overwhelmingly of the negative kind, I had to become my own giver of positive feedback. I had to validate myself, compliment myself, encourage and nurture myself. I still live with the wound, the weakness, but I now have the strength it created.

Do I still want to be invisible? Sometimes… but I am just truly beginning to enjoy being visible. So, sometimes things which we perceive to be superpowers prevent us from realising that some of the things we think are weakness, are in actual fact superpowers of a very human kind.