Do you know someone who seems bigger than life, is able to leap tall buildings in a single bound and is stronger than forged steel? Sometimes we attribute superhero qualities to the people in our lives because of how we feel when we are with them or because of what they do for us.
We can view our parents, lovers, children, mentors, teachers, counselors and friends as superheroes sometimes, even though they are mere mortals. You might believe viewing someone as a superhero is a compliment to them, but when you place someone on a pedestal like that, there is only one way for them to go—down.
If you are going to choose to view people with superpowers intact, then it will be healthier for you to also remember every superhero has their kryptonite. All of us have a certain superpower that shines when we operate in our passion. When others catch a glimpse of this superpower, they can think that we truly are superheroes, but they are only seeing one side of our multifaceted personality. They don’t see the areas where we don’t have superpowers, when we make poor choices or have self-indulgent moments. Many times, it’s because people see others the way they want to see them for their own purposes.
It is healthy to recognize and appreciate the gifts of others. This lets people know you see them—really see them—heart to heart. But to truly see accurately, you also need to realize that this gift usually comes with other deficits. Do not expect perfection in others because, when you do, you are bound to be disappointed while also frustrating the other person. It can be quite stressful attempting to live up to someone else’s expectations.
There are times when people work hard to display superhero status. I saw this prominently when I was doing the research for my book, Secrets of Happy Couples. As I spoke to audiences, I always asked if they knew any happy couples who would be interested in taking my survey. I had several people recommend their parents, but when I’d reach out to them, the parents would say they weren’t that happy; they kept up a façade of happiness for their children’s benefit. But is this really in their children’s best interests? When parents work to maintain an illusion of a happy marriage for their children, especially adult children, they set their child up to expect nothing less in their own relationship. This can cause serious problems in the child’s intimate relationship because they are looking for the perfect marriage, just like their parents had. They didn’t know it was mostly illusion.
The phrase “keep it real” is applicable here. Balance is the key. You have every right to be proud of your own gifts and superpowers, especially when you work hard to develop them and use them for the highest good. In the interest of balance, remain humble. Just as superpowers are bestowed, they can be taken away in an instant. Just ask the professional athlete who suffers an injury just before the championship game or match, the painter who has gone blind, or the composer who’s lost their hearing. Superpowers are yours to use and safeguard but they may not last a lifetime. And when you have a highly developed superpower, you often have other areas where development has been neglected. For example, my superpower involves working with people. I have underdeveloped skills in the areas of technology and finances. Depending on what you assess when you look at me, you can see the superhero or the inadequate part of me.
The same is likely true for the superhero in your life. My father was always my superhero. He could never do anything wrong, until he did. I was in college before I realized that my dad had many wonderful qualities, but he also possessed some traits that weren’t so great. He was human, just like everyone else. When you hold a person to superhero status, seeing their humanity can be devasting.
Let’s leave the superheroes to Marvel and see the important people in our lives as the perfectly imperfect humans that they are. You, and they, will be happier for it.