You Were Born with Rockstar Superpowers
Our superpowers make themselves known to us when we’re children, teenagers, and young adults. But often we forget about them later in life because our parents and teachers ignore, minimize, or even attack our authentic natures. According to Brené Brown, 42% of kids are shamed away from pursuing some form of creative expression in school.
“Pamela” was a 40-year-old wife and mother who took my creativity workshop because she yearned to be an author. Both her husband and son wrote fiction, but she couldn’t jot down a single word. She clearly felt passionate about writing because she spoke of it every week in class.
Well, I have to admit that I couldn’t seem to make headway with Pamela. The weeks flew by and no matter what I tried, she still hadn’t composed a thing. We only had two class meetings left and I was getting downright worried. Usually by that time I’ve helped everyone in the class discover what’s blocked their way, but I was stymied when it came to Pamela.
On a hunch, I decided to discuss the effects of schooling on creativity one evening. From having been a student and a professor for so many years, I had a good grasp of the psychology behind getting good grades.
“To get an ‘A’ in a course, you basically figure out what your teachers want and give that to them,” I admitted to my workshop participants. “You don’t embellish it, you don’t change it, and you don’t give it a fresh perspective.
If you spit back what they teach, you’re guaranteed to get an A or a B. But if you do something original with the material, you risk getting anything between an A and an F. That’s why we lose — ”
Before I could finish my last sentence, Pamela waved her hand in the air. “Oh my God, I know what happened,” she blurted out.
She remembered that a high school teacher had failed her for being original with an assignment. She’d internalized this—thought she was a bad writer— and had given up. I suggested that Pamela write about the upsetting event. The next week she handed me a 20-page tome with a big smile on her face.
Can you relate? Many X-Men hide their mutant powers because they’re ashamed of being different. I played piano as if I’d been classically trained at age four but no one noticed so I stopped. Clark Kent’s (Superman) adoptive parents urged him to suppress his amazing abilities as a child until he developed a strong moral compass.
You, too, were born with rockstar superpowers but you may not know what they are because you were shamed for them. Elizabeth Gilbert says, “the universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.” How can you go on a treasure hunt to find your unique gifts?
For Gilbert, the search was easy. She always knew she was a writer. What wasn’t easy was following up on the huge success of her New York Times bestselling memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, which came out in 2007. In her popular TED talk, she discusses the daunting task of writing another book afterward and pinning down the “elusive creative genius.”
In 2013, I fell in love with the exquisite novel The Signature of All Things, a tale about a gifted botanist named Alma who grew up in the 19th century and watched assumptions about science, religion, and commerce be turned upside down. I was spellbound by this masterpiece. It was only after I’d read the last page that I realized Gilbert had penned it. Wow.
In 2016, Gilbert wrote a self-help book called Big Magic offering generous tips for capturing the muse and facing down the inner critic so that aspiring artists can lead creative lives. For a time, Gilbert also hosted the Magic Lessons podcast in which she helped artists get unstuck with a little help from such friends as Martha Beck and Cheryl Strayed.
In addition to writing memoirs, fiction, and personal growth books, Gilbert lives life fully and loves deeply. She left her marriage to her second husband, José Nunes (the Brazilian importer known as Felipe in “Eat Pray Love”) as well as her writing career (temporarily) to help her best friend turned lover, Rayya Elias, die well from late-stage pancreatic and liver cancer.
She has already fallen in love again, with an English photographer named Simon MacArthur, an old friend of Ms. Elias’s. I have never heard anyone say “I love you” to interviewers, podcast guests, and friends as much as Gilbert does. Her widespread love for others is one of her superpowers.
Gilbert doesn’t let people shame her gifts or her lifestyle and neither should you. Her family thought she was “lazy” for daydreaming as a young girl, but she was just exploring her creativity. She’s never apologized for her love life. She owns who she is.
Now it’s time for you to do the same. How can you fall in love with your life again and uncover YOUR strange jewels? What did you love to do as a child or young adult that’s been blocked or put on hold? This a major clue to your superpowers.
Your greatness comes from the unique combination of passions and strengths that make you YOU. When you reclaim your superpowers and fuse them together, a power that is greater than the sum of its parts emerges and you become a total rock star at everything you do.