Look, up in the sky! It’s a bird, it’s a plane! It’s … you? Believe it or not, we all have a superpower, sometimes more than one. Our superpowers are talents, our inborn abilities, enhanced by education, practice, and life experience.
When you ask a kid what superpower they’d like to have, most say, the ability to fly. The next most popular response is super strength, followed closely by X-Ray vision. I honestly don’t remember what I wanted my superpower to be when I was a child, but if you ask me now, the answer would probably be different. As with many things, our perception and understanding of such concepts tend to change as we get older and, theoretically, wiser.
Recruiters often ask the superpower question to screen job candidates. Whenever I was asked this question in an interview, I always thought it was a trick, some kind of nonsense question to throw you off guard. But the question can actually serve several purposes.
In one instance, the interviewer is trying to learn how well you understand your own strengths and weaknesses. Your response will require you to think more creatively about the question and that, in itself, may demonstrate something about how your mind works.
On the other hand, a recruiter may want to know more about what you’d really like to do and whether you’re suited to a particular job. If you answer, “flying,” for example, you’re probably someone who is willing to take a risk, work to the best of your ability, or enjoy looking at things from different perspectives.
If superspeed is your choice, then the recruiter might conclude that you have a good sense of time management and efficiency. But it’s important to be as honest and clear about your answer as possible, and choose the simplest response. There are probably deeper, more involved psychological reasons for the question, but that’s a general idea.
Apart from the human resources application of the concept, the fact is, each of us really does have a unique set of gifts, innate talents, or, for want of a better word, superpowers. Every day we either exploit or ignore those abilities, choosing one way or the other based on what life presents.
Some people learn what their superpowers are at an early age. But for others, identifying your superpower can be a challenge. Talent is often unquantifiable because it might not be academic, artistic, or fall on any other measurable scale. Talents based on emotion, originating from psychological awareness, or driven by faith may not have obvious applications. But with a little effort and some guidance their value will be revealed.
A highly empathetic person might make a good counselor or nurse, while people who are good at deduction would be great problem solvers, police officers, or researchers. Unfortunately, not all applications of these talents are productive. Someone who understands how to manipulate the emotions of others could easily take advantage of them in more nefarious ways. Confidence artists, or “con artists,” for instance, use these skills to scam money from unwitting victims.
Oddly, I was one of those people who had a tough time locating my own superpowers. From a young age, my parents encouraged me to follow my interests, whether it was artistic, academic, or musical. While I had some innate talent in various areas, I wasn’t always interested in the things that I did well.
It wasn’t until I was well out of college that I found where my superpowers reside. The thing is if we’re growing, so are our talents, always improving and adapting to what life throws at us. What I think my superpowers are today would likely not match what I might have wished for as a kid.
It took me a long time to, first, be comfortable enough with who I am to allow myself to appreciate my talents. And then learn to apply them to help myself, my family, and my community.
Just remember, there’s no right answer to, “What’s your superpower?” It’s a never-ending battle for personal truth, self-confidence, and the American dream, whatever that is to you. Just do your best and remember that with great power, comes great responsibility.
Gery Deer is a Greene County resident and columnist. He can be reached at www.gldcommunications.com.