Have you ever been asked what your superpower would be, if you were a superhero? I always struggled to pick between being able to fly and being invisible. Typically introverted answers: picking the two superpowers that would let me escape extroverted situations…
More than being a fun game to play when you’re six, this is a great question to ask yourself throughout life. Your superpowers don’t have to be extraordinary or win you any awards, let alone save the world… they are simply the abilities you have that come easier to you than most, and that energise you more than most.
Individually, they may not strike you as special at all – in fact, until you hear this podcast episode, you might not be aware of them at all – but when you do identify them and start to harness them more, you start to see evidence of your true capabilities.
Stop focussing on your kryptonite!
Introverts tend to be especially critical of themselves, because of our tendency to focus inward so much. Unsurprisingly, treating yourself too critically can easily reduce your self esteem. Low self esteem makes life a lot more challenging. In short: you want to bolster your self esteem, not tear it down.
It does serve us to be critical when it comes to honing our skills; being able to accurately assess where you’re at is one of the core ingredients to getting to where you want to go. But there will be nothing to assess and improve at without first acknowledging what your superpowers are.
Not sure what your Superpowers are yet? That’s OK: here are some ideas to get the ball rolling, based on what we know about the nature of introverts.
1. You’re probably considerate of others
This is particularly helpful when it comes to communication with others. It means an introvert doesn’t give too much away and can be more deliberate and diplomatic in their speech.
It also makes us less quick to make judgements – which, when done without much thought, can land an extrovert in hot water.
However, overthinking can lead to unnecessary anxiety. Anxiety about speaking your mind can mean you appear closed off and distant to others and hinder real connection forming, which is vital for trust and forming long-lasting relationships.
2. You’re probably a deep-thinker
What they say has gone through a natural mental filter, which tests how accurate, important and appropriate something is.
This means that a 1-to-1 conversation can be very rich and full of depth, leading to more meaningful friendships.
The downside to this is that it takes a while for our thoughts to mature and develop to a state where we’re ready to let them out into the world. This is definitely a drawback in heated, fast-paced debates.
It also means on the whole we’re averse to small talk – again, not the best at dinner parties or networking events.
3. You’re probably quite focussed
You can pay attention to those you are speaking to. Which is great if you’re speaking to one person, but even at a larger scale this can be picked up. For example a lecture in a theatre will often be able to notice if there’s someone paying true attention to them: and this will mean a lot to them.
The problem is for introverts who in turn, also need to focus quite intensely in order to get a good understanding of something. This is particularly true for highly sensitive introverts who struggle to maintain focus in an overstimulating environment.
4. You’re probably very attentive
As a result of our focus, introverts also make for great at paying attention to others, making for great listeners. There is a difference between passive listening: which usually looks like someone who is purely being quiet out of politeness, and is really just waiting for their conversational partner to finish speaking. Active listening however looks like someone who has all there attention focussed on you, and who is getting ready not to just speak their own opinions or to steer the conversation in their own self serving direction, but to dig deeper into the last thing you said.
The downside is introverts can also pay too much attention to what others are thinking about themselves: which can cause stress and anxiety when doing something that exposes you to the public.
5. You’re probably independent
Compared to extroverts, who very much rely on the responses and feedback of others, introverts are less concerned with their outside world. This is particularly true for the more left-brain, analytical introverts (usually ISTJs, INTJs, ISTPs, INTPs – check out Marti Olsen Laney for more on left-brain introversion.)
This gives introverts greater ability to be selfless: to create from a place that is not driven by vanity or muddied by the opinions of others.
6. You’re probably empathic
They have the ability to tune into their communication partners and this is done through intuitive strength rather than using any sleazy influence tactics.
Mirror neurones are a real thing: and both introverts and extroverts have them but could it be that introverts, particularly highly sensitive people, are more able to tune into them?
Empathy is a great skill, whether it comes naturally to you or you learn to develop it. It means people are quicker to trust you and feel less threatened by you.
Now we’ve talked about the generic introvert superpowers, let’s talk about your unique Superpowers – the ones that set you apart from the next creative introvert. You might have some or even all of the introvert superpowers, this isn’t where your Superpowers end. You have your own unique Superpowers, that distinguish you from the next creative introvert and that will make you the one fit for your life purpose.
Not sure what your unique Superpowers are? That’s understandable. One of the mistakes people make when identifying their Superpowers is that they immediately think of their abilities in areas that society tends to deem the most important. You might think of your academic history… and how difficult you found maths. You might think of sporting achievements… and remember you were always picked last for teams. You might think of your workplace history… and remember how you always got passed by for promotions.
In focussing on the big, obvious (and actually very insignificant) roles society has suggested you play, you end up missing the Superpowers you do have in other areas.
It can help to think about something that doesn’t feel emotionally loaded. For example, baking cakes with your mother when you were a child – or baking cakes with your children now.
What about you shines in these moments?
Are you endlessly patient?
Are you meticulously precise?
Are you a natural in the kitchen and rarely have to follow a recipe?
It’s these little moments that bring us joy, boost our energy and feel so easy to us that point to our actual Superpowers.
1) Have a Superpower brainstorm by jotting ideas down from the following questions:
• What are you really good at?
• What comes naturally for you?
• What activities make you feel energised?
• What quality do you bring to an activity?
• What do you get asked for help with by others?
2) Put your Superpowers to use
It’s one thing to have a nice list of things you can keep in your wallet when you need a pick-me-up (which I do recommend) but it’s another to actually put these to use as much as possible in your daily life.
Now you have your list (you can also add the typical introvert Superpowers too if they resonated with you) start to list real life ways you can use these Superpowers.
For example, if one of my Superpowers is being attentive, I know I can bring this to occasions when I meet new people. These aren’t usually the most introvert-friendly events, but if I know I have my Superpower in my back pocket, I have more reassurance that I can use this to my advantage.
Think about how these Superpowers can help you through day-to-day life as well as the more challenging occasions we might face. Try following the sentence structure below to work through each Superpower:
I can use the Superpower of ________ when I _________
Go one step further and think of an event or upcoming project where you can really put your Superpower/s to use. Make a point of using this as your intention in going into that event/project (often a much better way of setting goals than focussing purely on the end result.)