You know that game—which superpower would you choose? Some pick flying (probably not panic sisters), some pick invisibility (social anxiety sisters?), some pick x-ray vision (not me—I would freak out if I could see every germ! Yes, I am an OCD sister). It’s fun to imagine what we could do given extraordinary abilities. But what if I told you that you already have superpowers?
I didn’t know I had superpowers until the other day, when Mags told me what mine are. (I am saving that email for the rest of my life.) At first, I reacted with humility and self-deprecation, but, later, when I had some time to reflect, I realized what a gift Mags had given me. She was not telling me just things I do well, but qualities I have that are extraordinary.
We typically take for granted things we are good at; often they come easily to us so we don’t recognize them as any big deal. For example, one anxiety sister we know has a fantastic sense of humor, a very supportive extended family, and an unshakable faith in God. She doesn’t see these things as particularly special, but, when things are difficult, she can call in her army of support, see the humor in a dark situation, and use her belief to feel grounded.
An excellent therapist once asked me if my anxiety disorder had affected my self-image. After ten solid minutes of what can be described only as self-flagellation (at one point I referred to myself as a “whiny troll”), my therapist stopped me and said “Would you ever talk to your daughter that way?” Then the tears started and wouldn’t stop for the rest of our session. “What if you talked to yourself the way you talk to your daughter?” she suggested.
Here’s the heart of the matter: many of us Anxiety Sisters are great at describing and lamenting our faults and failings, but how often do we recognize and own our strengths and successes?
When we practice self-compassion and love, we learn to heal ourselves by building on our strengths instead of focusing only on our deficits. Has shaming ourselves ever helped us to get better? (The therapist wouldn’t let me leave until I had apologized to myself and reworded my diatribe.) This exercise was a game changer. Don’t get me wrong, I still call myself names from time to time. But I do try to practice self-compassion as much as I can; when I do, I feel more powerful and am able to manage my anxiety symptoms more effectively.
Make it a priority to cultivate self-compassion as one of your superpowers…
So how do you figure out what your superpowers are?
- Ask your closest friends (they will know because your superpowers are what drew you to them)
- Think about something that comes easily to you—something you take for granted—that isn’t so easy for everyone else. Not necessarily a talent (although talents can certainly be superpowers) but more along the lines of a character trait.
- Think about a triumphant moment—what caused it? Chances are, your superpower was responsible.
Now that you know what your superpowers are, think about how they can help you manage your anxiety. For example, one of my superpowers is dogged perseverance. I just don’t give up. So how can this help me in my anxiety battles? For one thing, I can make one of my mantras “I will outlast this,” which reminds me that I can overcome whatever my anxiety throws at me. My Perseverance superpower means I can stick it out.
Note: this is a fantastic “game” to play with kids who are struggling with anxiety or anything else, for that matter. You can create a chalkboard for listing the superpowers or a handout with suggestions, if you are a teacher. The best part is letting the kids design their own costumes!
What are your superpowers? What does your costume look like? (mine does not have tights or anything constraining—we panic sisters can’t handle being bound!)