How to find your superpowers and use them for good


I’ve never been a huge fan of Superheroes.

Batman, Catwoman, even poor Mario; I could never will myself to believe in their “special powers”. I know it’s sacrilegious, but can you get more unrealistic: a grown man jumps from building to building using spiderwebs? Come on people.

Yet, once you get past the dizzying, almost mythical aspects of these characters, it’s actually somewhat romantic. If Peter Parker could save the world after getting bit by a spider, then maybe I should stay in my apartment more often.

It’s because superheroes make us normal folk feel like anything is possible.

And you know what? Maybe it is. Maybe we just need to become a little more attuned to ourselves, and realize that world-changing powers don’t really come from insects in chemistry labs.

You need to Honor Yourself first to see where they’re hiding.

Riding through Israeli Deserts, June 2014

I never thought I would go to Israel.

I mean, I love traveling. And I consider myself someone who seeks out places off the beaten path (much to my parent’s dismay). But, Israel in the summer of 2014 was very, very far from the beaten path.

And somehow, I ended up riding a camel in the Negev Desert.

For me, this trip was the beginning of the End. It spun so many things I believed about the world on its head, no wonder I came back dizzy with change. I left for Israel sure of three things: (1) starting work wouldn’t be that bad, (2) I’m not really that Jewish, and (3) I know everything I need to know.

But at that point, I didn’t even know how wrong I could be.

I think a little background on myself might be helpful here. I’ll give you the short and sweet version:

  • I grew up much like Toula from My Big Fat Greek Wedding — Mousaka for lunch, only brunette in a sea of blonde (you get the drift).
  • My mom was Jewish before she married my dad & became Greek Orthodox. And hence, raised her children as Greeks.
  • Jewish was always a magical word to me. I would tell people that I was Greek and Jewish for the exotic-ness of it (only to be corrected by my younger siblings that Jewish was a religion and you couldn’t be a religion. Oh, and we weren’t Jewish )

When I got to NYU, many of my friends happened to be…Jewish. They all planned on doing Birthright, a free 10-day trip to Israel for American (suburban) Jews after graduation, so of course I applied — for a free trip to an exotic place if anything.

Yet, when I found out that I would return to New York less than 5 days before I was about to start my Big Girl Job, I almost backed out of the trip. Of course, I shut up, stopped being scared, and prepared myself for 10 days in the Desert.

I think the Israeli heat was almost revitalizing. And, I quickly realized: (1) I’m not ready to give up my freedom, (2) All religions are nearly the same, and (3) I don’t know anything, really.

Especially not how to Honor Myself.

I had never heard this term, “Honor Yourself,” before. On a summer night that was pregnant with potential, everything seemed like it was about to burst — the stars hanging low in the sky, the excitement of my new friends, the flames jumping out of the fire pit.

This edgy girl, Ava* who was already cool without trying, sat on the ground near the fire pit playing with her beer can. We all had an emotional day, so everyone was trying to not to dampen the mood by singing and laughing and joking.

Ava broke the facade when she asked: “Do you guys always feel like you’re true to yourself?”

Everyone just kind of stopped, taken aback by the starkness of her question. “No, really,” she said. “Do you ever actually think about what you want, or what you’re really good at?” She told us that we, as humans, tend to resign ourselves to the ordinary, the easy, or the path that others have prescribed for us. Most people never take the time to be selfish with their own ideals, and their goals in life. “Basically,” she said, “it comes down to self-respect.”

I remember as she talked, this idea hit me. Hard.

I had always perceived myself to be someone who had strong values — ones that I never compromised. I found it easy to stand up for what I believed in on a grand scale. I was never afraid of disagreeing with someone in a classroom setting, or while debating political issues.

But, I realized when it came to my personal life, I compromised easily. I didn’t care what movie we were going to see, or what restaurant we chose. If someone had a strong opinion about the type of wine we were ordering, by all means, order it.

In that moment though, I realized it’s not that I never cared about those types of things. I just tended to avoid conflict when it came to my personal opinions.

I didn’t Honor Myself for the sake of general harmony.

And after that, I made a promise to myself to just Do Me every single day. But, I had to do some soul searching first, and find out what my Superpowers were.

I tried to Honor Myself the very next day. We were breaking for lunch, and while all the normal people went to look for shwarma, I stepped away from the group and found some real, authentic hummus & salad. I already told you I’m weird, but in 100 degree heat I prefer eating veggies rather than street meat.

And I realized, that’s okay. I didn’t need to be like everyone else.

Although it seems small, by being in tune with myself, I realized that eating healthy makes me Better. I’m less tired and cranky. Some people are totally fine with eating Domino’s pizza every night, and hey, that’s awesome. But, when you know what makes you your best you, why wouldn’t you do it?

And like anything, feeding your Superpowers takes some strength. You don’t just all of a sudden stumble upon these powers (Peter Parker set a bad example). You need to take some time, and reflect.

It’s a scary word. Reflection sounds so urethral, so theoretical. In my mind, I picture a Buddhist monk with a bare head and orange robe, meditating on a mountain in rural Bhutan (okay — I know, I have a big imagination). The concept of self-reflection seems to be reserved for the most holy and spiritual of the human race.

But, anyone can do it. I usually reflect during my Gratitude Journal 5 minutes of writing, or on my morning runs. You can meditate with Deepak Choprah & Oprah through an app on your phone, or just take a few minutes of silence each day. Self-reflection happens in moments when thoughts control you, not actions.

No matter the method, reflecting will help you devise a road map to figuring out your Superpowers. And, these Superpowers will help you as you move from job to job or city to city. As you get into relationships or get out of them.

Knowing what you will and won’t compromise to be your best You is really what life is about, isn’t it?

I realized this very quickly when I entered the intense working world of Finance: where people think they’re delivering babies instead of powerpoint presentations. I had a blackberry whose red light never seemed to cease blinking. I couldn’t understand why people would go into cardiac arrest if that stupid phone died — mine did all the time.

I think that was my first inkling that the values of this work did not align with mine.

But you know what? I realized those values early and I made sure to stand by them. While yes, as a junior employee you’re supposed to work hard and work long — I’d never let that compromise what was important to me: Me Time.

For example, if I had three 7AM calls in a row, which meant I couldn’t go for a run before work, you bet I was at the gym by 6PM. I blocked off time on my calendar to work out. To spend time decompressing. That’s because I know how important it is to Do Me—it actually makes me a better employee. And overall, a better human.

So, skip the Broadway version of Spiderman (it’s not that good anyway) and spend some time figuring out if you want shwarma or hummus for lunch. If you can withstand that blinking red light for a few minutes of Me Time.

Superheroes are made every day.

soulKatina Mountanos