Why most of us are a bit of both and why that matters.
Superhero stories are very popular. They can intrigue all of us. One reason is that they can reflect our lives or perhaps our wishes and yet the superhero is somehow not too unlike us for us not to identify with the character.
Superhero authors understand this very well and build a lot of psychology into their work.
One very good example is Spiderman.
Without his costume, Peter Parker is an unassuming, slightly geeky person full of doubts and anxieties and who wishes he could be different. Not least in being able to speak with his “crush”. It’s not too difficult to think that Spiderman is mentally sensitive in many respects. He appears to feel every bump on the road through life.
A chance meeting with a spider changed things. Suddenly he acquires attributes that enables him to be something more than he was before. Still, he needs a costume to mask who he is. Behind this, he thinks differently, and his now dynamic actions reflect that.
Now he is up for a challenge, He is confident in his abilities – especially his new witty interpersonal skills. There is no holding back – he has a sense of self-worth and has a sense of purpose that he backs by going the extra mile.
We might summarise it in this image:
The first question is, to what extent does Peter Parker respond in this way. Mostly he is the other side of the picture.
Can we learn anything from this?
Well… its mythical. It’s not real. But many will identify with aspects of Peter Parker’s personality and will wonder if there is a clue here about what they can do to be more mentally tough and, through that perhaps be more effective or enjoy better wellbeing.
And in a way there is. If someone is self-aware about what aspects of their mental toughness can usefully be developed and want to do that, they can.
On the other hand, if with self-awareness, the individual is content with being who they are (and there can be good reasons for this) they can learn how to adopt behaviours that come more naturally to the more mentally tough when this is needed.
In effect putting on a mental costume to become our own version of a superhero. Effectively adapting and adopting approaches and actions that enable us to be the best version of ourselves that we can be.
And that is perfectly normal.
I was ashamed of myself when I realized life was a costume party and I attended with my real face – Franz Kafka
As the celebrated author, Franz Kafka noted: life was like a costume party, sometimes it was useful and appropriate to wear a mask. Some of his struggles were to do with him dealing with life whilst revealing all – “my real face”.
Curiously and appropriately, Kafka was famous for writings which combined realism with the fantastic. He also doubted his abilities to the extent that he destroyed 90% of his writing because he thought it wasn’t good enough. We will never know.
At the heart of all of this is self awareness about how I approach life in my mind. We now have a framework for understanding this – the 8 factor mental toughness concept.
With reflection, often guided by a coach or compassionate manager, we can identify what works for us and what doesn’t and identify a way forward that optimises things for us.
We might not become superheroes but we do have access to a superpower – self awareness about our mental toughness.
If you are seeking to optimise, AQR International has a team of coaches trained in the use of the concept and the MTQPlus measure. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Practitioners, coaches, trainers, managers, etc who wish to be able to add the concept and the measure to their armoury, contact: email@example.com
The MTQPlus measure is available in fourteen languages, accessible to more than 2/3rds of the world’s population.
Completion of the AQR Licensed user training programme is recognised by EMCC and ICF for CPD purposes.