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The Caring Hulk: what is your superpower?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012 by Marianne Elliott

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Andrea Scher - superheroMy friend Andrea Scher has just launched a gorgeous new website, Superhero Life, to showcase her famously honest, powerful writing & teaching and to give the superheroes who walk amongst us (i.e. all of us) a place to gather.

I first met Andrea in person four years ago. We met in Berkeley, and walked around talking until we found a cafe to sit in and talk some more. By the end of the afternoon, I knew I had found a real friend, and ever since, one of my annual pilgrimages is to Berkeley to walk and talk with Andrea.

Like me, Andrea is in many ways an unlikely superhero. She’s a gentle spirit, sensitive (like me) and quietly spoken (unlike me). But, like me, she has learned to cultivate courage – even when she feels afraid – through the daily practices of showing up for life, trusting her intuition and being willing to be vulnerable.

In Andrea’s words:

I’m redefining what it means to be a SUPERHERO — ‘cause in my world, it’s got nothing to do with capes, spandex or sidekicks and everything to do with tenderness, intuition & baby steps of bravery. ~ Andrea Scher, Superhero

Andrea and I share a belief that vulnerability really is the best measure we have for courage (thanks to the wonderful Brene Brown for that phrase), and this year we discovered we had – independently of each other – both created 30 day courses in courage grounded in the belief that it is possible to cultivate courage through small steps.

You can read more about my 30 Days of Courage here, and more about Andrea’s Cultivating Courage here. You’ll soon see how much we share in our understandings of what it means to be brave, and what it takes to cultivate courage. I especially love this:

It takes courage to take a leap of any kind (to make that call, to buy the ticket, to say yes) and vulnerability is that tender place we find ourselves in a few beats later. It is where uncertainty and the most hopeful parts of heart collide—it is often where magic happens. ~ Andrea Scher, Superhero


So when Andrea told me that she was celebrating the launch of her new site by asking some of her friends to write a post about their own superpowers, I jumped at the chance to take part. There was just one problem.

I wasn’t sure what my superpower was.

So I decided to ask for help. I put out the word to some friends, asking them what they would say my superpower was. I got the kind of response that a girl really ought to save somewhere for reference on those bad days we all have (right?).

Here are some of the superpowers proposed by my friends: courage, empathy, compassion, kindness, intuition, wisdom, clarity, mindfulness, possibility, openness, vision, listening, ability to influence for change, to be passionate without being controlling, empowering, helping others see they have superpowers.

One friend suggested I was The Hulk. In his defense, he says he chose The Hulk because he’s strong, then said maybe I’m more like Catwoman, “Because she is super sexy, agile, and has extrodinary balance and flexibility”. He is forgiven.

One of my favorite comments came from my editor: “If you were a character in Captain Planet you’d be the dude with the heart ring.”

Here’s what I learned about the dude with the heart ring:

Ma-Ti uses the power of Heart to instill caring, passion, and empathy into the people of the world to care for the planet. He can also use this power to communicate with animals telepathically.

I can telepathically communicate fear to dogs, if that counts. If I could instill ‘caring, passion and empathy into the people of the world’ I’ll happily call my life a success.

When I read through all the comments, though, one quality seemed to be central to everything else.

You care. Caring is a great superpower.

Do you remember when it was uncool to care?

When we were teenagers and the coolest kids were the ones who didn’t give a f@#k? Actually, sometimes I think it still is uncool to care. Caring is earnest. It’s engaged. It’s the opposite of cool. And people tell me I’d be better off if I didn’t care so much.

But I do care. A lot. Enough to be earnestly uncool.

And it’s that caring that fuels my courage. I write and speak and act bravely, not because I am unafraid but because I care.

It’s also caring that fuels my compassion and empathy, because I care about people enough to want to understand what the world feels like for them.

It’s caring that fuels my clarity. I care enough about issues to make sure I’ve understood them – as much as possible – and to work out the most strategic way forward.

It’s caring that fuels my efforts to influence change, and that compels me to balance my passion with humility – because effective change always comes from conscious, collaborative action.

I care. And if caring is my superpower, it’s one that will age well. I care no less today than I did 35 year ago, when I was a child. And I doubt very much that I’ll care any less in another 35 years.

I particularly like ‘caring’ as a superpower because it’s unglamorous. It doesn’t lend itself to fancy capes, underpants over tights, or face masks. It’s the superpower of the earnest, the uncool, the kind, the considerate, and the committed.

And in my book, that makes it very cool.

It also feels like just the kind of superpower I might share with my fellow ordinary superhero, Andrea – whose new website’s tagline is:

No capes. Just courage.


What is your superpower? If you are not sure, do what I did and ask your friends. If nothing else, it’ll make for a fun Facebook discussion.


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4 Responses to "The Caring Hulk: what is your superpower?"

  1. I really really love “caring” as a superpower. If I could highlight on a web page, this is what I would highlight in lime green: “I particularly like ‘caring’ as a superpower because it’s unglamorous. It doesn’t lend itself to fancy capes, underpants over tights, or face masks. It’s the superpower of the earnest, the uncool, the kind, the considerate, and the committed.” There is something so wonderfully down-to-earth and REAL about this. Like you’re a superhero of the people, for the people, and with the people. It is such a beautiful thing to care. And to admit to what we care about it. Your post makes me want to express my own caring in as many ways as I can. Thank you for the inspiration!

  2. LaGitane says:

    Oh – I love Captain Planet! BTW, do we still brainwash children with eco-love or have we given up on the Earth? I love your superhero / superpower themed posts of late. Caring is a brilliant superpower. I think I have a fair dose of it myself. I shudder to think who we become when we stop caring. Perhaps the big, mad version of the hulk.

  3. What is so heartening here? the spirit of collaboration…no hint of superstition or competition or jealousy or comparing or criticizing that might have been shocked to find out one another were offering a similar product….women collaborating in a way that is so needed. while i’ve not yet met either of you i continue to be grateful for gleaning how you both individually offer your creations … golly there’s room for all of us to do so…i am so moved by this collective sharing…will promote both classes… and need to check if they run simultaneously b/c how invaluable to partake in both somehow and see the uniquenesses….oh. just. so. love. this. tender heartfelt grateful huggabuggas.

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