Hang up the cape!

Hello Tuesday’s Scribe readers! PJ here, talking about some serious stuff today. Do any of you remember running around as a kid with a bath towel draped over your shoulders and tied around your neck, pretending to be a superhero in a cape? I would even straddle a broom and gallop all over the house and yard acting as if my trusty steed and I could save the world by my sheer desire to have such power. I became Wonder Woman and threw my “javelin” at make-believe bad guys and played Army and GI Joe with my brother and his friends because it seemed so cool to be part of some elite fighting squad that could take on any foe and always “win”.

When I became a teenager and gave up my magical thinking, I was forced to face the harsh realities of life. With my mother’s cancer and ultimately her death when I was sixteen, it became clear that any illusion I had of control or of being a savior of any kind was just that…an illusion. Yet I still clung to my “cape”—that dream of being someone special—someone others could depend on, look up to, and admire. Essentially, I kept trying to be what others needed or wanted me to be. I hoped that by taking control of all the little things in life, like schedules and micromanaging a family, that the big things—like life and death—would somehow bend to my will. Of course that didn’t happen. But instead of hanging up the cape and accepting my imperfection and my mortality, I worked more, tried harder, and sacrificed my own feelings for the benefit of everyone else’s. Over time, that cape became more and more attached to my identity and others expected the same level of perfection that I expected of myself.

As a mother, a wife, a healer, a teacher, and as an athlete, perfectionism was my creed. I was Superwoman! Of course I didn’t know it at the time, and I certainly didn’t consciously believe that I could or should strive for perfection, but my need for control in a life filled with chaos and fear, was as natural as breathing for me. By the time I reached my thirties, the cape had been pretty much tattooed into my skin. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t strive for excellence in all that we do. We are definitely happiest when we are feeling successful in our lives (whatever that means for you). What I am saying is that perfection is unattainable and that learning to accept and love ourselves for who we are is an essential ingredient in finding what we all crave far more than control—peace of mind.

So when you start to come down on yourself about not “measuring up” or feel as if you can’t get out of your own way to save your life because life is—let’s face it—kicking your ass, just remember, you are exactly where you are supposed to be. Learn whatever lessons you can learn in your current circumstance and do yourself a favor; hang up the cape. Maybe you ask for help, maybe you take a day off, maybe you even crawl under the covers and avoid dealing with an out of control inbox, a persnickety computer, and looming deadlines. Or maybe you do what every Superhero should do—take off the cape and let the world see how amazing and awesome you really are all by yourself.

Today’s Unlocked Secret: Be true to yourself, strive to be the best you can be, and know that you are amazing just the way you are.

Any Superheroes out there looking to shed their capes? Have you been trying to “do it all and feeling like you’re coming up short?”

18 thoughts on “Hang up the cape!”

  1. Well Paula, this post is pretty close to perfection. That is, even if you weren’t seeking “it.” Your posts represent your attitude and knowledge. They are always, if not perfect, they are pretty close. For me . . . perfection and control are dirty words. I shutter when I hear them. I didn’t know when they crept into my life, but I do know I don’t want them in my life. They are demons. So I cast them out. I permit anyone who notices them on me, to please let me know, and I will cast them out again. I know I slip from time-to-time. Only one of my children suffer from them, and he is working on ridding himself of the burdens. Great post, thanks. This is another terrific reminder to relax.

  2. Well, you know I battle doubt all the time. But one thing I do for myself – I’m a vicious guardian of my time. Sometime around my 40th birthday, I decided to cut myself some slack. Now I question all my activities – do I need to do it? Do I want to do it? What will happen if I do or don’t do it? Now that my children are older (practically men), I’m a lot more relaxed about “stuff”. And I totally agree with your suggestion to hide under the covers once in a while. It’s okay to lick the proverbial wounds and heal!

    Remember – as Edna says in The Incredibles, “No capes!” And we all know what happens to those when you get too close to airplanes.

  3. Great advice, PJ. It’s easy to get hung up on trying to be perfect and be all to everyone. And that leaves no time for self. Of course if you’re not taking care of yourself, you eventually end up not being able to do for others. So, this is a wonderful reminder that we don’t have to do it all and we don’t have to be perfect — and even though we’re not, we’re still pretty awesome. 🙂

  4. Thank you for your honest words, PJ! I take a lot on, but I love to be active. Some days I take too much on and have to delegate accordingly. My game plan is focus on the one thing in front of me. Everything else will wait. If I look too far ahead at all coming down the pike, I would probably have nervous breakdown. 🙂

    Thank you for sharing!

  5. The one thing at a time method is truly the only way to stay sane, Katy. You amaze me at how much you get done while homeschooling your children and writing. Go you!

  6. I did that cape thing. It was horrible, but I didn’t know how not to do it. I’d fall apart, fuss at everyone, cry, and try to hide. When my husband died, I lost my cape. I have no idea what happened to it, or if I’ll ever find it. But if I do, I’ll put it in the litter box for a week, before I toss it out. I’d burn it, but I think the city would get upset with me.

    1. Hi E. Thanks for sharing:-) It is especially challenging for most of us when it comes to donning the cape for our loved ones. We can’t seem to help ourselves. Losing track of tje cape is a good thing. It probably ended up in the Salvation Army clothing drop box.

  7. “Be true to yourself, strive to be the best you can be, and know that you are amazing just the way you are.” There be no truer words. Thanks PJ for the reminder.

  8. Great post and another reminder to love yourself for who you are, not someone’s twisted version of what you should be. Trouble is, all those you’ve been shepherding don’t know what to do when toss the cape in the laundry. They stand around the dryer until it’s done, waiting for you to fasten it back on. It’s hard to let go when you’re so used to trying to keep control. Thanks PJ

    1. So true, Harley. Everyone loves having their own personal superhero on board in life. So when the cape comes off, the adjustment period can be difficult for everyone. I found these two words (FEEL FREE) to be incredibly…well…freeing! As in conversations like this:

      Kid: Mom, I can’t find any clean socks.
      Mom: Feel free to do a load of laundry.

      Husband: Honey, we’re out of milk.
      Wife: Feel free to stop and get some on your way home.

      Boss: I need that done now.
      Employee: Feel free to go &*$@^ yourself. I’m going to be a famous author and maybe I’ll let you come and work for me someday.

      See how that works? Feel free to try it! You may initially be met with some resistance, but after a while, everyone gets the message that the cape has been retired and stuffed into the rag bag.

  9. It’s very addictive to be the “go-to” person in the house and in business– the person people go to when things need to get done! I think we work so hard at being that person for the first few years of our professional careers and in our family lives (wanting to do things right) that it’s tough to know when to start drawing boundaries and when you can step back. Maybe we need to teach our kids a new model of success that involves down-time and breathing room to simply enjoy ourselves. If we plant the seed early on, maybe we’ll save them from that manic need we all seem to have felt! Thanks for a great post, PJ! – joanne

    1. Great point, Joanne. Deepak Chopra talks about teaching his kids meditation from the time they were very young. What a powerful tool that is to grow up with. Meditation is all about self-awareness and focus–skills that most of us lack far into adulthood. Perhaps we could all take a page from his book.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  10. Well said. I worry about a few friends of mine who haven’t learned to say no and put their needs first once in a while. I’m going to share this post with them. 🙂

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