Written by Ollie Coach, Claire Robertson
Once upon a time my superhero alter ego would have been Lady Conscientious. No touch-where-it fits Marvel-style sexy suit for me - no, my uniform would have been a grey twinset and pearls. As a shy, bookish and fairly bright only child it’s no surprise that I was, from a young age, very keen to get things right - after all, getting good grades and avoiding trouble brings praise and feels good. And I did get good grades, including a first class honours degree, and decent jobs too. I put in the work, worried about each and every assignment and task, never strayed from the straight and narrow - I was a perfectionist, Lady Conscientious through and through. But I was also Mrs Stresshead. Her aesthetic would be very different and mostly involve birds’ nest hair, mismatched socks and an ill-fitting pair of jeans. This ‘anything-but-super-hero’ also had bad skin - stress exacerbates the psoriasis I’ve had since childhood, and the pressures of living every day trying to avoid mistakes, please everyone, and anticipate and avert potential disasters meant living in a permanent state of high alert. Control Girl was, of course, another of my alter egos - if only I could stage manage every aspect of my life everything would be just dandy. This trio of femme-futiles were, quite frankly, exhausting but they were calling the shots for a long time.
And then - as always happens in the movies - a baddie entered stage right and didn’t just deviate from the straight and narrow path but broke it up with a blinking great sledgehammer and tossed aside the pieces. Meet Captain Chaotic, a new manager with a very different way of doing things. Rules? Pah! Who needs petty bureaucracy? Attending to details? Pow! Be gone pesky irritants. Wham, kapow, there goes the thoughtful, considered way we’ve always done things, and here comes ‘disruption’ with a capital D. Battle commenced and, if I’m honest, it was less Good v Evil than Order v Chaos and - spoiler alert - there was no clear winner. It can be uncomfortable when we come up against someone who forces us to question our beliefs and customs, and I was not alone in finding this unfamiliar presence difficult. There followed a prolonged period of arguments, gaslighting, underhand tactics, a clash of class and culture, and very little communication - and no, I wasn’t employed in the House of Commons!
Unlike the movies the battle fizzled out with a whimper - we both moved on, and started again in different roles. I was relieved not to have that drama anymore, and looked forward to getting back to normal, but to my surprise I found that normal didn’t seem all that appealing any more. Lady Conscientious wasn’t quite as vocal as she had been before, Control Girl was often found lolling about reading a book instead of standing duty, and my Perfection superpower was actually teaming up with Creativity and Mrs Just Do It. I realised I was becoming braver, less risk averse, thinking of different ways to live and work. I stopped putting so much pressure on myself, worried less over minor mistakes, got excited over trying new things that I would previously have avoided. My anxiety reduced too, and with it my physical symptoms.
I won’t gloss over that time and pretend it wasn’t horrible - anyone who has endured a ‘bad boss’ will know how soul destroying it can feel; after all, we spend a huge proportion of our lives at work and if we are unhappy in our careers it can have a knock-on effect on every part of our lives. But over time I have come to see that having someone force me out of the groove I was in has been a positive. I wouldn’t say I came to love Captain Chaos but I certainly learned that sometimes it’s OK to loosen up a bit, try things that may well end in failure just for the hell of it because sometimes that’s how you make exciting new discoveries. And if you do fail - well, that’s a discovery too. These days, I’m embracing all of my superpowers in a much more balanced way, and my new superhero name? Meet ‘Discovery’.
Over to you ...
- What superpowers are you using most right now?
- How does that make you feel?
- Who rubs you up the wrong way? Are there any superpowers they display that you might find transformative in your own life?
- How would your ideal superhero behave? How could you develop the beliefs and skills to become more like that person?
Claire Robertson, Ollie Coach
Claire Robertson is an Ollie Coach and NLP practitioner with a degree in psychology. She runs a private practice in the West Midlands, in the heart of Shropshire, working with children, young people and adults. Claire is also a university lecturer specialising in business, marketing and supporting students, has two children, and enjoys reading, crafts and walking.
To get in contact with Claire, email Claire.firstname.lastname@example.org