What's your kryptonite?

Posted by Kenetha Stanton on

Image by Ulrike Mai from Pixabay


I like to think that I should be able to handle anything life sends my way. When I fall short or run into situations that I can't handle, I beat myself up as a failure.

I assume it means that I am irreparably flawed when I encounter something that—for whatever reason—is more than I can handle.

I don't think I'm alone in that. I notice many people around me who judge themselves and others harshly for being less than completely strong, courageous, indefatigable, and competent at all times in all situations.

The truth is, of course, that none of us can do it all. And even the things we do well, we can't always do well all the time in all situations.

There are some circumstances when none of us are at our best. When we are ill or in pain or over-tired or over-stressed, our capacities are reduced. We stumble over things that would normally be easy for us. Our tempers tend to become shorter, and our emotions may generally be closer to the surface. Patience evaporates, and kindness can be difficult to maintain.

We've all experienced this for ourselves, but it can be hard to remember that others experience the same things—especially when we may not be fully aware of the stressors (physical or emotional) they may be dealing with.

What can be even more challenging are our idiosyncratic areas of weakness. We all have them—those situations that we just can't handle with our normal competence no matter how hard we try. After all, even Superman had his kryptonite that left him helpless every time.

The problem with these idiosyncratic weaknesses is that we compare ourselves to others who don't struggle in that area, and it adds to our tendency to beat ourselves up because we see others who are able to deal with those things that we cannot. Likewise, people who are watching us struggle cannot understand why we can't deal with that particular issue because they don't find it hard at all.

Nevertheless, we all have our kryptonite, those things that drain us of strength and leave us puddled on the floor.

Sometimes, these things come from old wounds that have not yet fully healed—like veterans who still hit the floor upon hearing loud noises as the PTSD kicks in reminding them of being bombed, or people who flinch and cower when approached in anger because of the scars of old abuse.

Sometimes, these things come from old patterns that we've learned from our families of origin. These may be patterns that have taught us that we are helpless in the face of authority figures or ones that have taught us that being who we really are is unsafe or unacceptable. When we encounter situations that prompt these old patterns, we may find ourselves acting in ways that work to our detriment, even though we don't know why.

Even more challenging sometimes are those things that are simply built into who we are because we have no stories to tell that explain them.

Introverts who need time alone in order to recover from too much interaction are a mystery to those who are extroverted. Highly sensitive people who are strongly affected by their surroundings may appear strange to those whose systems do not register sensory input in the same way. People with allergies or sensitivities to food or smells or lighting seem picky to those who are unaffected by these same things.

We all have something that is our kryptonite, our own special weakness, whether it came to be through nature or nurture or wounding. But some of us have more of these kryptonites than others do.

As I have gotten older, I am learning that I am more fragile in many ways than most people seem to be. I have more than my share of kryptonites that I must use great care in engaging if I am going to stay healthy enough to function well in the world.

I don't like that this is the case. It means that I can't do everything I want to do. It means I have to disappoint people often and say no. It means that I have to carefully monitor my surroundings and my energy output. It means that people often won't understand why I can't do what seems normal to them.

But I've slowly come to peace with it. This is how I am made, and I can only bring my best self to the world around me when I limit myself in ways that help me avoid my kryptonites. Doing so benefits me ... and everyone around me, even when it means I must disappoint them sometimes.

I've also found that the more I accept my own limitations and recognize my own kryptonites, the more patient I am with the limitations of those around me. I can accept that they have their own kryptonites that are different from mine. I may not understand why a specific issue is a challenge to them, but I can accept that it is their kryptonite and respond accordingly.

While I still don't like having so many kryptonites in my world and I still can expect too much of myself some times (ok, ok, so maybe all the time!), the more I have come to peace with those kryptonites and do what I need to do to honor those limitations, the more I have to give and the more I can ultimately handle through the honoring of my limits.

In that way, learning to name my kryptonites has been a kind of kintsugi gold to come from the places where I struggle.

What's your kryptonite?

How do you honor that limitation in your life in order to help you be the best you can be?

How might learning to acknowledge and honor that limitation shift your perspective of yourself from being "irreparably flawed" to being human (just like the rest of us)?


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