SuperBetter: Bad Guys
When we last left off, we were identifying power-ups; little things that make you happy pretty much 100% of the time. I was lamenting that Jane McGonigal’s power-ups in SuperBetter were wholesome — a handful of almonds or petting her dog — and mine felt less healthy — watch a few minutes of a Dungeons and Dragons game on YouTube or play a round of Shuffle Cats. But cats playing cards beats out complex proteins in my book every day of the week.
Power-ups are important. As she says on page 169, “It’s much easier to find little ways to feel happy and connected than it is to block or prevent negative emotions entirely.” You don’t want to feel stressed, but making yourself not feel stressed is harder than making yourself happy for a few minutes with Shuffle Cats (Shuffle Cats makes you happy, too, right?). And by making yourself happy for those few minutes, you break the cycle and may even have a fighting chance of making yourself not feel stressed. Win-win!
You need these power-ups in place if you’re going to fight your bad guys. Your bad guys are the ways you keep yourself from your goals. They’re your emotional obstacles.
Naming them takes away some of their power because once you have proven their existence by giving them a name and description, you can figure out how to fight them. You can dismiss them. You do not need to give them more power than they deserve.
I sat down at Whole Foods and started making a list. There was Imogen the Imposter, who makes me doubt my capabilities. (Side note, I really wish I hadn’t named her Imogen because I love that name and intended to use it on a future pet.) Seymour the Self-Doubter. He’s actually a lot like Imogen. They may be dating. They mess up my life in the same way. Tess the Talker-Outer, who convinces me not to try things. Walter What If, who freaks me out with his predictions. Wally the Waster of Time.
Was it a little silly? Yes. Yes, I felt silly sitting at a table at Whole Foods, writing out a list of self-sabotaging traits and pairing them with drippy names. At this point, I know in the future that I (and perhaps you, if you’re doing this, too) will put together an opposition team to fight these bad guys, but when I did this exercise, I didn’t understand why I had to identify the bad before I identified the good.
But now, looking back at it, I think it’s important to know what you’re up against before you choose the correct tools to fight it. Everyone has self-doubt, everyone has little what ifs that tug at their heart. (I say “everyone,” even though I know, since this is the Internet, that I’m going to get a comment from someone informing me that they have never felt a moment of self-doubt or fear in their life.) But every internal self-doubt or what if generator is unique. And you need to know your stumbling blocks — identify them, name them, picture them — and in doing so, you will know exactly how to fight them.
So who are the super villains who haunt your brain and heart?
I’m writing about SuperBetter the app as well as SuperBetter the book because… well… I learned about them via a podcast and now I want to talk about everything I’m learning on them. If you want to talk about them, too, join along. If not, skip the posts marked SuperBetter.