Many years ago I heard this quote and it has stuck with me. It was shared by NBA star Charles Barkley after he had a poor performance. He said one of his golf buddies had attempted to cheer him up by telling him: “Even Superman has to be Clark Kent sometimes”.
I remember one particular occasion when this quote helped me out. At the time I was teaching in Louisiana, in a job I enjoyed but which did not pay well. I had taken a part-time job on the side to supplement my income. In the part-time job I taught test preparation courses for Kaplan. The Kaplan classes were once/week for 3 hours. Often I took weekend classes, but on this occasion I was teaching a 3 hour night class for Kaplan after I had already taught all day at my day job. And for whatever reason I don’t recall, I was very tired that day. I really didn’t feel like teaching my night class, to the point that I was dreading going to the class.
I remember telling myself “Even Superman has to be Clark Kent sometimes” and giving myself permission to have an off night, knowing I didn’t have the energy to do as well as I normally might. As this thought passed through my head, I felt weight lift off of me as the pressure I had been putting on myself to do well despite my fatigue dissipated.
During the class I let myself sit on the front table, instead of standing the whole time, and I think I even shared with my students that I was feeling very tired that day.
But something interesting happened. Even though I had already resigned myself to doing a less-than-stellar job, the class actually went pretty well. Perhaps not my best class ever, but above average, and definitely not the poor job I had mentally prepared myself for. In hindsight, I judge that what I had given up in energy and visible enthusiasm, I probably gained by being more relaxed and more authentic.It turned out, being Clark Kent wasn’t so bad after all. Just like the scenes in the movies when Clark accidentally reveals his superior physical strength, taking the pressure off of oneself to perform at “Super” level does not actually diminish one’s true talents, and may lead to surprisingly positive results.
And even if your “Clark Kent” day doesn’t turn out as well as mine, remember Clark will always have another chance to be Superman on another day.