Superman Syndrome

Recognizing Your Kryptonite

What if you knew you were special? There was a sense that you were chosen, unique. You were smarter than most everyone around you? Like superman, what if you believed you were different than everyone else and you had a unique, unparalleled gift to change the world? What would you do? How would it influence the way you engaged others? Looked at problems?

Distinct from the medical definition of an unusual condition, the urban dictionary defines the Superman Syndrome assaviour: the person constantly who feels the urge to try and help or "save" others, comforting them in times of distress whenever possible”. Someone who feels the need to “save” the day, be the expert or have the answers.

Superman Logo

The syndrome is evident in most of us at different times. We all have the need to be acknowledged, to be respected for our contributions, to even express our expertise “proving” our worth. Yet, rather than producing admirable outcomes like stopping trains from crashing into schools or rescuing damsels in distress, this expression of the syndrome more often than not produces negative results for both the individual exhibiting it and those they are intending to save.

Superman can be hyper focused. Problems are quickly assessed. Methods to address the problems quickly defined. Solutions are pursued with a fervor to be both impressive and first among perceived competitors. Workload is looked upon as a challenge to be overcome and, as such, long hours and stress are worn as badges of honor. There is nothing they are incapable of accomplishing and in the name of efficiency, they are the best person to do it – after all if you want it done right, do it yourself.

This commonly refers to a workaholic. Someone who prefers to do everything themselves. Someone who has all of the answers and may be an expert in their respective fields. In a typical workplace, this is often a manager or possible some other figure of authority

Many times, others will marvel at the commitment, the confidence, the ability to take on so much reinforcing the belief that the behaviors are valued and necessary to the individual and organizational success. But are they? Are they valued? Are they necessary? Are they the best approach or the just the most satisfying to the individual in the moment?

Consider a few of the possible negative implications associated with this behavior.