For all my comic book fans out there, any guesses as to when Superman became a thing?  Turns out Superman made his debut on the cover of Action Comics on April 18, 1938.  The brainchild of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, Superman has become the archetype of the superhero: muscles on top of muscles, a tight-fitting uniform with a bright red cape to top it all off, has a day job, uses a codename, and fights evil with the aid of extraordinary abilities.  Things all teenage boys dream they can become someday.

But do you know all the iterations of Superman?  Originally in 1938, Superman could hoist cars, trains and even ships.  He could outrun a steaming locomotive.  He could even “leap over tall buildings with a single bound.”  However, over the next four decades, and in order to keep the interest of comic book readers, Superman’s powers had to evolve.  By the late ‘60s, he could fly faster than light.  He could hear things no one else could, had x-ray vision and could blast heat-rays from his eyes.  He could also freeze objects and with his breath, and create a hurricane.  Planets were nothing to him as he could flick them out of his way when desired.  Nuclear blasts left him unscathed.  And, to keep the shock and awe factor piqued, if he did get hurt, he could heal.  Superman became invincible.

Strangely enough, the more invincible he became, the writers just couldn’t think of any more interesting things for him to be the hero to.  Simply put, he got boring.  In the late ‘40s, DC Comics tried to solve this problem by concocting a storyline where Superman became vulnerable to the radiation produced by kryptonite, a material remnant of his destroyed home planet Krypton.  Soon, varying forms of kryptonite would be introduced.  Green kryptonite weakened him.  Red caused him to behave strangely.  Red-green caused him to mutate.

To keep his story compelling, other twists had to be introduced.  In the mid ‘70s, Superman was scheduled to battle Spider Man, a cross-over battle between a DC hero and a then upstart company called Marvel.  By the ‘80s, Superman was suffering from a severe bout of lack of interest.  He seemingly had done all the things.  And that, dear friends, was Superman’s biggest problem: He developed powers so extreme that he could get himself out of any problem, anywhere, at any time.  And in the late 80s, the franchise nearly died, if not for John Byrne who successfully rebooted it.  How did he do that you ask?  By stripping Superman of some of his powers.  He could no longer lift planets or shrug off an H-bomb.  He had to depend on the sun for his powers.  Simply put, he was given reasonable limitations.  Turns out, a superhero that could do anything, is no superhero at all.

Ever get jealous of other people’s strengths?  Ever wish you had their complexion or skin color or waist size?  Ever think that if you just had what they had…the nice car, the fancy job, the lake house, and bank account…all would be well?  Ever wish you were somebody you weren’t because you wished you were someone else?  Someone else who has all their stuff together.  Someone who posts the right highlight reel on social media and garners the most likes when they enter a room.  Ever wish you were the superhero they are…if only you could be that too?

Yet, we’re plagued with limitations.  Things we just aren’t good at, all while sporting a zit on our forehead.  Things we just aren’t coordinated enough to do, all while tripping over a crack in the sidewalk,  in front of our friends.  Words we just can’t string together right, all while watching our bestie post a viral reel, or our co-worker getting the promotion we felt we deserved.

We just aren’t good enough.

We just can’t do things well.

We can’t be loved.

No one notices.

We don’t matter.

So, what shall we do?  Shall we stop there, in the midst of our muck?  Shall we stay stuck and wallow in the mire of comparison and self-loathing?  May it never be!  Yes, admitting we have limitations is the first step to recognizing that, in spite of them, we also have strengths.  We may not be able to lift a planet, but perhaps we can share a kind word of encouragement with the new person at work or school.  We may not be able to shrug off an H-bomb, but maybe we can support the missionary that is heading off to a foreign country to build an orphanage.  We may not be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but we likely could read a book to a child.  We may not be able to find our unique path in this world, but we can certainly continue to try.

You were made on purpose for a purpose.  Your life matters.  Your impact on this world is unmistakable and significant.  With you, humanity thrives.  Without you, we suffer loss.  There’s a place for you.  Your limitations are my strengths.  My limitations are your strengths.  We complete each other.  Each person, fitting uniquely, yet purposefully, in this beautiful mosaic we call life.

Lift your head up.  Tilt your shoulders back.  Put a smile on your face.  Step confidently into the future.

Your limitations are fertile ground for teamwork.  Surround yourself with those who make you better.  Spread joy.  Spread optimism.  And live on purpose today.