And speaking of Superman…

April 10, 2023

Yesterday’s little flight-of-fancy about being Superman was inspired by the following “classic” column….

* * * * * * *


by Jack Crowther

[from the Rutland Herald, November 23, 1986]

We all need to feel we count. This thought occurred to me recently when 4-year-old Bill from next door approached me on the back porch and asked, “Where’s the other Cruther?”

Actually, there are three other Crowthers besides me, but the boy knew our children’s first names, so he had to mean my wife. I told him she was inside.

He went around to the front door and rang the bell. When my wife answered, Bill informed her that he would be taking a nap presently and therefore was unavailable to anyone who wanted him.

She thanked him for letting her know, and Bill went sleepy-bye, secure in the knowledge that he had the decks cleared for his nap. From such beginnings, chief executives grow.

Bill displayed a healthy attitude, even if he overestimated the effect of his naps on the Crowther routine. He knew he counted, and that’s one of the foundation blocks of a productive life. Without a sense of our own worth, everything we do seems irrelevant.

People’s self-worth goes up and down like the stock market. Sometimes at dinner, people in our family will check up on each other.

“How’s your self-worth?” my wife will ask me.

“Down 2 points in moderate trading,” I might say. “And you?”

“Oh, I had a pretty good day. “Up 3 and a quarter in light trading.”

We include the children. “How do you feel about yourself?” we ask.

“Black Tuesday,” our daughter will say. “I think I did lousy on my science test.”

We try to buck her up. “You’re sure to rebound in the third quarter,” we say.

“And you, son?”

“Unchanged,” he’ll say.

“Unchanged from what?”

“From OK.”

“Just OK?”

“Yeah, my self-worth is fine, OK?”


Unless you’re a trained insecurity analyst, you may not spot the telltale signs of a decline in self-worth. Some people can hid their feelings.

I used to believe in keeping feelings in. I was a card-carrying member of the John Wayne school of psychological survival. If I was feeling down and someone asked me how I was, I’d say, “Fine.”

An exception to that was during my compulsive honest phase, when an extreme truthfulness plagued me. During that period, people would ask me how I was, and, if I was unhappy, I’d say, “Fine . . . physically.”

I soon got over that, thank goodness. Complete honesty was impractical. It spawned too many lengthy conversations that began with the question, “Well, what about mentally?”

After that, I learned to keep some things to myself. I learned to think the qualifying phrases instead of saying them aloud.

“How’s your self-worth?” people would ask.

“Fine,” I’d say, even if down deep I wasn’t. Then I’d continue silently to myself, “Compared to when I wrecked the car.”

Now I’m more open about feelings, depending on how much time I have. One reason is that my wife found a way to get around my deceptions. She didn’t need to ask me what kind of mood I was in. She would tell me what my self-worth quotient was and challenge me to defend it.

“You seem to be at a low ebb today,” she’d say.

This irritated me, and I would sometimes respond with, “Oh?”

I didn’t want people telling me I was at a low ebb and asking for explanations. Sometimes my reasons seemed anemic.

Of course, not all bad moods come from being down on oneself, though many amount to that. We are the authors of our own fates, we tell ourselves. If things have gone badly, we’re to blame for not conquering our problems, we think.

Perhaps I dwell on this subject because, for a couple of hours recently, I lived the illusion of being a super-capable individual whose worth was almost incalculable. On Halloween, I dressed up as Superman, and in my shocking blue tights, blue top and red cape I almost believed I was Superman.

Though I didn’t fly through the air when I stretched out my arms in Superman’s patented flying position, I knew I had the right stuff. All that was needed was just a little bit of magic and off I’d go.

Throwing my right leg up for a vertical takeoff was as natural as getting up from breakfast, and if I failed to clear tall buildings with a single bound, only the alignment of the planets or the air pressure or some geophysical quirk was keeping me from it.

“There’s Superman,” people said as I rode through the streets of the city on a flatbed truck.

I waved. People responded.

At 6 feet, 170 pounds, the illusion of the Man of Steel was a trifle lightweight. I was more suited to portray the Man of Aluminum. Nevertheless, I played Superman and felt super, until a woman on the sidewalk called out, “Hey Superman, did you go on a diet?”

I swelled up my chest in a heroically doomed effort to expand my dimensions, distending my ribs to the point of pain.

“Nice try,” she said.

Ever since then, I’ve been a little down.

Physically, though, I’m fine.

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