Licensed Professional CounselorRemember Superman? He masqueraded as Clark Kent, a human being. But he wasn’t human, was he? The intro to the old TV series said he was a “strange visitor from another planet who came to Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men.”

So, if you were born on this planet, where did you get the idea that you could be Superman? Or Super woman, boy or girl, for that matter? Why are you so hard on yourself? Why are you so deeply ashamed of being a nice person with a decent life? Then again, maybe you aren’t a perfectionist. But you have this idea that you’re responsible for everyone else’s happiness.

Maybe you had a parent who needed your emotional support. Or you had to take a parenting role in your family when you were a child. You were “parentified,” as they say. Psychologist Edward Teyber says children like that lose a realistic sense of what their limits and capabilities are. He says it becomes toxic when they are “encouraged in the illusion that they can prop up a parent’s sagging self-esteem” or make important family decisions.

He points out that babysitting for siblings isn’t a bad thing. The sibling who babysits isn’t parentified as long as the parents are in charge when they are home. However, he said that child must still be nurtured and parented like a child rather than being leaned-on like a friend.

Still, that might not be your problem at all. But you do think you should be perfect. Psychology Today’s website says, “For perfectionists, life is an endless report card on accomplishments or looks.” While reaching for success might seem like a good thing, the writer says, perfectionists are in a negative mode, focused on avoiding failure.

In some families, there is no encouragement and there is no praise for good efforts. The parent makes it clear that whatever the child did could certainly have been done better. When parents aren’t so blatant, the website says, “The need for perfection is usually transmitted in small ways from parents to children, some as silent as a raised eyebrow over a B rather than an A.”

So, now let me mention another possibility: A disadvantaged person might feel that the only way to redeem the shame of that beginning is to become a fabulous success. Many rich and famous people were driven by that inspiration to succeed and most of us would probably say that was a good thing for them.

But if you are in emotional pain, please consider my headline on this blog and “dare to be ordinary.” It doesn’t mean giving up on success. Ordinary people do great things. They come to know themselves and the painful feelings that have been driving them all these years. They also come to know what their strengths are, strengths of talent, skill, knowledge and character. They aren’t perfect. They have good boundaries with others. They suffer less about the past and design lives of positive impact in small and large places. This is what ordinary people do every day. Therapy can help you get there.

It’s time to take off the cape.