“Help! Save me!” jokingly exclaimed a smiling tradesman from across the street. While donning a wonderfully flashy Superwoman costume, I enthusiastically retorted, “I already am by putting that smile on your face!” Smiles do in fact create happy brain chemistry- a fun fact I learned as part of completing a “Happiness Makeover” program based in positive psychology and sustainable happiness research. The training includes science-backed happiness-boosting exercises in daily routines (morning, day-time, and evening), and part of my morning includes five intentional “Duchenne smiles”. This type of smile naturally outputs happy brain chemicals and its understanding stems from various neurological studies of smiles first initiated by French neurologist, Guillaume Duchenne, in the mid-19th century.
It’s effective exercises and tools like this that have helped me create my life’s upward spiral which has resulted in, yet without limit to, sustaining my inner heart happiness, remaining consistently present in the moment, flourishing in optimal states of flow, and connecting to blissful unity consciousness. In addition to Western theory, the program, much to my delight, also incorporates an Eastern philosophy of energy work with the inclusion of reiki healing (e.g. to facilitate in healing the subconscious) and reiki attunements (e.g. to empower the coachee in their ability to heal themself). This comprehensive approach to coaching was unlike anything I had come across especially in the realm of methods for inner work, and after my continued success beyond concluding the program, I felt called to learn how to administer it (see my blog post on “Why I Will Be the Best Happiness Coach” for more information and background).
This “Advanced Happiness Training” that I’m currently undergoing requires learning the back-end of the program’s research through reading and writing about a myriad of science journals, articles, and books authored by positive psychologists, researchers, and their ancillary cohorts as well as working on a multitude of skills one must be proficient in in order to properly call themselves a “coach”. One particular skill of “challenging” is a requirement since often times coaches will challenge their coachees to do something outside the coachee’s past experience and/or comfort zone in order to elicit growth, expansion, and awareness. Therefore, if I am to confidently challenge my future coachees, I have to know first-hand what it is like to embody a challenge. Enter: Superwoman.
My teacher created a “Superwoman Challenge” for her female-identifying Happiness Makeover students working on their empowerment, a cornerstone of the program, to help them tap into their inner superheroine by wearing a Superwoman costume for seven days everywhere they go barring sleeping and bathing. At the inception of being charged with the same challenge, I felt my face flush red as I thought of the beautiful Gal Gadot in her scantily clad Wonder Woman getup; how was I going to overcome this comfort barrier especially considering the two main issues of working in the healing field as well as enduring the chill of April in San Francisco?! After realizing I was envisioning the wrong femme fatale entirely and being advised I could wear my own costume interpretation, I sighed with great relief and laughed at where my mind had initially taken me. From that point on, I only had excitement for the opportunity to wear a costume for a week especially that of the iconic, powerful, brave, and compassionate Superwoman. After all, I am a seasoned Burning Man participant and regularly go above and beyond in my outfits for social events. Truth be told, I actually felt underdressed for San Francisco’s annual How Weird Street Faire which is chock-full of some of the most outlandish, outrageous costume creations and happened to occur on day six of the challenge!
Sidenote: even though the character of “Supergirl” is more commonly depicted in D.C. Comics, a series wrought with multi-decade misogyny, I preferred to be called “Superwoman” and made a point to correct those who referred to me as “Supergirl” during the challenge. Being a woman is one of my many superpowers on what I like to call the “Earth school” (thanks for that one, Gary Zukav), and the journey to womanhood is a one-way street. I’ve earned that name literally through blood, sweat, and tears. To this point, one of my favorite reactions during the challenge was from an acquaintance who was overjoyed to show me her keychain that read, “I’m a woman. What’s your superpower?”
Before the challenge, I worked diligently in the Happiness Makeover on bolstering my empowerment so I felt very confident in taking on this coaching skill assignment. For instance, I have built a beautiful relationship between the universal “Law of Attraction” and creating my reality so much that I even manifested the perfect costume (a never-been-worn, metallic accessories-included, $10 steal from Goodwill). I wish you could have heard me amusingly giggling like a schoolgirl in the dressing room while witnessing myself for the first time as Superwoman. My roommates were less phased and only offered a quick laugh when they returned home from work and found Superwoman sitting on their couch. “Just another Tuesday for Jess,” one quipped. They’re used to my wild antics and propensity for costuming. I probably would have received more commentary (positive and negative alike) had I lived anywhere else except San Francisco. Perhaps this lent itself to an underlying reason why I felt that this challenge would be a little easier for me than others as I very intentionally moved to the Bay area to be my authentic self and thrive in a community of nonconformists. Just another Tuesday for San Francisco…
Each of the seven days I brought my A-game to every aspect of my life. I truly felt driven to show up for this ‘role’ even though, ironically, I was simply being myself yet in a costume… well, maybe with a few more power stances than usual. My subconscious was certainly enmeshing these identities in the background. For example, during the first couple of days I’d burst into laughter whenever I caught my reflection and eventually that completely subsided to an amiable smile. It’s amazing how quickly we can become used to a change regardless of how big or small it may be. Towards the end of the challenge, I became so used to the costume that I started to forget I was wearing it; there were a few latent seconds of confusion in my head as to why someone was reacting so strongly upon seeing me! People’s responses were quite mixed as one may expect, however, there was an unexpected gift that arose from when I explained why I was doing the challenge: a resounding affirmation that I was in alignment to become a Happiness Coach. Here are some examples of direct quotes that brought immeasurable joy to my heart and validation to my mind:
“You’re always so positive! You’re going to be the best Happiness Coach!”
“I like this look. It’s very fitting for you!”
“You just made my whole week!”
“It matches your personality!”
“Wait… you’re not already a Happiness Coach?”
I’m so thankful that this was the common feedback. It’s always a pleasure to receive positive reinforcement that you’re on the right track as well as support from your community that this work of happiness coaching has a (huge) place in our current world. I’m even more grateful for all the joy that it brought to others by very simply wearing a Superwoman costume. Hands down, the best reaction was from my four-year-old nephew during our FaceTime call. It was a fantastic surprise when he was the one to answer my call (the first time he’s done this; oh how fast they grow up), and then he melted my heart when genuinely inquiring, “How was your day?” I was practically bursting at the seams with happiness and exclaimed, “My day was awesome, Liam! How was yours?!” He quickly switched gears and questioned, “What are you wearing?” I replied definitively, “I’m Superwoman!” which prompted his whip-smart, on the nose response, “I have a Batman costume!” He passed the phone to my sister and ran off to fetch his costume so he could join in on the fun. Within moments, Superwoman and Batman were having a cross-country dance-off… These unexpected moments expanded my awareness as to how easy it can be to positively impact someone’s day, and I look forward to the opportunity to pass the baton to my future coachees.
After the challenge ended, I genuinely missed certain aspects of it like having to put zero thought into what I was going to wear that day (a welcomed throwback to Catholic high school days) or knowing that a usual trip to the grocery store or gas station would be wonderfully unusual. Some of the people who saw me during the seven days also missed it. “Where’s Superwoman?!” many asked in a playful manner tinged with a bit of melancholy to which I assuredly replied, “Oh, she’s always with me now- just on the inside.” Perhaps I’ll be inspired to wear it again one day when needing an extra empowerment boost, acting in solidarity with a future coachee, or wanting to imbue the world with some happiness courtesy of Duchenne smiles! 😀