Remember Clark Kent, mild mannered reporter from The Daily Planet? He was the socially awkward guy with the giant Coke-bottle glasses and two left feet who never seemed to be able to get things quite right – and, in his spare time, also happened to fly around the world faster than a speeding bullet, was stronger than a locomotive, and saved from Metropolis from impending doom time and time again. Clark Kent was the anti-bodybuilder. Instead of proudly displaying his true strength to the world, he kept it hidden behind a cloak of anonymity. As bodybuilders, we have this unrelenting desire to show the world that externally we really are Superman. But, the reality is that most of us walk around doing our best to look like Superman because we’re scared that someone will find out that we’re really just Clark Kent in disguise. Bodybuilders are the Clark Kent Paradox.
As bodybuilders, we want to look and feel superhuman. We walk around proudly putting our physique – our very own super powers –on display for the world to see. I believe that all of us, to a degree, use that muscle armor as a shield to deflect the things we don’t want people to see in us. We disguise ourselves as Supermen who walk around each day in fear that someone will discover our true identity; that underneath our muscled-up bulletproof exterior, we’re really all just Clark Kent, doing our best to blend into the crowd because we’re scared that no one would accept us for who we truly are.
Maybe it stems from the fact that we’re hypercritical of our own physiques and don’t want others judging us or what we do, or maybe we use that physical shield to overcompensate for some sort of emotional or psychological damage trauma that we suffered at some point but haven’t ever been able to fully recover from. The funny thing about Superman is that he had the exact opposite problem. He walked around everyday shouldering this gigantic emotional burden because all he wanted to do was fit in. All Clark Kent wanted was to be accepted for who he was on the outside, a lot like some of us. He walked around in a perpetual state of paranoia like he was up all night doing bath salts, all because he was terrified that people would uncover his true identity. The man of steel was scared to be himself because he was embarrassed of being extraordinary, but the bodybuilder walks around fearful that someday someone will discover that he really isn’t so extraordinary after all.
How many of us walk around everyday pretending to be Superman, but cross our fingers hoping and praying that the world doesn’t discover that we’re really just Clark Kent?