What Do You Naturally Excel at that Terrifies Other People?

By: Jen Shoop

*Image via Posse featuring their Alice top, Ducky pants, and Chanel dad sandals (look for less with these or these).

A few years ago, a friend told me “I could never do what you do. I could never write every single day.” The comment changed how I think about myself. Writing is as natural to me as walking or talking. Often, in fact, it is easier than talking. Before my friend’s comment, I’d through of writing as an “everyman’s endeavor”: of course, some writers are better than others, and practice helps, but, at the end of the day, it is a mode of communication that can be learned by virtually anyone. The notion that my friend was actively afraid of — shy of! loathsome of! — writing startled me.

I don’t know what brought this conversation to mind the other day, but it made me think —

There is probably something that you naturally excel at that terrifies other people.

That thing is a superpower.

Maybe you are naturally gifted at mathematics. You are always the friend to calculate the tip and split the bill. You can easily estimate the number of attendees in a given venue. You can quickly scale complicated ingredient proportions. You know immediately when the bill is wrong and you are rarely taken advantage of because of it. You handily solve numerical problems other people languish over or avoid.

Maybe you are naturally athletic. You can sprint to let someone know they’ve dropped their cell phone, or get to the door of the bus before it departs from the stop. You are that gal who can grab the falling ketchup bottle before it hits the ground thanks to fantastic spatial awareness and quick reflexes. Your “easy gait” is another person’s “impossible.”

Maybe you are naturally outgoing. You make friends easily and keep conversations flowing with grace. You’ve never met an awkward pause. People lean on you in social settings.

Maybe you are naturally physically strong. You can help friends move heavy furniture and carry all of your suitcases or grocery bags without buckling under the weight. You can make one trip instead of four. You do not need to call in back ups to rearrange your furniture or shift your rug. You do not feel pain as intensely as others — headaches, injuries do not nettle as much as you’ve observed they do others. You are self-reliant in a unique way.

Maybe you are a natural at public speaking. You can stand up and deliver thoughtful remarks at a moment’s notice. You can kick off the toasts at a wedding. You can step in for a colleague who is flustered at the dais. Your gift in this area is essential to providing a “there” — a focal point, a place in which to gather — for any range of occasions.

Maybe you are intrinsically competitive. You can lean into intense, high-stakes moments with aplomb. You have the drive and confidence to not only perform well under pressure but outperform. You are aware of how others are doing and agile at edging them out. (As a corollary, I always watch professional sportsplayers and marvel at how they can stand up and swing/kick/run/throw perfectly despite the thousands of eyeballs on them. If even one person is watching me at the driving range, I will get the yips.)

I could go on and on, but will close with a very specific example. My husband’s cousin is a naturally outgoing guy, and a confident public speaker as well. He is always first in line to give a toast, or to make a quick remark in front of a crowd. While we were at the beach a few weeks ago, my mother-in-law stood up to make a toast to the family. She did a lovely job, although I knew based on previous conversations with her that she’d been rehearsing it carefully, and had been consumed with its logistics: which night should she deliver it, and at what point in the dinner? Just as she was wrapping up, my husband’s cousin quickly, seemingly without thought or contrivance, chimed in to say: “Beautifully put — hear, hear” and it was at just the right moment. He galvanized the crowd into a chorus of “hear, hear” and “well said!” while reassuring her that she’d done a fantastic job. It was one of the kindest gestures I’ve seen in awhile. And he was capable of that generosity because of his natural confidence speaking in front of a crowd. No doubt about it: that is a superpower. I worked my way into being a passable public speaker after years of practice and formal training, and I can already feel the skill atrophy with misuse. At my sister’s wedding in May, I spent days rehearsing my couple-line-long toast and my stomach was in tumult as we approached the toasting hour. I managed to get the words out, but my God! The internal angst was wildly disproportionate with the actual length of the toast, and its overall importance. For me to call out “beautifully put — hear, hear” in front of a crowd is about as unnatural to me as walking on the moon.

What about you? What’s something you are naturally good at that intimidates other people? If you need to get the creative juices flowing, let me share a litany of small things I dread that I’ve observed other people are naturally good at (and that gesture at their underlying superpowers): asking for a different table in a restaurant, meetings that are over thirty minutes long, explaining a problem to a customer service representative, any sport in which other people rely on me to return a ball to them, getting in trouble for a trivial infraction, heading into a group outing with no plan, making small talk with a hair stylist (I usually enjoy it but I hate figuring out when and whether it’s appropriate to read my book or let the conversation die out?), last-minute invitations, being asked to “say a few words” about something I’m not prepared to, cooking while carrying on a conversation with guests. There are many more. If you read any of these and thought, “Huh. I’d never have thought to dread that. That seems easy to me.” — that, m’am, is one of your superpowers.

Please share in the comments!


+Another musing on superpowers.

+Another angle: what are you secretly good at?

+What do you secretly want to do?

+Things to say yes to.

Shopping Break.

+This knit midi is perfect for every occasion this fall — work, drinks with friends, coffee!

+LOVE these oversized shades in the unexpected navy color!

+Speaking of navy, have already worn these Manolo-inspired navy suede flats. So chic.

+As you know, I love Vitamin C serums for brightness. My favorite remains Biossance’s formula but I am going to test this Barbara Sturm formula next.

+A perfect dress for meeting the parents/dinner with in-laws. Tasteful, elegant, but has a perspective.

+This bag reminds me of Hermes, but is currently on sale for under $200.

+Ulla vibes for $150.

+WAIT this green lace dress is fabulous. Also comes in a spectacular floral.

+Clever solution for stowing out of season shoes if you’re short on space. In NYC, I used these because I needed to optimize every square inch of our apartment!

+Digging the logo on these Gucci loafers. Would be so fun paired with simple basics — white tee, jeans, navy sweater.

+Adore these inexpensive boxwood motif napkins!

+Is this the fall I finally take the plunge and buy a Stutterheim rain coat?

+Fall apple picking and wine tasting vibes.

+Cutest scalloped bath mat.

+I had to order this dipping bowl set. SO cute and so fun!

+Good quiet activity for children in church/at restaurant!

+These Halloween jammies for littles made me smile. My daughter wears glasses and I think she’d get a kick out of them!

+CUTE gingham jacket.

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13 thoughts on “What Do You Naturally Excel at that Terrifies Other People?

  1. I’m excellent at getting what I need from customer service representatives. I have friends and family members who would rather just eat the cost of a canceled flight than have to deal with last-minute rebooking or spend weeks waiting for a reply email for a faulty purchase instead of picking up the phone to call. I will happily and efficiently call any helpline, go up to any customer service desk, seek out any employee, etc to fix a problem and find a solution. I’m great at establishing rapport and mutual respect and am articulate and clear– with that as a baseline, asking nicely gets me almost anything. This is also a great skill for getting upgrades, complimentary services, etc. It’s amazing what asking nicely can get you!

    1. I love this! I am a customer service representative and willing to do just about anything to help someone who asks nicely! I WANT to help. It’s the those turds who come in guns blazing (or worse, keyboard cowboys) that get a firm “nope” from me.

  2. Pattern recognition comes easily to me; likewise, knowing when a sequence of events is not a pattern; likewise, knowing — and, perhaps too firmly insisting that a single event is not the start of a pattern. As a student, this skill meant I picked up romance languages, with all their English cognates, effortlessly; I was likewise able to associate multiple texts on the basis of the slimmest commonalities. These days, this skill means I am (relatively) less reactive to parenting’s daily vicissitudes. There are definitely drawbacks to this — ie, a tendency to be dismissive of genuine worries + emotions around events I’ve decided are singular until proven otherwise. But overall, it’s a skill I’m grateful for (and I’m unsure whom I’d be, really, without it).

    1. Wow – this is incredible! What a great superpower, and also — a great sense of self-awareness that you know this about yourself and see how it can apply to countless different contexts? Amazing.

      Thanks for sharing.


  3. I’m not sure if this is a natural talent or something I have *almost* perfected over the years, but I am a master logistician.

    Whether it is hosting a destination bachelorette trip for 20 people, planning a corporate trade show, or even a multi-city international adventure, I am the person who can conceptualize, organize, plan and implement it. I even do a great job at navigating bill splitting and following directions in foreign languages/countries. The running joke with my mother used to be that she would pay for the trip, but I would be running it. I’d handle restaurant bills, calculating tips/exchange rates, navigating foreign public transportation and developing an itinerary that highlights our favorite activities without overwhelming us. As I’ve gotten older, I contribute a bit financially to trips but still handle most of the logistics. This has allowed us to upgrade our travel experiences 🙂

    While I may not enjoy every aspect of planning every event, I know that I can manage the bigger picture without letting details slide. I’m currently overseeing a girls Hawaii trip and a mother/daughter Italian adventure for 2023. Let me tell you about my spreadsheets with research, links, timing, itineraries, shopping, packing, costs, resources, checklists, etc.

    I started doing most of this planning and organizing as a method of assuaging anxiety. With plenty of practice, I’d like to think I’m an expert.

    On a previous post I think I also mentioned my somewhat neurotic packing skills and ability to split a bill/do mental math with impressive speed. Those two still hold strong 🙂

    I look forward to reading where fellow Magpies naturally excel.

    1. Oo Melinda – I love this and your friends must love you for this talent, too! So many people would absolutely founder in the face of all of the details, logistics, etc!


  4. I’ll go first!
    My so called superpower is one I would NEVER have predicted in a million years. My talent has grown over years of trial and error. It has put me on alert constantly, and I liken it to riding a roller coaster because I never know what each day will bring my way. My superpower is advocating for my handicapped son. It is a constant battle for everything from adequate diapers to changing legislature. I’ve even talked to a special Congressional delegation on Capital Hill.
    But let me say, it is not a very rewarding superpower. I plow through the sludge everyday out of love for my son. Often times feeling very lonely and sad. However, I am good at my job and people often say to me “You should write a book”. I do not for two reasons; first I do not want to relive some of the experiences I have had to deal with along the way and secondly it wouldn’t help anyone outside of my state because every state has different laws and uses their Federal funds uniquely.
    I know it’s a unique superpower, but I try and wear it courageously every day.

    1. Wow — your love for your son has long been a model for me, Cynthia, having “known you” for a while in the comments here. I can’t tell you how often I tell myself “power through with love” because of you. I would say this is another superpower of yours — persistence, the unfailing ability to continue through with a good attitude. Sometimes the smallest things knock me sideways, and I have genuinely called your words to mind to give myself perspective and put love first. (Not always successfully.)

      Anyway — cheers to you! Major superhero status in my mind!

      In case you haven’t heard it enough — you’re doing an incredible job!!!


    2. You’re too kind my friend. Your words have provided the inspiration on many days and I cannot thank you enough. I love you and your magpies!

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