Six Lessons To Learn from Captain Marvel
This past weekend I went to see Captain Marvel. Full disclosure before we go on: I am a Marvel movie fan. I’ve seen every single film in the franchise and each time a new film comes out I get hyped up like a 14 year old boy. Because that’s essentially what I am deep down inside. A 14 year old boy trapped in a grown woman’s body. At least when it comes to superhero and action movies.
Now that we have gotten that out of the way I wanted to talk about some of the messaging of the film. I will do my best avoid spoilers but if I touch on any specific events in the film I will warn you with a “spoiler” warning ahead of it.
Lesson 1: Never let someone else tell you what you are capable of
There were themes that kept cropping up throughout the film. One of them was the lies women are often told. Whether that be in our personal or professional lives. One major lie is being told what we are capable of achieving. Lines being drawn to tell us how what out limitations are. We spend a lot of time doubting ourselves, our skill sets, etc. And a lot of that is due to conditioning. In 2019 there are still people that believe a woman is incapable of being President. That women shouldn’t serve in the military or that women shouldn’t be in leaderships positions of any kind. To overcome that conditioning it takes a lot of belief in oneself. To never forget that only YOU set limits on what you are capable of achieving.
Lesson 2: Failure is not a sign of weakness
Confession: I don’t know how to ride a bike. I never learned. But not from lack of trying. I tried numerous times. And each time I would fall and get hurt and I would become more fearful of falling again. The fear of falling became so overwhelming for me that I finally just gave up trying. I still regret this decades later. I wish that I had just let myself fall. However many times it took. With the knowledge that I could get back up and try again. This theme plays a major part in Captain Marvel. She falls and fails. But she keeps getting back up. Even when the odds are not on her side. Her failure in the moment doesn’t stop her from attempting to achieve what she has her sights set on. And even when she is TOLD that her failures are a sign of weakness she fights against that idea. Failure means that you are TRYING. You are not sitting back and doing nothing. With each failure you mover closer to achieving your goals no matter what they may be. In Iron Man, Tony Stark creates various versions of his Iron Man suit. And with each failure he simply starts again. By the time of Avengers Infinity War, the tech of his suit is so advanced as to be almost unrecognizable from the very first one he ever made in the first Iron Man film. Because he simply kept going. This is something I struggle with. As for me failing often makes me question my abilities altogether. So in conclusion: have the confidence of a billionaire white guy. And keep going.
Lesson 3: Trust yourself
It’s interesting how willing we are as women to trust people, sometimes complete strangers, more than we trust ourselves. We will given them the benefit of the doubt, while we tear ourselves to shreds. We second guess our feelings at every turn. Or we ignore red flags because we want to think the best of those around us. Whenever someone asks me how I make decisions, with my head or my heart I always answer “with my gut”. And that’s the truth. My gut never steers me wrong. It’s when I ignore my gut or that little voice inside that things go sideways. Learning to trust that voice and allow it to guide us can be tricky. Listening to one’s gut can seem hokey or silly in the face of “facts” or other people’s opinions. I have had choices look amazing on paper. Things line up perfectly. And I have walked away from them. And usually something comes up later that confirms for me that despite how “perfect” and “logical” a choice seemed that I made the right decision.
Lesson 4: Girl power is real
The friendship between Captain Marvel and her bff Maria Rambeau was a key piece in the film. It is that friendship that pushes Captain Marvel to look at herself through a different lens. To see in herself what her friend sees. And even for Maria herself, when faced with a choice is pushed out of her comfort zone and gets to show what she is capable of. Women pushing women to be the best version of themselves. To look beyond what the world tells them and to go “higher, further, faster.”
Lesson 5: You have nothing to prove
*Spoiler Alert* Read at your own risk.
Captain Marvel spends quite a lot of time training with Yon-Rogg, played by Jude Law. The goal? To prove that she is ready to join missions. To prove that she is good enough. By the end of the film, despite all that she has accomplished Yon-Rogg STILL thinks she needs to prove herself to him. That HE is the arbiter or her worthiness. The absurdity of that idea and that moment isn’t lost on Captain Marvel or the audience. Her words are simple and powerful: “I have nothing to prove”.
And that’s it in a nutshell. WE have nothing to prove. Nothing to explain. Nothing to apologize for. We must be secure enough in who we are to know that the only arbiter or our worthiness is US. How many times have you been in a professional situation where a man in power made you think you had to jump through rings to prove you deserved to be in the room or even in the conversation? And not just men. Women often do this with one another. Stirring up self doubt in one another because it’s what was done to us and we think that’s just how it goes? In that instance it can be hard to remember that you are where you because you worked for it. You earned it. And that’s enough. This scene and moment was a tiny epiphany for me. Impostor Syndrome is something that plagues most women I know - including myself. Respecting our own accomplishments is a lesson we can all learn from. We are the arbiters of our own worthiness. No one else.
Lesson 6: Have fun while being a bad ass
One thing that struck me is how much fun Captain Marvel has while flexing her powers. She laughs, she yells out “whoop!” when she shoots a photon blast. She revels in her capabilities. We see this a lot in male superheroes but females? Not so much. To see a powerful woman take joy in her power was refreshing to watch. And made me want to bring some of that into my own work. So own how awesome you are and have fun with it!