My ten year old grandson said to me this week “Grandad you’re my hero.” I hope Iron Man and Thor from the Avengers are not too disappointed by that. Growing up we naturally go through a phase where we have idols or heroes, commonly these will be popstars, celebrities, or sports people. As we grow and mature we continue to hold other people up as icons and examples. The heroes that we connect with the most are usually the ones in whom we perceive aspects of ourselves. Maybe unconsciously we are drawn to their courage, their selflessness, strength, perseverance, intelligence, or wisdom. Maybe these are the qualities that we would like to have ourselves, or qualities we believe we already possess. The hero you chose in the past or the ones that you have now, tend to tell you something about yourself.
Our myths, stories, novels, and films are filled with heroes. A good story wouldn’t be a good story if this was not the case. Sometimes they are gods, demi-gods, mythical, or creations of the imagination, and sometimes they are real flesh and blood people. But no matter how heroic our idols are they are invariably flawed in some way. Particularly the real flesh and blood types. They may be unable to control their emotions, become too egotistical, or are too attached to some unworkable ideology.
This idea of the flawed hero inevitably refers back to us too. Because unconsciously we imagine ourselves as the hero of our own story. We are the flawed hero of our own epic saga. We unconsciously play the lead role, confabulating a narrative that excuses or covers up for our own flaws, as we run a heroic thread through our earthly toils. Being flawed is not a failing or a problem as such, it is a challenge to embraced and overcome. My guess is that if we were perfect we wouldn’t be here in the first place. But what we can do is take more conscious control over our own story.
So who do you want to be? How do you want your tale to work out? Do you know what it is about you that makes you a hero? What is your flaw? And how are you going to overcome this in your own epic journey? As other people see your story unfold, what can they utilise from your journey for themselves? Imagine that your life was a novel or a film. Where you are now is the background, the setting. What are the challenges that you face today? Use the power of your imagination to project forward, what would you like to experience, who would you like to be in this story? If you could sum up your whole life in two to three sentences what would they be?
We can use our past to learn from, and we can use what we imagine our future to be as a guide, a beacon to draw us forward. For sure you can use other people as examples of how to be, or indeed how not to be. Just avoid comparing yourself negatively to other people, everyone has their own story. To check how you think you are doing in life only ever compare yourself to the person that you were before, and the person that you want to become. In fact the way to be the person that you want to be in the future, is to be that person right now.
So who is my hero? I was always impressed by the courage and sacrifice of others, and I like people who break new ground. When I was a teenager I read about the flying aces of World War I. Men who risked, and gave their lives, in flimsy wood, wire, and canvas machines. Many of whom did so without even the slim hope of a parachute. I read about great generals, who by their cunning and skill overcame difficult or impossible situations. Although all these stories impressed me, today I simply see war as futile. In my mind that narrative has run its course. The heroes of today are the women and men that bring up confident, self-assured children. The people who can find happiness without material goods. People who overcome serious illness. People who follow their passions and end up living their dreams. People who serve others. We all have a hero inside, be brave and let yours out.
“True courage is being afraid, and going ahead and doing your job anyhow.” Norman Schwarzkopf