Hero worship has existed "forever"... it seems that humans have a need to worship someone or something "greater than" themselves. Whether we choose to worship an external God figure (like a saint), or a hero figure from a comic strip or movie, or the movie stars themselves, the concept is the same. We look up to someone else, someone other than ourselves, as "better than us" or "higher" than we are in our esteem and opinion.
What Is A Hero?
Webster's has two definitions for hero. One which is similar to the concept mentioned above, and that is: a man of great courage, nobility, etc., or one admired for his exploits. However, Webster's has a second definition for hero, and this is the one I'd like us to consider: the central male character in a novel, play, etc. (heroine is defined as a girl or woman hero in life or literature). For the sake of our discussion, let's consider the word hero as applying to both males and females.
So a hero is the central figure in a play... as Shakespeare so well stated it in "As You Like It":
All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players.
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts...
Who Are The Heroes?
We are all heroes or central figures in our own play. We are the players on the stage of our life. Yet, many of us insist on living our lives as if we are a Cinderella type of main character... you know the one who is looked down upon, despised, taken advantage of, not loved, not appreciated, etc. etc. However, if we are the hero, then we can take charge of the situation and plunge ahead and make changes -- we can rescue the fair maiden or lost soul and raise them (lost parts of ourselves) to a better life.
The movie "Unbreakable" with Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson raises several issues concerning heroes. In this movie, Bruce Willis discovers that he is a modern day hero, a superman if you will. However, what became clear to me after watching this movie, is that he only became a superhero or a super-person after accepting that this was indeed true and possible. He had to first accept the possibility of this being true for him and then be willing to experience it.
Accepting That We Are Super-Heroes
In the same way, in our own lives, we must first accept the possibility that we too are a super hero or a super-person before being able to make it come true. Just like Cinderella who had first to be willing to go to the ball to discover her Prince Charming, so we too need to first be willing to step out of the dungeon of our negative thoughts and expectations to meet our "dream life"... the life we have dreamed of, but which cannot become reality until we accept that it is indeed possible and real.
Who is the hero in your own life? If your hero is someone outside of yourself, then you have given your power away to someone else. If you are waiting for someone else to make a difference in your life (to rescue you, to save you, to make your life better, to make you whole), then you are wasting your time. No one but you can make your dreams come true.
The question that comes up after seeing Unbreakable is how anyone could know they were a hero or had superhuman powers if they didn't try... How will you know you can fly if you don't take a leap? (I'm not suggesting you try this now... this is figurative.) But, the question remains, how will you know you can succeed at something is you don't give it a try? How will you know you can drag yourself out of the depths of your despair if you don't try? How do you know if you'll get that new job if you don't apply? How do you know...
Taking the First Step or Leap
Before becoming a success at anything, you must take that first step. Yet many of us, convinced of our failure, don't even try... we don't take the leap into the abyss of the unknown. One of my favorite images from a movie is when Harrison Ford steps into the abyss in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. He doesn't see the bridge, but "knows" and trusts that it is there.
It is only when he has taken the first step -- the step that will put him on the bridge, or falling into the abyss if the bridge is not there -- that he sees the proof that the bridge is indeed a reality. Only when is he willing to take the risk does he become a hero. If he had not been willing to believe his intuition or his "inner knowledge" he would have stayed on the edge of the abyss cowering at the "impossibility" of the feat in front of him.
Heroes Step Into the Unknown
How many times do we stay at the edge of the abysses in our life, cowering with fear because we don't see the solution? Rather than take a deep breath and step into the unknown, we stay attached to our security blanket, to our present reality, to our comfort zone. Rather than trust that the future would bring us something, anything, better than what we have now, we perhaps have chosen instead to hang on to what we have, even if what we have "ain't so hot".
In "Field of Dreams" (I'm in a movie state of mind right now, as you can tell), Kevin Costner plays a hero's role -- one in which he must take his existence in his own hands, and even in the face of ridicule and doubts, forge ahead after his own dream. His challenge is trusting that his "inner vision" is indeed the one he must believe in. "Build it and they will come."
Build your dream, follow your wildest hopes and aspirations, trust in yourself, and the vision will manifest. Be willing to step off the cliff of your fears, of your upbringing, or your limitations. Jump into your future with your dreams in one hand and your faith in life in the other. Trust that the Universe will always bring you something better if you are willing to believe in it and "forge ahead". So often, we choose to stay behind because it is safe -- or at least it seems safer.
Yet, as the hero in our own life, we can't stay behind, we can't wait for someone else to rescue the "underling", we can't close the door and hope it all takes care of itself. If there is something in our life we are not happy with, then we have to take a step forward towards changing it and creating the life we desire for ourselves.
Heroes Take Action and Make a Difference
Complaining without taking action will not change anything. You never hear a hero complain about a situation and then sit back and hope it changes miraculously. No! A hero (which you are) may complain at the "bad hand of cards" they've been dealt, but then goes out to play the best he can with those cards, and if that doesn't work, to see if there is another way around the situation.
A hero never gives up. A hero keeps on, past adversity, past losses, past apparent defeat, and keeps on until the situation is resolved.
We are the heroes in our own lives. We have to pull ourselves up and do what it takes to make a difference in our own lives, and in the lives of the people around us, and in the life of this planet. The time when we waited around, for some other hero to rescue us, is over... All heroes are busy in their own lives. We must come to our own rescue. As the Lone Ranger (another famous hero) would say, hi-ho Silver! And away we go!
About The Author
Marie T. Russell is the founder of InnerSelf Magazine (founded 1985). She also produced and hosted a weekly South Florida radio broadcast, Inner Power, from 1992-1995 which focused on themes such as self-esteem, personal growth, and well-being. Her articles focus on transformation and reconnecting with our own inner source of joy and creativity.