Sunday, December 12, 2010

Being Our Own Heroes

Heroes sometimes seem like a thing of days gone by. An archetype of ancient Rome, or the star of our favorite comic books. Relics, from tales that happened sometime long ago, and somewhere far away. And certainly not anything like us. 

If you ask people about heroes now, you'll probably hear about men in uniform - police officers, fire fighters, soldiers. Or, of course, their parents, if they get along. You won't often hear people mention themselves. 

Because we're small and insignificant, in most cases. We're not supposed to be a part of the big story, we're supposed to keep our heads down and stay out of it, because the people in the stories aren't us. And besides, our own little universe constantly needs saving anyway, how are we supposed to go about saving anyone else? Half the time we're waiting for our own hero to stop the world from collapsing on our shoulders. And where are they? 

As I've moped around in the past couple weeks, bemoaning the abuse I take from people I'm just trying to help to be happy, one of my friends tried to get me to take solace in the fact that I am a good person. 

Not really comforting, at first. "Yes, he treated you like crap, but at least you know that you are a good person and you did the right thing." Wow. I feel so much better now. 

But in reality, it was a step in the right direction. I am a good person. The friend who was telling this to me? She's a good person too. There are good people in my life. Our conversation continued, and she pointed out that when it comes right down to it, sometimes the only people we can depend on are ourselves, and in that moment, we have to be our own hero. 

Being my own hero? Really? We're going to leave something that important in my hilariously emotionally unstable hands? 

On the one hand, it can be seen as a slightly depressing thought, that you have to be your own hero. It's sad to think that you can't always depend on the people you'd like to depend on, but I know from experience that you can not expect other people to save you. 

But on the other hand, isn't it just the slightest bit empowering? Isn't it exciting to think "I can take my life into my own hands, I can pick myself up, and I can save myself, I don't need to wait for someone else to do that for me."? 

I'll take empowering over depressing, for now...

"If you have your "one or two messes" up there, then why the hell are you still calling me? Explain to me why you're still expressing any need to see me. Do you expect me to continue to believe the lies you're telling me? How long am I supposed to put up with this? You don't have any respect for any of us, do you?" 

It was in that moment, that something snapped. It was like a veil was lifted and I finally saw clearly. I was calm, and zen. And I carried that feeling through much of my week. Straight through into yesterday morning when a simple "Hey" that once sent tears cascading down my cheeks, drifted towards my ears, and yet, it sounded so very far away. 

I wasn't angry at either of them. I wasn't even sad. I just felt... calm. Like the weight of it had gotten a little lighter, easier to bear. I'd known that I didn't need any of that in my life. But for the first time, I didn't want it either. 

I was being my own hero. I wasn't running to email you an apology for my outburst, or succumbing to the condescending hug you tended to offer me. I was walking away, and that is how I needed to save myself. And with it came a comforting realization. 

I don't need you to save me.

I'm a damsel. I'm in distress. I can handle this. Have a nice day!



  1. One of my favorite bands [Project 86] made a whole album [Truthless Heroes]where they were supposed to be deconstructing the idea of heroes... which is way too pretentious of a goal for a hardcore band to really do, but whatever. It's still a good album despite the fact that "deconstruction" seems to mean "name-dropping Orwell in interviews". They focused more on "what you think of as heroes are false" rather than "the true hero is yourself" but those ideas are kind of two sides of the same coin, I think. Your version being the empowering side of that one too, natch. :)

  2. The conclusion of my final paper:

    The banality of evil manifests itself in the most ordinary person, the bystander to unfortunate events and tragic consequences. When we hear news stories of people doing nothing, we can’t help but to angrily demand, “Why didn’t they do something?” But before we jump to any harsh judgments or lament about the downfall of humanity, we must ask ourselves if we would have done any differently. Our default response is inaction; it takes effort to act, and “too often we function on automatic pilot, using outworn scripts that have worked for us in the past, never stopping to evaluate whether they are appropriate for the here and now” (Zimbardo, 2007). The present research wants to emphasize the important of self-regulation, and how we must effectively manage the motivational conflicts we encounter on a daily basis. If even the smallest depleting activity has the ability to hinder us from moral behavior, we must find other, better ways to maintain the limited self-regulatory resource. However, based on various accounts in history, we would rather do nothing than exert the energy to do something. But if we also hear news stories of people saving the day just by making the effort to do something, we can agree with Zimbardo (2007) that the banality of heroism exists in us all – the ordinary, ever day person.

    There was some science-y stuff thrown in there. But you know what I mean 8]