Hero Worship as a Form of Self-Sabotage

Our heroes disappoint us. I’m not even talking about movie stars or huge public figures.

I’m talking about people with a modicum of success in their craft. We idolize them. We put ideals on them. Somehow their life is perfect. Even when they write about their problems, we still think their life must be better than ours. We look to them for a formula for success. Deep inside we know everyone has problems. 

Still, we think, not this person.

We want to believe things are better for them. We need to believe things are better for them. Believing that a better life is possible gives us hope. But when our heroes become human, they fall from the pedestal we created, crashing down to the earth. The fall, can be swift, stunning you along with it. The fall was always inevitable. Pedestals are really hard to stand on, especially for long periods of time. 

When one of my heroes made the plunge, I spent days disillusioned. I shrank a little. I stopped going after my work as voraciously.  I started to slink into a funk. I lost hope. It made me wonder why. I started thinking about hero worship. Heroes can inspire us. They give us hope. But idealizing people, making them a hero also makes them less human. This is not good for them. (It really isn’t.) It’s even worse for us. When we make someone else a hero, we make ourselves more like the extra in our own lives. 

Hero worship is the worst sort of comparison.

When you worship a hero you compare your inner life to their outer one. You sabotage yourself by creating an imaginary person — you think is real. Pedestals leave you standing on the ground, looking up wondering why you aren’t up there. You’re stuck wondering what’s wrong with you. It makes room for self-sabotage.

Pedestals are dangerous. Respect is empowering.

The words hero and respect might seem the same. They’re actually quite different. Let me bring out the Merriam-Webster. (Yes, I’m bringing out the dictionary.) A hero is: 

A mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability.

Being a myth or a legend seems pretty damn lofty. Divine, endowed, great strength? Those are some hard qualities to live up to. In contrast is Respect. Again, from Merriam-Webster:

A feeling of admiring someone or something that is good, valuable, important, etc. 

When you respect, there are positive feelings about this person and their actions, but you don’t put the other person above ourselves. We can exist on the same plane as someone worthy of respect. We can see them as valuable without seeing them to have extraordinary abilities. Or, that we are less than because we don’t have extraordinary abilities often endowed in our heroes.  

Respecting the way someone has built their career or handled a tough situation can inspire us to be better. We can respect them, and focus on ourselves. Respect inspires us rather than have daydreams about being a different person.

Respect your “heroes” but ditch the pedestal. Keep them firmly on the earth. 

Put your hopes in yourself. Believing you can reach your potential is far more powerful than worshiping someone else.


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