Letting Our Heroes Be Human


Sometimes I get caught up in thinking that if only people would stop expecting me to be a certain way, then it would be easier to be myself. We’ve talked before about how it’s not our responsibility to always meet other people’s expectations.

I’ve realized, however, that, even as I resent the expectations of others, I also seek them out at times. I guess it’s only natural that I’d look to others for answers when I doubt myself. When I don’t trust that I’m good enough, I depend on other people to tell me who I should be.

Part of learning to trust myself more and to believe in my worth has been allowing myself to be a work in progress—to be human. Just because I don’t get it all right doesn’t mean I’m all wrong. There is space for me to learn and grow and figure things out and change my mind.

In order to allow myself to be human, I have to recognize that my heroes are human too.

When I was a kid I worried about things far off in the future. I clung to the hope that with adulthood would come the ability to know just what to do. As we grow older we realize that none of us are perfect. We’re all doing the best we can and figuring life out as we go. The problem is, we don’t always fully outgrow wanting to find someone who knows all the answers and can make everything alright.

There are people who have been, in a sense, heroes to me. I’ve believed they were wiser or more knowledgeable or just plain better than me. I looked to them to show me what to do, what to say, even what to believe.

Now there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with emulating the qualities we most admire in others. The problem comes when we forget that other people are human too.

When I thought someone was better than me, I took that to mean that they always knew better than me. At times I went along with what they said was the best thing to do even when there was a small voice inside me asking me to choose something else.

Unfortunately, I was quick to assume that the other person had to be right and therefore I must be wrong. I learned to ignore what I thought. I believed that thinking differently meant there was something wrong with me. I dismissed that small voice inside as a sign that I was lazy or a coward.

I regret many decisions I’ve made while looking to others for answers. It’s not that the people I looked to or the things they did were necessarily bad or wrong. They are people I still admire. But just because something isn’t wrong doesn’t mean it’s right for me.

Letting our heroes fall from the pedestals we’ve put them on can be painful. My experience has included plenty of unpleasant emotions—disappointment, guilt, anger, regret. It’s scary to lose the place I’ve looked for answers. It takes time and practice to learn to consider the opinions of others while listening to myself and taking responsibility for my own decisions.

Learning to trust myself isn’t about proving that I know what I’m doing and won’t make mistakes. Instead it’s about recognizing that making a mistake is not the end. Mistakes are part of the process and I can keep learning along the way.

Learning to trust myself means letting others be imperfect too. Only then can I benefit from their wisdom, knowledge, and experience in a way that fits with who I am. I have to be able to question what they have to teach me if I want to live as my authentic self instead of as who I think they expect me to be.

When I recognize that the people I admire are imperfect, it makes space for my imperfections too. It’s only when we are each free to be who we are that we can truly connect human to human.

I’d love to know…where do you look to others to show you who you’re supposed to be? Who have you elevated to hero status in your life? How can you let them be human?