How To Be Your Own Hero

Are you going to be the hero of your own life or are you going to leave that role for someone else?

In my twenties I hit some serious depression. The quarter-life crisis was intense for me. I made a litany of poor choices and pursued lousy relationships for the best part of a decade.

Why?

I was bogged down in low self-esteem and anger I didn’t really understand, so my choices were often self-defeating. Also, I was looking for a daddy figure to compensate for the father love I never had.

If not you, then who?

I was trying to fill a hole in my heart that felt like it went right through my body and out the other side. I felt mildly ashamed all the time, like everyone who looked at me could see straight through me because I lacked substance. However at the time, I only had a vague idea of what might be at the heart of my pain and even less idea how to pull myself out of it.

Epiphanies can come in strange ways. One afternoon I walked into a room at uni and someone from a previous class had left a few words on the whiteboard. I don’t know who, the context or why those words had been left there, but they hit me:

Are you going to be the hero of your own life or are you going to leave that role for someone else?

I was spellbound. I wrote the question down and dwelt on it.

I started to wonder about life as a personal hero’s journey for every one of us. I suspected being your own hero might have something to do with championing yourself, developing your strengths and being kinder and braver.

But it wasn’t until I hit my rock bottom in my thirties — a marriage breakup, the loss of my new love to cancer, and all the attendant nightmares, that a deeper understanding of being the hero of my own life dawned on me.

I understood that we don’t actually know how strong we are until we face up to challenges. Rather than wait for life to inevitably test us with hardships, we can save a lot of time and pain by learning to be our own hero, in good times as well as bad.

Own your choices.

However painful, mistake-riddled, dirty and moth-eaten life might feel, start by owning where you’re at and acknowledging the choices that helped get you there. It’s the way to begin to make better choices to get you to a better place.

Once you admit your weaknesses and mistakes in a kind way, at least to yourself, you can plan to move on from them rather than staying mired. You can end the dirty little secret of beating yourself up with self-criticism and digging a deeper hole into shame and self-pity.

Speak kindly to yourself.

When you try to help another person you probably don’t start with a critical diatribe at them about everything they’ve done wrong or aren’t good at. They wouldn’t find that very supportive. So why would you?

Yet, so often we speak harshly to ourselves in our own minds, despite it being a lousy strategy for self-growth and building self-esteem.

Being your own hero means stepping in when critical self-talk and negative spirals of thinking are starting up in your head. It means standing up for yourself and saying

Enough, this isn’t helpful!
Back off Criticism.
Instead, let’s focus on our strengths and what we CAN do.

Become mindful of your inner dialogue.

You need to listen to how you speak to yourself in order to step in and do it better. Listen to your inner dialogue and get to know how kindly or unkindly you treat yourself every day.

The Hero in you isn’t going to stand for anymore self-bullying!

Rewrite Your Stories of Adversity.

This is the making of you as your own hero — the re-authoring, not of WHAT has happened to you in your life, but of the MEANINGS you draw from things that have happened.

All sorrows can be borne if you put them into a story or tell a story about them. Isak Dinesen

Your stories of hurts, losses and failings can become inspirational reminders to you of your resilience and survival. Focus on the strengths and wisdom that have grown in you through the difficulties you’ve faced.

The very essence of bringing out the hero in you is re-framing adversities you’ve faced as battles you’ve survived.

Take pride in your resilience.

Find Your Flow.

Our greatest strengths and personal superpowers are often found in those things we’re good at, and that we enjoy — our flow. The places in life in which we find flow are reinvigorating in difficult times and build us up in good times.

My flow is in writing. It’s always been one of my places of complete immersion, where time just disappears. I’ve turned to writing when I needed to find clarity, enjoyment and a creative retreat.

Your places of flow, be they sports, arts, travels, nature or something else, feed the hero part of yourself. Flow gives you purpose and meaning to strive or play another day.

Do What You Say You’re Going To Do.

Finally, being your own hero means calling yourself out (kindly but fairly) on your own BS when necessary.

The part of you that wants the best for you won’t put up with self-defeating or soul-sucking talk and habits anymore. Being your own hero means showing yourself real love by developing your own values and staying true to any commitments you’ve made to yourself.

Do what you say you’re going to do and feel proud of yourself, confident in your character. In the end, heroes are all about intention, consistency and compassion.

Heroes have always faced pain and struggles in their past, and each have their weaknesses. Realistically, being your own hero is about being your own unshakably loyal friend, not about being super-human. It’s about choosing to rise from experiences and live each day compassionately — starting with yourself.

Going Deeper

For more on creating your best life and dealing with life’s challenges, check out my book Lovelands.