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The Trouble With Heroes

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Notre Dame chapter.

There’s a careless liberality when it comes to “heroes.” We toss the term around whenever someone does a good deed and this inattentiveness has rendered hero as commonplace rather than extraordinary. Nowadays, we’re under the impression that anyone and everyone has the chance to be a hero.

Heroes can be just like us, they do the same banal activities as us, and yet they’re different. They’re better. They seem to radiate in our adoring eyes for they are the ideal. They did or said something that won us over, but that is all. Our standards are low for these every day heroes.

My hero was my dad. Why? I guess the short response would be simply that he did an adequate job of raising me. He was the man who would stay up reading stories to me about fictitious superheroes, who taught me to disregard the monsters under the bed and how to beat real life monsters in bullies, and to a kid, that’s heroic. I believed in my dad blindly and whole-heartedly.  

But a funny thing happened: I grew up. And that unquestioning devotion became a little less certain. My hero started to look a little tarnished.

I started to see his kryptonite— He worked. A lot. And because of it, he’s missing from most of my family memories. His temper was short and sometimes what was said wasn’t meant to be spoken, but those meaningless, loud words cut just as deep.

I can hold onto those moments that made me first believe in him—that time he tried repeatedly to donate blood to me when I was having surgery, despite his fear of needles. The time he drove all the way from Nebraska to my senior father-daughter dance to surprise me even though he said he wouldn’t be able to make it. I have those memories, and I can look past the mistakes that so quickly retired his super-suit in my mind. I didn’t lose faith in him, but I gained realism.

I believe in heroes, but I also believe in the flaw of holding others to the standards of heroes. I accept that the heroes in our lives are not the cartoon characters dressed in capes and masks.  They are painfully human and by definition, are imperfect. Maybe it is how your heroes carried their burden of imperfections that won you over.  Maybe it is their resilience to overcome their mistakes. Or maybe these flaws made you lose faith that your hero would be the godsend you believed he could be.

We are so caught up in seeking out heroes in others, we don’t look at our own heroic potential. We get mind-numbingly comfortable being in the audience that we never wonder if we have the capability of being on that level of greatness. And why would we? Being a hero is hard, and our expectations just make it harder. We place them on a pedestal, and the view from up top may be nice, but it also holds the risk of a perilous fall from grace. 

Heroes are not what we want them to be. They are not perfect and they are incapable of saving us. They might be around to catch us when we fall, but only you can see your inner demons. Salvation is a personal decision. Heroes are teachers, not saviors. We have them because they serve as living examples of how to overcome our fear of falling, failing, and flailing as we rise up to meet our own challenges.

I need a hero. Everyone does. Because a life without heroes is uninspired and leaves no one to aspire to. 


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(cue typical college student intro) Natalie is a freshman from Notre Dame studying business and journalism.  She is originally from Kansas City, Kansas, aka the land of Oz.  She willingly admits that her inner monologue is narrated by the voice of Kristen Bell, or more commonly recognized as the voice of Gossip Girl (xoxo).  In her spare time in which she is not trying to find a semi-comfortable place to crash for a power nap, she loves to read anything and everything, craft and has the dorm decorations to prove it, plan out her outfits a week in advanced, make coffee runs at any time of day, and last, but never least, hang out with her friends.  She is so lucky to have found a family at Her Campus and finally, Love Thee, HCND!