We are the author whose novels you devour in a night and whose style you envy. We are the kid who sits next to you in class and seems to effortlessly comprehend ideas you struggle to grasp. We are your parents, who have been married for thirty years: your dad whose tireless work ethic and successful business seems far out of reach, and your mom whose mastery of strength, patience and care for others inspires you but extends beyond your emotional maturity. We are the bikini model on Instagram with a flat stomach and the picture-perfect relationship you’ve been trying to land. We are the selfless friend with the beautiful smile and seamless fashion sense who is always first to lend a helping hand. We are your favorite NFL football player. We are the artist you admire and listen to most intently, wishing you could move people the way that they move you.
We are your heroes.
But whether we are the people who raised you, inspired you, or influenced you with our noted and catalogued success, we are not the heroes you see in movies.
You are inclined to compare your lives with ours and to level yourself against us. When you feel you lack in areas we excel in, your style doesn’t match ours, or your life is accelerating at a different pace, you become discouraged. You feel inferior to us. You spend an obscene amount of effort scolding yourselves for not yet gaining qualities we have, but spend little effort acknowledging what you do have, and what we lack. You focus so much on matching our success that you neglect to learn from our failure.
We are not perfect. There are things the pictures we take do not capture. Out of frame are our sins, heartbreak, fights, mistakes, losses, mental obstacles, and demons. Behind the paintings of our trophies are those of gruesome battle scenes. When you try and craft your life according to what we wanted for ourselves, you forfeit your individuality and aim for an impossible life without error; you romanticize a mirage of a lifestyle that, in reality, is fueled by eventual success in the face of countless blunders. You give up opportunities because of the strife involved without realizing that everything takes grit—we just don’t always show it.
Your path is unique to everyone else’s. Don’t believe you must be destined to repeat our mistakes in order to get to where we are. Neglecting to learn from our failures is refusing to assume accountability for the fact that your heroes lived so you can prosper. Take from your favorite author’s sentence style, your friend’s kindness, your dad’s work ethic, your mom’s strength and patience; become motivated to move people from your favorite artist and take from the tenacity of your sports hero.
But look at where we went wrong.
We lead by example. You fail when you deliberately allow yourself to fall short where we fell short, and squander the time we squandered—when you refuse to acknowledge the areas in which we faltered or improve on them yourselves. When you give up where we did. When you scour the pieces of our lives we portray and feel bad instead of taking a lesson, looking inside, deciding what it is you personally want, accounting for your own struggles, and moving forward at a pace you feel comfortable with. You fail when you adopt our skewed outlooks, flawed views, patterns of substance abuse, coldness, weakness, or missteps in the way we treated others and believe our success somehow compensates for it.
Do you have our same opinions, beliefs, values, and desires? Or do you align yours concretely with ours in hopes that it will yield results that yes, may inspire you in someone else, but don’t reflect the things you have learned or the things you care about? Evolve. You are skilled and educated in other areas. You have your own style. You possess different needs and wants. Own your autonomy, see it for the blessing it is, and take advantage. Analyze what you have to offer and the places you want to go.
Our job as your heroes is to guide you. But our lives are not a rigid framework by which you should measure achievement. You create your own scale. You’re not tragic, and we aren’t gods. Do us justice and surpass us by learning from us.
Don’t become us; use us to become the best version of you.