I won’t be the first person to announce that the ideal of the self-made hero is a bold-face lie…
(Originally published on Bonjour Bellingham 2 years ago)
Sadly, we worship the myth of the self-made hero. We worship at this altar to our own detriment in the form of inflammatory diseases, weak immune systems, and fried nerves. We place multi billionaires on thrones, especially ones that come out of the high-tech industry. And when they donate to charitable causes we applaud them, as if a few million dollars mean anything to someone steeped in that much wealth. We would do better to applaud the average person with a low-paying job who donates to a charity. They’re the ones who make the real sacrifice.
Granted, working towards and achieving a life mission deserves our attention. It’s better than sitting on a the couch drinking beer or getting stoned while staring at nonsense floating past on a television screen. However, no one gets to the top of the heap on their own. Some of these folks had wealthy parents or at least supportive parents. Some of them went to the right schools and had brilliant teachers to encourage them along the way. Some of them had lucky breaks because they lived in the perfect community to achieve their mission (Bill Gates and Steve Jobs) while others did need to crawl their way from the bottom and heal themselves along the way (Oprah Winfrey), but even Oprah would have met supportive mentors along the way, powerful colleagues and teachers who brought assistance. No one succeeds without some kind of help–could be therapists, teachers, coaches, employers, professors, or powerful colleagues.
The other myth we’ll debunk here is that if you work hard you will achieve your dream. This myth finds its roots in Puritanism and Protestant work ethic and is more likely to lead to heart attacks or strokes then to true happiness. Like all things, we must place work in balance with other areas of our lives. This idea of super man or super woman doing it all–starting an empire, raising a family and playing a large role in their community comes with a price tag. Eventually, a wake up call in the form of a teen rebelling because Mommy or Daddy didn’t spend enough quality time with him or her or an illness such as cancer or a heart attack creates the space for this super man or super woman to take stock.
Even Oprah Winfrey admits to having a spiritual life where she finds her center. That spiritual center is everything because it’s where we find solace when the walls come tumbling down. The walls will eventually come tumbling down even in the most charmed life because that is how Spirit reaches us. Let’s continue to use Oprah as an example. She made some clear choice in her life–choosing career over family and marriage because she knew that you really can’t juggle it all and keep those balls in the air.
It’s one thing to have a 9-to-5 typical job and raise a family and another to raise a family and create an empire. While this might seem admirable at first, I’m often left wondering what sacrifices these people have made. I’ve heard many stories of resentful children of celebrities and millionaires. We erroneously think that we can throw money at all our problems and they will magically go away. But money doesn’t substitute for time, attention, love and affection. Often super men and super woman think of their children as just another product they have brought into the world. Then they pass on their super achievement genes to another generation who either lives up to that potential or escapes through drugs and alcohol or lives in a stupor of depression because they don’t feel they measure up. They believe the lie of the self-made hero.
The last danger of this myth I will mention is that the person who lives this myth feels that they have to do everything themselves. They act defensive when anyone offers help or support. They feel that asking for help or support reveal weakness because they confuse vulnerability and humanity with weakness. So they manipulate and control everyone in their world as they micromanage everyone’s lives. These super humans don’t have space for God or Spirit to come in because they don’t need any help, especially invisible help.
This is also a myth. Many great minds and hearts of our time and previous generations recognized the invisible realms and help from those realms. Many inventors would meditate or work with dreams including Thomas Edison. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other leaders of that ilk lead from a place of spirit. While I’m typing off the top of my head, if you pick up spiritual books by Hay House authors for instance, you will find mention of the great men and women who worked with spirits or God to achieve their life missions.
So what is the point of this essay? That the self-made hero isn’t only a myth, but a dangerous lie that can lead people into depression and isolation. No one wants to marry or befriend a super man or super woman who doesn’t need anyone or anything. Who wants to be with someone who seemingly already has it all? What is left to give? Humans need to give and receive to live healthy and happy lives. I imagine that for the super man or super woman, it’s lonely at the top, especially when the children grow up and want nothing to do with their parents who in the kids’ opinion, were never truly there for them. Not only that, the weight of following in their parents’ self-made footsteps feels too heavy a burden to carry.
We all need others
Vulnerability is human and normal; not a weakness
Micromanaging and defensiveness relate to a lack of trust in others
No one succeeds without help from mentors, coaches, teachers, parents, etc…
We are not a pantheon of gods and goddesses; that type of power is illusion
Everything we do ripples out into the world
Our thoughts, feelings, insecurities, etc affect others
Children are human and not a byproduct of super human success
Depending on the type of career, we do need to choose between family or work