Updated: Jan 12, 2021
We all have heroes, people who inspire us with their words and actions, people we admire. But what if we moved beyond simple admiration for our heroes and instead decided to learn from them in order to enhance our own well-being.
My heroes are a mixture of real people and fictional characters and I look to them now when thinking about how I have developed my own coping skills, which are a mixture of behaviors, thoughts and emotions that I call upon in times of anxiety, stress or uncertainty. It’s a bit like sending out my own internal bat signal, except instead of waiting to be saved, I am the caped crusader and I will come to my own rescue.
As a nerdy, bookish child who exuded a little too much confidence for societies liking, She-Ra: Princess of Power gave me my first hero and proved pivotal in my understanding of how to authentically show-up in the world. Audora/She-Ra taught me tenacity, resilience and self-acceptance.
Growing older, I acquired more heroes and boy are they a mixed bag! From Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel and Hermione Granger to Arya Stark and Iron Man. But the one thing all my heroes have in common is an ability to overcome the trials and tribulations of life and not just survive but ultimately thrive. You see our heroes have all had to cope with setbacks, rejection, loss, uncertainty, and fear. Whether they exist in the world around us or in the pages of our favorite books they are human, even when they’re not.
So while I might not be fighting trained assassins on my morning commute, becoming a mentor to Spiderman, facing down Voldemort on a Friday night or getting ready to rumble in the jungle, my heroes’ abilities to cope with everything life has thrown at them has certainly taught me a thing or two in developing some of my own coping skills.
Gut Instinct – Arya Stark honed an ability to trust her gut, she taught me the importance of listening to myself. Too often we allow everyone else’s voices to drown out the most important one - our own.
Resilience – If Hermione Granger isn’t the epitome of resilience, I don’t know who is. Life will continually challenge us in a myriad of different ways, but when we commit to learning from each misstep and vow to continue showing-up for ourselves and others we find resilience within us.
Setting Boundaries – Boundaries aren’t selfish, they’re self-care and no one taught me this better than Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel. Deciding to walk away and stand against the people who "raised her", when discovering the truth, requires drawing a line in the sand about what you can and cannot accept to in order to create your ultimate self.
Work/Life Balance - Remember Steve Rogers/Captain America writing his list in Captain America: Winter Soldier? I love this as an example of balancing life and work! Yes, he was saving the world - yet again - but he was also making plans to try new things (Thai Food), watch movies for enjoyment (Star Wars/Trek), and learning about world events (moon landing).
Reaching out – We all need to assemble our Avengers from time to time, because sometimes life’s challenges are too big to handle on our own. Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow supports Bruce Banner/The Hulk in calming down and containing the anger that allows The Hulk to emerge - a great example of us not having to do this on our own!
Who are your heroes and how have they coped with adversity in order to triumph?
Finding time to reflect on why we were drawn to our heroes can give us insight into the qualities, skills or behaviors that we admire most about them, and highlight the coping skills we can learn from them. Who came to mind while reading today? What traits have you learned from your superheroes?
Maria Laquerre is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, who specializes in addressing trauma with clients of all ages. Maria has practiced therapy in New Mexico since her return in 2008. Maria's current passion is supporting therapists in doing their best clinical work, which she pursues through offering supervision, consultation and trainings. Maria enjoys spending time with her family, watching Star Wars and Marvel movies, discussing the psychology of pop culture and loves a good book!