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  • Alisa Stamps

When Do We Get to be the Heroes?

I’m finding something interesting in this time of the pandemic that I’m noticing is similar to other times of crisis. We need heroes. We NEED good people that we can look up to so that maybe we don’t see as much of the bad. We—as Mr. Rogers once said—look for the heroes. Actually, he said “helpers”, but this example still works in this instance. In World War II it was the soldiers. In fact you were expected to enlist if you didn’t encounter any physical limitations and do your part to preserve democracy and rid the world of Hitler. In 911 it was the NYPD and the FDNY. Images of them rushing into the Towers were projected everywhere. And today, in the era of Corona, it is the essential workers that are emerging as our unsung heroes. And rightly so. But I want to ask you…when do we get to be the heroes in our own stories? And are we doing a huge injustice to ourselves every time we deem someone as more “superhuman” than we could ever hope to be?

What is a hero? Maybe defining that word is a place to start. When I looked it up on the internet, it stated that the definition was, “a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities”. The definition continues with, “the chief male character in a book, play, or movie, who is typically identified with good qualities, and with whom the reader is expected to sympathize” (idealize). Hmmm…anyone else see that as close to the definition of a narcissist or the person in a family system that sucks up all the attention and energy in the room? Just saying. This last definition may drive my point home, “(in mythology or folklore) a person of superhuman qualities and often semi divine origin, in particular one whose exploits were the subject of ancient Greek myths”. If a hero is someone that we as a society continually place on a pedestal, and we are not able to identify any of these phenomenal characteristics in ourselves, how can we ever expect to honor the more mundane, though still divine, qualities that we possess? As children, we often see our parents as heroes, but what happens when that “hero” is a narcissistic parent? The pedestal the child places them on is a façade that eventually crumbles.


Don’t get me wrong—I am not saying that those that are helping us get through this awful, uncertain time don’t deserve all the accolades in the world. They do. What I am suggesting however is that for some, just getting off the couch for the day, or getting out of bed to feed oneself might be just as heroic. Small wins should count for more in our society. We can’t all rush into burning buildings or use CPR to save someone’s life. But we can begin to redefine heroism by shifting our/society’s expectations. This can look different for everyone and we need to make room for that.

So as we continue to hunker down to save lives (which by the way is totally an act of heroism!), I invite you to take in the small things. Maybe you took your psychotropic medication today for the fifth day in a row, maybe you texted a friend to say hi, or maybe you just washed your face and brushed your teeth for the first time all week. Bask in those things, my friends. Those are acts of heroism.



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Alisa Stamps, MSS, LCSW

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100 S. Broad St., Suite 1515
Philadelphia, PA 19102

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