In the first years of childhood, a person's heroes are usually fictional. They can leap walls, topple buildings and perform a host other feats that establish their basic appeal: their ability to totally dominate their environment. Offering far more than entertainment, they allow children to live vicariously. After all, these super beings don't have anyone telling them where to go and what to do. Or if they do, they follow the instructions because they agree with them.
Fictional heroes encourage imagination and creativity, but sooner or later, a child's cast of hero's switches from fictional characters that behave like gods to human characters that seem like demigods, which are typically the kind of heroes that we admire throughout adulthood: people who accomplish rare Feats but are able to accomplish them while being human. Rock stars, movie stars, professional athletes, statesmen and artists all fall into this category.
Our admiration for such people consists of a precarious balance between two perceptions: the acknowledgment that they've accomplished what we probably never will and the notion that we can accomplish it too. The latter perception accounts for our tendency to view heroes as "role models". If we thought that we were beneath their accomplishments, we might not be so quick imitate their fashion choices or adopt their views.
In any event, our heroes are typically those whose achievements seem off limits but not to the degree that our admiration is commuted to envy. Sure, it might be impossible for us to become a prince or princess, but we can still exhibit the grace, stately fortitude and whimsical charm that we imagine define the character of a prince of princess. Nonetheless, these types of heroes remain more admired for their social prestige than for their character traits and comprise the class of heroes that we are most familiar with: men and women of public greatness.
But there is another class of heroes who exist below the social radar. Often working behind the scenes and rarely entering the limelight, they are people whose convictions don't win them prestige but mean the world to the people they help. Of this class of heroes, physicians, philanthropists and various religious types immediately come to mind. But even those who donate their time and money to community service efforts are included in this class of heroes. Achieving rock stardom or a professional sports contract might seem like the hardest and greatest thing in the world, but spending our time doing something that does not result in selfish rewards can be just as difficult for two reasons: it requires unrewarded self-sacrifice and It requires us to work for something bigger than ourselves, which are indeed difficult and great accomplishments.
Famous heroes have their place in our lives. They show us what can be accomplished and inspire us to great heights. But it's important to remember that heroism is defined by more than public accolades; It's also defined by triumphing against the odds, and especially against the odds that we so often impose on ourselves.[ff id=”2″]