When Heroes From Our Childhood Disappoint Us

Rafael Augusto B.L. de Oliveira | @ancient_scrolls

One of the hardest parts of growing up is finding out that those you used to look up to have flaws and insecurities just like you. The old saying, “never meet your hero”, rings true for those we used to look up to as role models. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Though the process is disappointing, it’s also a sign of maturity. Nevertheless, this doesn’t make the experience any less stressful or discouraging. 

When I was a young man, the passage from boyhood to manhood came with many struggles and disappointments. One of the worst ones was finding out that those that I used to look up to as role models weren’t exactly what I expected. There is nothing wrong in discovering, that just like us, our heroes have flaws. They also have their own demons that they try to fight off every day and sometimes succumb to them.

Is Hero-Worshipping Platonic Love?

It seems that in all human cultures there is one common trait: the need for heroes and tales of people winning even when all odds are against them. People from all over the globe share this common desire. The need for myths, legends, and folktales inspires them to keep going when things get tough.  

In many cases, young people feel a sense of platonic love for their heroes. In the end, this can lead to a highly idealized version of this potential partner. This person you regard so highly may be much different from a neutral perspective. Similarly, hero-worshipping is the high regard of an idealized human being. But can anyone truly be everything we want, or is this only a matter of imagination?

Destroying the Idealized Hero

Should we never meet our heroes or ignore their flaws? No; they can still be our role models after we meet them. However, we have to prepare ourselves for the fact that some of the things we heard about them were exaggerations or even falsehood. Looking up to someone in spite of flaws and with a realistic outlook can resurrect a more legitimate high regard for that person.

Some people can’t come to terms with the disappointment of this reality; that’s the main reason the saying, “never meet your hero”, got so popular. Truth is valuable, though, even at the cost of a glamorous perception. But be prepared for the worst.  

Forgiving Our Role Models and Heroes for Their Flaws

It’s very unpleasant to find out that those we used to look up to aren’t exactly what we thought. But maturing is all about having to come to terms with the harsh and sometimes bitter reality of the real world. Don’t blame them for not living up to your expectations. Do you always live up to your own? If you’re human, I’m quite certain you fail miserably sometimes. There is no shame in failure – only in a lack of effort. Heroes aren’t perfect, and forgiveness is heroic.

Like us, those we admire are vulnerable to letting their day, emotions or surroundings get the best of them. Like any of us, they also are fellow students of the School of Hard Knocks.

Becoming A Better Version

Accepting things for what they are is a big step towards maturity. But to overcome such a disappointment is even greater. The best approach at doing so is trying to learn from their mistakes and become a better version of ourselves and them. Take what you love about each one of your heroes and be an improvement upon it. Or better yet, become the legend that you thought they were. 

Maybe deep down, we knew they weren’t perfect all along. The fun part was to believe they really never fail and can beat the odds all the time. By learning from them, we all can become one step closer to that idealized picture an innocent child holds.

Should We Stop Looking for Heroes? 

The short answer is no! Regardless if you lost all your respect for someone you used to look up to, you shouldn’t remove all role models and inspiration from your life. Admiration is an important emotion for bringing about change.

It might be difficult to grasp the big picture at first, but each one of our heroes is part of our big dream. We have to keep in mind that they are humans too. Like us, they have problems, traumas, an ego (maybe a little bit bigger than ours), and dreams. You can still look up to them as long as you keep in mind that they are human as well. As Alexander Pope would say, “To err is human; to forgive is divine “.

Valuable Figures

Much of human history is based on worshipping ideas and individuals alike. To not have a hero is to cast away human tradition, instinct, and dreams. Even if they aren’t as perfect as our ideas, they still are the representation of our most inner desires and goals. 

Maybe we merely project the qualities and traits we wish we had in heroes. Maybe it’s natural for all of us to look for idols and role models as a way to dream about an idealized version of our own selves. It’s no secret that when someone picks up a role model, they usually choose someone who has all the talents, abilities, personality traits they wish they had.

To have a hero is to dream. What made them so admirable in the first place were the legends about their great deeds. Do not let those legends die. After all, this is what made them so special in the first place. But every now and then, don’t forget to remind yourself that they are human as well. In a world full of flaws, admiration of heroes can still bring us a step closer to perfection.


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