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Never meet your heroes.
A popular refrain, and for good reason.
The idea of having a hero seems innocent, but it can quickly spiral into hero-worship, which is excessive admiration. Commonly, our heroes are celebrities or other people in the public eye. They’re admired because they’ve found a way to make a name for themselves.
Why do we do this? Any number of reasons. It could be in hopes to gain power or status. It might be to model yourself after them. We’re often guilty of subconsciously projecting powerful emotions onto our heroes or leaders.
It doesn’t sound all that bad so far, though, so what’s the problem?
Heroes Are Human
It puts a lot of responsibility on people, for one, when you elevate them to hero status. They most likely didn’t ask for the designation and unless you know them personally, it’s unlikely they’re aware you’ve placed them on the hero pedestal. Ultimately, no matter who your hero is they’re still human.
Perhaps the greatest examples of hero-worship are the likes of Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg. They’ve all long been lauded for their success and innovation, but they’ve all made major mistakes on their path to greatness.
Musk and Zuckerberg continue to make mistakes and shrug it off as though it doesn’t have real-world consequences. You can still appreciate the work they’ve done, you can still applaud their success, but you put yourself at a disadvantage by putting them on a pedestal. A quick glance at social media, however, shows how quickly Elon Musk fans descend onto the timelines of the people who question those decisions.
As you enter into the habit of hero-worship you become someone who is unable to view your hero objectively. It becomes a case of them being unable to do anything wrong, you’re behind every decision they make, and it doesn’t matter if they’re unhealthy, unethical, or downright wrong. You assume that their brilliance is so great that they’re playing a game of 3D chess and no one else can see the board the way they do.
Your admiration started off innocently, but now you trust someone on an unhealthy level. It’s a dangerous position to be in. Especially when unsavory information comes to light about our heroes and we don’t have the ability to engage our brains to consider the damage that has been potentially done by human error, malice, vengeance, or otherwise.
Hero-worship is something every social circle is guilty of. Sports fans put their favorite players on pedestals. Environmentalists lift up particular activities and politicians. Religious people hold up religious leaders. No one is immune.
The only thing we achieve by assigning people god status is creating a monster.
Markie’s new boss was everything she aspired to be. She had the career, the lifestyle, the family, all of it. She balanced it with ease, at least that’s how Markie perceived it. So, securing the position she did and being in a situation where her personal hero would be her mentor was a no-brainer.
Markie set about grabbing her boss’ attention in every way possible. With the boss on a pedestal, Markie ran around down below desperately trying to make her boss love her. In hindsight, she was embarrassed by her behavior but at the time she was stuck in a vicious cycle. Her mood would soar when her boss recognized her efforts and it would fall just as quickly if her boss didn’t compliment her. She allowed her hero-worship of her boss to take over her life.
How do you know if you’re guilty of this? Some of the signs include:
- Working too hard to appear charming, funny, intelligent, etc.
- Sharing too much information regarding your life, whether it’s too intimate or too shocking.
- Obsessing over their every move and what it means.
- You spend most of your time wondering about their impression of you (if you know them).
- You spend an unhealthy amount of time thinking about them.
- You have a tendency to make their actions, feelings, or comments about you.
- You analyze their every word.
When you see it laid out like that it sounds creepy, doesn’t it? Maybe even bordering on stalking. Interesting that what begins with someone on a pedestal as you set about getting them to like you makes you a much less likable person.
The big risk related to putting anyone on a pedestal is that you’re seeking approval from the wrong place. You’re trying to build your confidence in the wrong way. You’re convinced that the qualities they represent that you admire are unattainable to you. When you seek approval from others, though, it will never be enough.
Strong On Your Own
A hero can be an inspiration. Someone who demonstrates what’s possible. The problem is that by putting them on a pedestal you’re placing them above reproach. To place someone on a pedestal, you have to overlook their deficiencies and flaws. You ignore how their best qualities and strengths contribute to their shortcomings or blind spots. It’s something we forget to do once we elevate a hero to pedestal status.
We’re all flawed, but assigning someone this level of status in your life is to essentially attempt to model areas of your life on their decisions. If you model yourself (or your life) after someone or something that was created by a flawed person and you don’t stop to consider how that influenced the concept then you’re accepting all of it. When there are negative attitudes involved, you accept those within you, whether it aligns with your values or not.
What we consume will change us. The big question is how.
If you consume without questioning you create an internal landscape littered with the beliefs and opinions of others and you think those things because you’ve been told to think those things. You consume everything this person has to offer without questioning their motivation. You consume everything this person has to offer without looking at the type of person they are. You accept them as they are without question.
Ultimately, this is the greatest risk of having heroes and the greatest danger of putting heroes on pedestals. No one deserves to be elevated to that status in your life.
This isn’t the only issue. There’s a darker side to modern hero-worship.
We’re often guilty of living vicariously through these heroes. They’re filling a void, a void that you should be working on filling by developing and growing as a person. This suggests there’s a deficiency in your life, whether it’s that you don’t believe you can accomplish what you want or your opportunity is gone and you seek it elsewhere.
No hero is infallible, no one is worthy of excess admiration in the way we do with our heroes. You can admire someone’s accomplishments and applaud their success without putting them on a pedestal. Even the most well-mannered, accomplished hero shouldn’t be lionized or idolized.
You can find confidence in yourself and your own accomplishments because by putting others on pedestals you’re giving away your personal power and without it, how will you get what you want from life?
The only person capable of creating the life you want to lead is you and you aren’t going to accomplish that without taking action. Do you know what stops you from taking action in your own life? Putting heroes on pedestals.
“Never put your sheroes and heroes up on pedestals…All mortals have their shortcomings and weaknesses. Their skills and deeds are what we must applaud. Don’t fall victim to the cult of personality.” — Maya Angelou