I remember being 6 years old running on my home’s wrap-around porch and suddenly opening my Spring jacket pretending to be Superman. Then I would run back inside and ask my mom to snap my jacket back up so I coould do it all over again. You see, most of the time I felt more like Clark Kent than Superman. Growing with a disability, I felt fragile and was very dependent on others but imagining I was Mr. Kent gave me hope of becoming a hero.
As I got older, I got stronger and more confident. I developed a strong sense of responsibility, a love for helping people and fixing problems. You might say that those are noble traits, and for the most part you’d be right. These character traits helped me stay out of trouble, gave me purpose and shaped me into a dependable person. But I also developed a hero complex.
What is so bad with having a hero complex?
Here’s my definition of hero complex: “Having the urge of fixing every problem one sees and believing it is their responsibility to do so even when it’s not”.
What if someone would hire you and tell you that it is your entire responsibility to seek out every problem in your new work environment and fix every one of them, regardless of its nature. You would probably be overwhelmed. Certainly, companies hire consultants to fix problems but their work is usually scoped to a specific area. The problem with the hero complex is that the problems to be fixed seem endless and there is no off switch. This can lead to exhaustion, feelings of hopelessness and anger as well as losing sight of what really matters.
Benefits of leaving the hero complex behind
Gives compassion to yourself and others. When you act like a hero, it’s hard to give yourself some slack. Your expectations become unrealistic and you start blaming yourself and others too. Seeing yourself as a normal, yet unique, individual will relieve some pressure and give you more energy and satisfaction.
Lets you be vulnerable. Some might get scared by that word. The truth is whether you realize it or not, everyone is vulnerable. Our bodies are not immune to sickness, nor are our emotions always controlled. I truly believe that knowing and embracing this fact can help us be real, know our limits and become more comfortable with asking for help.
Brings more connections to your life. Heroes are often misunderstood and so are people with a hero complex. Admitting your humanity will make you more approachable. People around you will realize that you can be dependable and a great helper without losing sight of what really matters: people, their feelings and your connection to them.
It’s not easy to let go of the hero complex. In 2014, my hero complex was stronger than ever before. Everywhere I looked I saw problems, especially at work. I was determined to fix them. I was acting “holier than thou” and I ran myself to exhaustion. I learned my lesson the hard way but I think it made me a better person.
I often have to remind myself that I don’t need to be a hero, Mr. Moreau is whom I was made to be.