What is Hero Support?
Hero Support is a term I use to describe a certain personality or role that some people have/assume in life, or some period of time. Some people are Heroes, some are Hero Support. I think it’s OK, even great, to be “Hero Support”. They are the “wind beneath my wings” that Bette Midler sings about in her song of the same title; a different type of Hero. It’s an important position and one that is an intricate and necessary part of life.
Not everyone wants the spotlight, hero support provides an opportunity for introverts to contribute, feel important/necessary, make a significant impact etc… without taking center stage, or even any of the stage. When I think of “Hero Support” I think of; the 1st lady, vice president, right hand man, the “woman behind the man”, wife, mother, nurse, administrative assistant, etc.… the people who make it possible for someone else to be the more stereotypical “hero”. They provide the essential foundation upon which others can build a beautiful home.
Everyone is different, and that’s how it’s supposed to be; it’s what makes us all necessary. Its proof that we were meant to work together, it’s why we crave/need connection. My mom used to say, “If we were all the same there wouldn’t be horse races”, and she loved the races.
Recently, I began thinking about why sometimes being Hero Support can be so fulfilling and yet, other times, so draining. Sometimes it brings joy and yet, other times, there is resentment. It occurred to me that the difference is the motivation driving the support at the particular moment. When you are motivated by your heart, supporting others makes you feel energized and alive, it adds richness to your life. It is a way of honoring an inner need to help others, to contribute. When support is motivated by a sense of obligation, or putting others needs before your own, it often makes you feel lacking, depleted, even insignificant. I believe many Hero Support are motivated by both of these things at different times of their lives, maybe even different times in the same day.
What Motivates You?
Supporting others can be a strength or a comfort, depending on its motivation. By strength I mean, it’s what feeds your sense of purpose. By comfort I’m referring to a habit created by a desire to remain either invisible/out of the spotlight, or sometimes loved and accepted; this habit can ultimately deprive the world of You, while depriving You of Your Best Life.
I also believe that when the strength is not accompanied by solid/clear boundaries, the lines become blurred and Hero Support can begin to become an “Identity”, ie. an obligation as opposed to simply ‘actions that fulfill a greater purpose’. Over the years, I have noticed a pattern…
Hero Support, when motivated from the place of comfort/habit, or strength without boundaries, begin to define themselves, or become defined by others, as the ones who have it all together, they’ve got it “under control”. From the outside, Hero Support seem to have the perfect life and things come easy. You appear to have been “blessed” with many gifts that many struggle for. After a while, you tend to pride yourself on these attributes and strive to make sure that the image is true, or at least perceived to be true. Sometimes, if you fake something long enough, you forget what’s real and what isn’t. This role provides a sense of purpose, pride, and even value/worthiness. Its makes you feel needed or important, it’s where you “fit” and/or why you matter. It somehow satisfies the innate need for connection.
I’ve also noticed that Hero Support’s “problems” are often perceived (by themselves and others) as not as big, real, important, etc.…as someone else’s. Hero Support tend to go out of your way to not “burden” others, you tend to downplay problems because “you got this”. As a result, your “problems” are less obvious or more hidden/controlled. This can give the impression that you don’t still hurt the way others do. As if you can handle anything and don’t need or maybe even want support. Perhaps it’s because others need Hero Support to be “strong”, and Hero Support wants to comply.
We All Need Support:
Regardless, we all need to be allowed to need support, we need to allow ourselves to be supported. A small cut on your own finger will always hurt you more than a leg being amputated from someone else; that’s just reality and it’s OK to feel your own pain. You really don’t have control over that, it’s simply how you are physiologically wired.
I believe hero support people go through life learning all sorts of protection from vulnerability, so you “don’t get hurt”. You understand that others don’t plan to hurt you, your pain is only collateral damage and shouldn’t be taken personally…most of the time you are hurt by inconsiderate acts, not malicious intent. No one intentionally hurt you, they just didn’t even take your feelings into consideration. It doesn’t make it hurt less…
So you learn to build protective armor, you use: busyness, independence, productivity, perfectionism, being incredibly organized, clean, helpful, accommodating, or using drugs, alcohol, sex…the list goes on. But every once in a while there’s a crack in your armor and when the light gets in, it stings. At that point, you either reinforce your armor, while yelling at yourself for being pathetic, weak, needy, etc.…, or you realize that, it’s not the stinging that hurts anymore, it’s the fact that you don’t have the time or space to allow for it. In a strange way, you don’t mind the sting because you welcome the fact that you “feel” it.
Suddenly, you’re no longer afraid of “being hurt” by others; you’ve helped enough others through difficult times to truly understand that it’s simply part of life, for everyone. You’ve had enough life experience to cushion the often careless blows and put them into perspective. You understand that there is a flip side to all emotions. But now you’re faced with the fact that when Hero Support shows up sad, hurt or weak, it causes a problem; Hero Support can’t do their job if they are not “emotionally stable”.
Hero Support’s entire identity and/or purpose is put into jeopardy if they lose their cool or ability to handle their own mess. After all, from all appearances, you really have nothing to complain about. You are “the rock” and rocks that are used to hold things up are not very useful if they become soft. Hero Support doesn’t like to make others feel uncomfortable or waste their time, that’s not what support looks like. If you’re not “on” it makes those you support uncomfortable and wastes their time; or so it seems. Hero Support has become “The Pleaser“, your job is to make sure everyone is happy. Hero support is not comfortable in the “needing support” role, but who is comfortable in a role they don’t practice?
Who Supports You?
Does anyone support you the way you support others? Who empathizes and makes you feel emotionally secure and/or significant?
Sometimes it’s not until you are ready to accept help that you suddenly realize that you’ve spent so much time, and taken so much pride in, being there for others that you never let anyone be there for you. So now, instead of being scared of being hurt, now you just don’t want to face the hurt of having no one to support you. How can you have spent your whole life caring so much for so many and yet feel so alone? How does that happen? What does that mean? How did you get into this situation and, more importantly, how can you get out?
How comfortable are you with giving support? And receiving it? Can you take a compliment? Do you share your stories?
How do you feel about those you support? Wouldn’t it be OK to let others feel that way about supporting you? What if you were to think of allowing others to support you as a gift to them? Do you know that you ARE worthy of it? Do you know that you need it? We all do.
What would you do for a friend like you? When will you start? Sometimes it helps to think of it this way…if you don’t take care of you, who’s going to take care of your heroes? Remember…you can’t pour lemonade from an empty pitcher. Your feelings matter .
Hero Support people need support too. It’s OK to be strong for others and also, periodically, need/accept others being strong for you. Nothing in nature thrives alone, nothing. The only time you ever see a tree in a field by itself is when some other/external force has taken the others away. In time, if that space is left untouched, either that single tree will die or others will grow around it. The strongest, healthiest forests are the fullest because of symbiotic relationships.
The healthiest bodies of water run two ways, spring/streams/rivers fill them and they in turn feed other springs/streams/rivers; the unhealthiest only run one (i.e. the Dead Sea in Israel). I believe that relationships are the same, everyone needs a place to give and a place to receive, either one without the other isn’t healthy long term and, ultimately, can’t thrive. Connection is a two-way street.
Are You Hero Support?
How many people know your favorite color, place to visit or even your dreams? Do you know theirs? Are you perceived as pretty much having it all together…not really “needing” anything?
Is it natural to want to do whatever you can for others; do they seem to come to you, open up and “know” that you will be there for them? Do you genuinely love to listen to and help others? Does it give you a sense of purpose?
How many “heroes” do you support? When did you take on this role? Is it still serving you? As a strength or a comfort? If it’s a strength, how are your boundaries? Do you know about personal boundaries?
What do you do to replenish yourself so that you can continue to be Hero Support from a place of strength?
When is the last time you let anyone see you cry? Do you still cry? How about the last time you allowed someone to comfort you, to let you know they were there or just listen to what was going on in your head? How would it feel to be the Hero in your own life and ask for support?
I think Hero Support is an amazing and commendable character trait that is fundamental to any thriving community. However, that doesn’t mean you don’t occasionally need support too, you’re still human. One important key for Hero Support is having someone to share with, something I’ll be writing about next…
If any of this sounds familiar, or a topic you’d be interested in delving into deeper, contact me and let’s keep the conversation going.
We are only ever as great or small as we allow ourselves to be.
I think, deep inside, we all know that this is true but, for some reason, we allow others so much input into who we become, even though we are the only ones who are actually there for the whole show. So, if we are like actors in this play called “life”, who is your director? Who is writing your story line… the next scene… the ending?
Who is in the audience? Are they friends- family- colleagues or strangers? Are you trying to impress them or are they there to support and encourage you no matter what? Will they stay for the next scene or will it depend on your performance? Which of them do you expect to be there when the curtains are closing and who is there helping you “backstage”?
What role are you playing? Was it your first choice or the one you thought you were most capable of? Was it handed to you, or did you have to work hard for it? And now….? What do you think about this role? Will/Does it allow you to live up to your full potential? Do you feel like you are BEING ALL YOU CAN BE or is there something more?
How do you feel about it? Are you happy or satisfied? Enough to spend the rest of your life playing it? What have you learned? Is this role what you thought it would be? Does the “costume” still fit or have you outgrown it? Has it become even more comfortable, tight and restricting, or way too big? Is there a new and/or different role you’d like to try before it’s too late?
If you’re stuck in a role or a story line that doesn’t provide you with happiness or life satisfaction, why are you still there? What value are you getting from, or trading for, continuing? Is that value worth your sense of fulfillment from life? Does it make you grateful to be alive? Are you, generally speaking, excited to get up each morning? If so, great, you’re probably right where you belong, but if not… don’t let a few bad scenes determine the entire play. Be bold enough to stand up for yourself and make a change… We will never make everyone happy, but imagine if we all took responsibility for making ourselves happy? I believe the people in our lives that truly love us would rather have us happy in a new role than simply getting through each day in the wrong role. After all, if they spend any significant time around us, my guess is that they too will reap the benefits.
One day your role in this “play” will end; is there anything you can do now to help ensure that you can answer all those questions the way you want to when that time comes?
Remember when you were young and you imagined what/who you would be when you “grew up”? How you would feel? Are you there? On your way? If not, what’s stopping you? What’s the worst that could happen if you tried? Are you sure? Is that fact or something your mind is making up to keep you in the “comfort zone”? How much time have you spent exploring the edges? Either way, is it worth it? Can you deal with, even overcome, whatever that “worst” may be? Is it any harder than getting to the end of the show and realizing you did nothing? What are you hoping for and how do you foresee that happening?
What if it’s as simple as changing the way you look at your life rather than actually changing anything in your life? Maybe all you need to do is shift your focus and realize that you are not just an actor in this play, you get to write it… What if you are living the life of your dreams and just haven’t taken the time to realize/appreciate it? Sometimes we get so caught up in the daily grind we lose sight of what’s right in front of us. We get so easily impressed by someone else’s “role” or “costume” that we forget how great our own is too. What if you were to intentionally look for all that’s good/right in your life, avoiding comparisons, at least a couple of times a day….every day?
How do you want the next scene to go? Can you visualize your perfect “ending”? What do you need to do to get yourself one tiny step closer to “really happy”, to “I love my life” and/or “I’m so glad I didn’t wait another minute to try that”?
Go for it… the show will go on either way….what have you got to lose? Be the Director of your own life, make your childhood dreams come true, you CAN do it…
It may not be quick or easy but…so what? You’re worth it! (and you have to stick around for the whole show anyway…)
This is YOUR TIME to shine, but you have to TAKE IT…
I believe that our destiny is to be our best selves. To realize our innate strengths, gifts, passions and values and then use them to make a difference in the world, to help out or contribute in some way, big or small. I believe that our destiny is in us when we are born and that free will helps determine how the journey will go. One mistake so many of us make is to turn that free will over to others, often those with the best of intentions, but they can only make the best decisions for their selves, not yours. Many times, when we dutifully follow the “shoulds” of others, despite the feelings in our gut, or voice in our head, telling us otherwise, we live with the loss later, often in the form of regret and resentment.
For some reason we repeatedly listen to other people’s inner voices yet we tend to silence or discredit our own. Why would someone else’s inner voice know more about what’s right for you than your own? Who else has lived your entire life, experienced everything you have experienced and perceived it the very same way? Who else has heard all of your thoughts? Who else do you know that has always, and will always, be with you every night when you go to sleep and every morning when you wake up, for your entire life? And yet, that is who’s voice we tend to ignore or discredit. Why? There is no good reason, I think it’s just habit. Habits are comfortable, after all, we are neurologically wired for survival and our brains know “doing ‘this” has kept me alive this long so….continuing to do it is safe”, and safe is comfortable (but there is no growth in the comfort zone…)
When we were younger we needed to rely on the voices of others for survival. Somewhere along the way this was no longer necessary yet it’s what we’ve been conditioned to do. I’m not suggesting that seeking and/or receiving guidance is in any way shape or form bad, I’m a huge fan of learning from others experiences. I just believe that, once you’ve gathered whatever information you think you need, your own inner voice should be the ultimate decision maker for what’s right for you. Use the voices of others as guidance, not orders.
We spend years learning, or being conditioned in some way, to listen to others; our parents, teachers, mentors, authority figures, bosses etc… When are we taught how to be in touch with, listen to, or even hear, our own “voice”? Why does that concept even sound strange? Is it the idea that we need to be told or taught to hear our own inner voice? But we are told/taught to listen to others….
It seems logical to treat a 2 year old differently from a 12 or 42 year old. They are in different stages of life and, therefore, should live by different standards. So why, when it’s us, do we allow ourselves to be ruled by our same old standards? Why do we continue to listen to the “rules” that were put into our heads when we were children? We aren’t 12 anymore yet so many of us still do things because “that’s the way I was taught”, or brought up. Did you ever stop to think about how old you were when you learned a particular rule or standard that you have continued to live by? Is it possible it was applicable to your life then but really isn’t any more? Do you continue because you believe it’s right for you, or is it just a habit?
If it’s habit, is it a good one? Is it still beneficial or even applicable to the new realities of your life? If not, than how do you break it? For me, the first step was stopping long enough to question my thoughts and my actions; to just become aware of the fact that they really don’t make sense for me any more. Once I started doing that, the rest just sort of happened, and continues to happen… What about you? What “shoulds” do you still follow for no other reason than because you always have? Do they still work for you? Did they ever? Why do you continue? If you could do something different, what would you do? What’s stopping you? Who’s “job” is it to make up the rules for you these days? Who lives with the consequences? If you could rewrite the rules for your life today, knowing all that you know about your current self, what would they be? Think about that, that’s your first step…enjoy the journey, after all…it’s YOUR LIFE, what is YOUR inner voice telling you?
p.s. If you’ve decided to stick with the “status quo” for whatever reason(s), before throwing in the towel completely, ask yourself: “How will I feel 5 years from now if I don’t make any changes today?” What are you putting off or not doing? Imagine your dream life two years from now? Are you on your way there? If not, what’s one thing you can do to get closer? Maybe it’s just making a plan? Remember…small steps forward vs. big steps nowhere wins every time.
This “blue carrot” flower was always one of my mom’s favorites, and I never really understood why. I mean, it’s pretty, but… Every time I see one, I think of her. This summer, as I was walking, I spotted one and decided to stop take a picture of it. As I was thinking of my mom today, on the anniversary of her passing, I was compelled to look at that picture. It was as if she was here with me…I get it now. Although all of the little white flowers within the flower are equally beautiful, there is the one tiny blue/purple flower in the middle that dares to stand out and be different from all the rest, and that’s the one we see first. It doesn’t try to be like the others and “blend in”, and by being individual, displaying its own color proudly, it makes the entire flower more beautiful. My mom was like that.
As I sat looking at the picture, I recalled an “event” that occurred when I was in elementary school. I was in a play and the audience was filled with the parents and family members of my classmates. Moments before the show was ending, I noticed my mom running in one of the side doors. When she saw me notice her she seemed to stand taller, smile, and wave with excitement; as if she didn’t realize that she was still in her surgical scrubs, looking disheveled and arriving late…again.
After the show, as I was approaching my mom, I remember noticing another mom talking to her. This mom was tall, thin, looked picture perfect as always, and had been sitting in the front row when the curtains opened. I remember seeing her with her arm on my mom’s shoulder as if consoling her, it made me slow down and listen with trepidation. I heard her say something to the effect of, “oh poor Betty, you must feel so badly about arriving so late and missing the whole show. It must be so hard on you and your kids with you working so much and missing out…they’re growing so fast…etc…” I remember not knowing whether to jump on her band wagon or kick her in the shins. Before I could do either, my mom was already responding; again with one of her whole face smiles and twinkling eyes shining up from her petite 5’2” frame. She looked the other mom directly in the eyes, took her hand from her shoulder, held it in her own and said something that I remember as, “Yes, it is hard not being able to be everywhere for everyone all the time, but I continue to do the best I can every day and then try again tomorrow.” She went on to add something like, “I am so fortunate that my husband was able to video the program tonight so that we can all go home and watch it together, and the baby I was operating on, she is recovering with her parents now too, but thank you for your concern, I do appreciate it.” (She definitely had a little spice with her sugar.)
Without another breath my mom turned, saw me, and came in for the hug. Wow! I distinctly remember that feeling of not knowing what to think or say. Now, when I think back, I realize that my mom was the perfect example of someone who got her self-worth from within. She knew her purpose was to discover her own unique gifts and do her best to share them with as many as possible to the best of her ability every day, and that’s what she did. Of course she wished she could do more, but she didn’t get down on herself for not being able to, she simply used it as her motivation to get up and try again the next day.
As a teenager, I recall times when this same quality of my mom’s drove me nuts. I couldn’t stand that she seemed to not care how mad or upset I or anyone else was at her. How she would show up with cat hair all over her, in surgical scrubs, or smell of the horse barn, and not seem the least bit embarrassed. It wasn’t that she didn’t ever take the time to get dressed up and go out etc… it was just never about trying to impress anyone else (except maybe my dad from time to time). As I have gotten older and had the opportunity meet more individuals that seem to possess this same “something”, a quality that makes all shape and sizes so attractive that they seem to almost glow, it occurred to me that “it” is their self-confidence; the unshakeable appreciation of their own self-worth. The common denominator is their awareness, total acceptance and love of who they are and all that they can be/do.
My mom always told me that, for as long as she could remember, she knew she was going to be a surgeon, even though there were no women surgeons when she was growing up in the 1930’s. My mom never seemed to believe that anyone outside of her had the ability to know what she could or couldn’t do, only opinions that she could choose to take into consideration or not. She was the only one who lived in her body with her mind and her soul, she seemed to know that her job was to try her best at whatever she was doing and that, as long as she did, the rest was not in her control. I would ask her how she wasn’t afraid of this or that and she would respond, “It’s not that I’m not afraid, I just don’t let that stop me.” It was as if the fear made it exciting for her. I would ask how she could not be bothered by things other people said or did, and she would respond with something like, “Honey, you can’t let what others say and do dictate how you feel or act. You never know where they are coming from, what kind of day they are having, who they may be mad at, etc…” She helped me understand: that people do and say different things for a million different reasons and our job is simply to listen to what we feel, inside, and do what is right for us. And even though we can’t control others, and we have no idea what’s motivating their words or actions, we can control how we react, and that’s all we have to do. Such an amazing, and yet such a simple, concept.
My mom played hard, worked hard, loved hard, and had a smile that lit up a room. She was constantly squeezing all that she could out of life. I don’t remember ever hearing about anyone that ever met her that didn’t love her, or at least respect her. Days before her funeral I heard a story that still makes me smile and really sums up her essence. The gist of it was, when she was told that a patient was referred to her and told that she was “the best pediatric surgeon on the East coast”, her immediate response was, “I wonder who my competition is on the West Coast?” That’s pure confidence.
I miss my mom, but I feel as though I continue to learn from her every day. I like to think that a part of her lives on in me as I pursue my passion as a life coach. She is my role model as I strive to help others achieve a greater sense of self-worth and/or confidence; to realize their innate abilities to generate happiness by knowing who they are, doing their best to be their best, and not letting that fulfillment be dependent on or swayed by the opinions or judgement of others. Each time I am able to do this I feel as though I have fulfilled my purpose and honored my mom at the same time. Through me, she can continue to help others live a fuller life.