Exploring the Superhero’s Story

Recently, while working on a comic-book, I completely zoned out while drawing and found my mind drifting toward the ‘average’ person in a story, and began relating them to ‘everyday people’ of today.

Their identity was my main focus. Prior to becoming a Superhero most of these super-heroes-to-be have an identity that is flawed and not very appealing.

The best stories make us root for the ‘reluctant hero’ – the main character who is forced into a situation where they are obviously uncomfortable. The audience is on the edge of their seat hoping they will succeed – but they can’t – not quite yet – it can’t happen until they change their identity. They have to become the Superhero. This is their journey – their ultimate quest – to discover what they are capable of, and to find out who they really are.

That’s when I had one of those eureka moments. I was considering anyone out there who is struggling, feeling like an underdog, feeling frustrated and under-appreciated. Can the outline of a typical superhero story inspire them to discover themselves and become their own superhero?

We all have an identity; a mom, a dad, a sibling, a student, a clerk, a taxi driver, etc. And with this identity [label] are habitual routines – we get up at a certain hour, we repeat our day [for the most part] and go to bed knowing the next day will be more of the same. This, although can be boring, it is also familiar. Anything that is familiar brings a sense of comfort and security because we know what to expect.

But a routine is how we get caught up in a robotic and dissatisfying style of life. It’s not living. It’s getting by, or in some cases it’s merely existing. In many situations, we aren’t even trying to become more – we’re just hoping more will come to us.

To add to the dreariness of hum-drum, our days are often layered with a hidden, or rather, a not fully acknowledged, frustration. This frustration stirs a deep-seated irritation or a secret desire for more – but we feel stuck, trapped, unable to move out of, or overcome our current situation.

Believe it or not, it’s our identity that can be our own worst enemy, or nemesis. It keeps us stuck. We are attached to it. The more we come to resent our circumstance, the more we search for a reason or another person to blame. “They won’t let me, he won’t help me, she took that from me …” We feel helpless and alone which makes us cling more to the one thing we have that we think we can rely on – our identity.

This is the spot where almost every superhero movie begins. It’s the point of frustration – where the hero-to-be just can’t take any more bad news. They have had such a stream of bad luck and we seem to meet them for the first time when they are most vulnerable or at their worst. Their situations vary, maybe they discover they are being sued, or they are suddenly jobless, or homeless. These unexpected situations forces them to act, to do something. As much as they may feel inadequate or incapable, their desire for more is stronger than their willingness to surrender.

But you and I don’t have to wait for that ‘unexpected situation’ to happen, we can begin to make improvements now. We can start re-directing our own movie now.

Moving into a new situation can be scary. We are not familiar with anyone or anything. We know we’re going to stumble. We will make a few mistakes – that is the natural process of learning. But once we learn the ropes, and get a grip on our new situation, we will slowly start to feel a bit more comfortable and a lot more confident. But this is usually the time when our identity can sneak up on us and get in our way.

Just like the heroes in the movies, we too arrive at a new location or situation with our Old Identity. These old habits, attitudes, and preferences can be our downfall. They can do more damage than any villain out there. We can’t be the hero to our own movie if we are out all night getting plastered, or gossip all day about our co-workers, or spend all our money on foolish things rather than be responsible and pay the rent.

Reflection period; like in the movies when the hero finds themselves still struggling with old issues, they go off on their own; to drink; or to go back to their childhood home; or visit a grave site to reconnect with their past before deciding how they want to move forward.

We also need to examine our identities. We need to see what is working for us and what no longer helps us. We need to be clear about what we want to do and where we want to go. What matters to us? What is our deepest desire? That desire is the key to our happiness – it’s the cape – it’s the superhero’s secret identity. We need to figuratively don our invisible superhero cape and become the person we want to be.

But wait. We can’t simply buy a new wardrobe and show up at our new job trying to be someone we don’t identify with. The disconnection between our real identity and the wanted identity will prevent us from gaining any ground. We can’t become what we want to be until we explore who we truly are, and take responsibility for our current situation.

Half way through the movie the real journey begins when the hero decides to overcome their current situation. They confront their ‘demons’ and they use all the lessons they learned from their mistakes and mis-steps to their advantage. They make a conscious effort to move forward and they willingly accept the task / the mission, knowing there will be a few risks involved.

The old identity never disappears completely, there are benefits to every experience the hero has lived through – but the new identity has new attitudes, new experiences and new perspectives that serves the superhero’s new situation much better and the chances for success are much greater.

You don’t need a new wardrobe, a new car or a new home to become a superhero – all you need is a good attitude and the willingness to become more than your old identity.

~ I hope this inspires you

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