What It Means To Be A Hero

Our ideas around the hero archetype revolve around a personality that has strength at its core. Sometimes, this strength is seen actively in those who make difficult accomplishments, in those who emerge as the unlikely victors or overcome obstacles and sometimes, the strength covertly shows in those who silently endure pain.

As we go about our day to day lives, doing mundane chores, it is difficult to think of ourselves as heroes. However, the hero archetype lies within each of us, showing itself in many ways, that we might not easily recognize. There must have been several points in your life where you felt that you persisted even when it was hard to do so, times when you felt like giving up and moments when you felt very alone – each of those instances were a reflection of this hero.

Carl Rogers, one of the most influential thinkers in psychotherapy, asserted that each one of us has an innate potential for growth, which is thwarted by difficult circumstances. Thinking about this innate potential, reminds me of this hero within us and how it represents both strength and struggle. This hero finds its strength from different sources – from hope, faith, love or will/resolve.

What this also means to me is the idea that the hero is defined by the fact that he’s put through a conflict, by his act of drawing upon the inner resource and confronting a challenge. Karna didn’t win the war of Kurukshetra, neither did he find a climax in his painful struggle for identity throughout the Mahabharata. However, he had strength and for him, it came from his resolve. What made him a hero, was that with each setback, he drew more from this resolve, thereby, rendering it stronger.

It helps me realize, it’s not the win that makes the hero; it’s the intensity of his struggle.

The Hero’s Journey

Though our life experiences are unique to each one of us, the fundamental nature of the human struggle is largely universal. Joseph Campbell beautifully illustrates this archetypal journey of the hero’s journey of struggle and how it leads to an inner transformation.