Existential Psychology

Heroes To Emulate Not To Worship

By  | 

There is a big difference hero worship and hero emulation, which at bottom comes down to how you derive meaning in life and the personal role you play in this process.

Hero worship is about placing flesh and blood human beings up on a pedestal, instilling these people with godlike qualities. Meaning is derived through association, basically latching on and celebrating accomplishments as if they were your own. Your role is secondary of course, you’re just along for the ride, basically a sports fan who cheers your favorite athlete to victory.

The problem with this strategy is evident. You sacrifice the chance to do anything of substance yourself by letting your heroes fill in for you. By raising these people up you keep yourself down, content to sponge off of external traits and achievements so that developing your own potentialities does not feel pressing or even necessary.

But there’s nothing wrong in principle with having heroes, specifically when your relationship to them is one of emulation rather than worship. In this case you’re harnessing the power of anchoring, setting the bar high instead of settling for mediocrity. The goal is to join them up in that rarefied air, a much different orientation than perpetually praising them.

Whether heroes are used for the purposes of worship or emulation, the psychology in clear relief is the human need for transcendence, for escaping the ordinary in favor of the extraordinary. What it comes down to is cultivating the belief that if you discover and cultivate your unique seeds of potential you can be extraordinary too. You don’t need heroes to take over the job for you, only to show you the way.