Every story has one—the plucky hero, or heroine, who overcomes all odds to save the day.
They may be overwhelmed, hopelessly outnumbered even, and yet they use their grit and resourcefulness to meet the challenges that come their way. They’re an inspiration to others even when they struggle within themselves.
And about that struggle within themselves?
Sure, it’s a great plot device. It makes the hero seem relatable. It’s just so human to struggle with angst—that inner turmoil of identity and love. Even if the hero isn’t human, that internal struggle seems to carry the story—and our hero—further than if they just went whistling confidently into the next obstacle.
We don’t relate to the acts of heroism as much as we do the struggle.
We’ve seen this story play out over and over again in books and movies, but when it comes to our own lives, we seem to think it’s our successes that define us and make us an inspiration to others. We have this idea that our confidence and positivity is what makes us relatable, and even lovable.
The truth is, most people are inspired by authenticity, particularly when struggle is involved.
I may scroll through my timeline and admire people’s successes, but what often inspires me are those friends who post about their struggle. Their broken hearts. Their parenting challenges. Their disappointments and terrible days.
No, not the ones who do it so often that it becomes a familiar refrain where nothing is ever good. But the ones who have tough days and don’t trouble to hide them. The ones who show us their real, raw selves as if to say, This is who I am, like it or not.
This is lovable and relatable, and so much more human than seeing someone go from one success to the next.
I’ve struggled to maintain authenticity over the last few years of my life. It’s important to me, and yet it’s also deeply counter-intuitive sometimes. I would rather go whistling along and act like everything is okay, but the truth is that it’s not always okay.
Lately, I’ve been struggling with a broken heart in addition to massive financial concerns. I have days where I feel like everything is going to be fine, when my happiness is not just putting on a brave face. I have other days when I wake up crying and go to sleep crying, and spend the in-between times trying not to let the stress impact my children.
On those days, my coping skills take a hit—and I have coping skills in spades. I’ve got grit and resourcefulness, but some days my defenses just crumble. I can’t quite find my optimism or my will to meditate my way to peace. Trying to hide it seems natural. I have to force myself to be honest. Some days I feel like I will never stop feeling heartbroken. I struggle with past fears of being erased and forgotten, even though this has never been my whole story.
Our struggles are never our whole story. But they are a part of the story, and we have to stop leaving them out.
I recently published a blog on being completely broke. It wasn’t something I wanted to write, but if I’m struggling through it, I know someone else is doing the same. If my story can help someone else, then I need to tell it—and tell the whole truth and nothing but.
Because people care about realness.
They don’t care how many achievements we’ve racked up or how many new cars we’ve owned. They don’t care about the square footage of our homes or how we were promoted yet again.
They want to know how, at the core of us, we’re all the same. We have the same worries. We all have our angst and our drama. Our perfect families are far from perfect. Our perfect lives have cracks and flaws in them.
And it’s all okay.
We can’t be the plucky hero/heroine of our own stories if we can’t break away from the need to make everything look just fine when it’s not.
Recently, I found a way of looking at things that I hadn’t thought of before. I was on Facebook, idly looking through my timeline review, when I noticed something. Up popped a picture of me and an ex from the year prior. Then the year before there was another picture of me.
In both of those pictures, I was in the beginning stages of a romance. In both of those pictures, I was starting to fall head over heels for men who would later hurt me. I investigated the picture closely. Did I have an inkling of what was to come? Of course I didn’t! We never do. I was happy in both of the pictures, blissfully so. You can see it shining out of my eyes. But those relationships would come to be some of the most significant hurts of my life to date.
And yet…didn’t I survive them both? Sure, one still hurts like hell. The other stings if I think about it too much.
But I did survive, which likely means that I’ll love again and I’ll survive any other hurts that come my way. As long as I’m breathing, I can endure whatever life throws at me, even on the days I feel like I can’t.
And that’s what it means to be the plucky heroine of my own life story.
Yes, I’ve been hurt. Sometimes I feel I’ve had more than my fair share of struggle and heartbreak.
But I’ve survived them.
I’ve come out stronger and each time I’ve learned lessons that I likely wouldn’t have learned without those particular experiences. I’m still trying to be raw and real, even when I feel like there’s an elephant sitting on my chest, and my eyes leak so many tears that my face hurts from crying.
Without all of the internal struggle, I wouldn’t be who I am. I wouldn’t be able to achieve the things I need to do in my own life. And I certainly wouldn’t be able to sit here and share my own struggles in hopes of helping someone else with theirs.
We know how to be the heroes of our own lives.
If we’re waiting for someone else to save us, we have a long wait ahead of us. It’s no one else’s responsibility to be our hero.
Our struggles may have been caused by someone or something else, but we’re the ones who have to figure out what we’ll do next. The challenge isn’t going to go away because we wish it would. No, being a hero, means that we make choices despite (and sometimes because of) our internal struggles. We move ahead. We admit that things aren’t perfect.
Sometimes, as heroes, we’ll save the day. And sometimes we’ll fail. But we never quit trying, and that’s what makes us heroes after all.