Who you truly are as a person is best revealed by who you are during times of conflict and crisis. ~ Karen Salmansohn
There will be times during your life where you will go through terrible times. Yet those bad moments end up making us better and stronger. Despite it all, we are always given a choice. Do you want to be your own hero? Or do you want to be a victim?
To be a hero is the harder choice of the two. It’s so easy to just feel sorry for yourself and jump head first into a pity party, where you are the only guest. But despite you choosing the easy route and playing the victim, that role will actually end up with the harder result. When you choose to be the victim, you are choosing to halt your journey. You are choosing to not learn the lesson and not let yourself become a better person. You are choosing to not live your life to its full potential and continue on your path.
When you choose to be your own hero, what makes it so hard is letting go. It’s so hard to let go of the pain and move on. But once you do…WOW. Your life can only get better. You learn the lesson and hopefully, do not make the same mistake twice. But if you do, so what? The wonderful thing about life is that you will get a do-over; another chance to make a different decision. As long as you choose to be your own hero and not a victim, you will get through it, let go and move on as a better person.
Personally, I have gone through four pivotal moments in my life where I was forced to make that choice between hero and victim. Those moments have defined who I am today. I will admit I chose to be a victim for the first two moments and hero for the latter two.
When I was 10, I was extremely mistreated and neglected by a family member outside of my immediate family. It's still hard to talk about or even utter the word "abuse" but sometimes we have to share our story in order to inspire others on their path. I went to live with this relative for a year and it changed my life and my path. I won’t disclose their identity for privacy reasons but I have no contact with them anymore. It took me years to forgive this person. I had to come to terms with the fact that forgiving this person was for me and not for them. It had to be done in order to let go and move on. Just because you forgive someone does not mean you have to keep them in your life. Out of this terrible experience, I grew up fast and in that, grew my need to control everything around me. I didn’t trust anyone and felt like I had to take care of myself. This need for control and lack of trust in anyone lasted until my 30’s and caused me to develop some anxiety issues. Yup, that’s what choosing to be a victim did to my life. It affected my relationships, dictated the person I chose to be in a relationship with, affected my friendships…everything. I chose to be a victim by letting that situation change me into a person that was holding herself back from truly living..
Even today, after turning my life around, I have my moments where I have a hard time letting go and relinquishing control. But I have come to realize that there are some things that are beyond my control. I can only control me and my actions. I can’t control others. When I realized this, things became so much easier to deal with. I didn’t impose unrealistic expectations on others. And I didn’t set myself up for disappointment and I certainly didn’t get frustrated easily when people didn’t act the way I expected them to. It’s still hard work but I take it one day at a time.
My first serious relationship lasted eight years and it was a big dysfunctional mess. He cheated on me many times and didn’t treat me the way I wanted to be treated. I chose to be the victim and stay all those years when deep down there was a little, faint voice within, telling me I could do better. But I couldn’t see my worth. I loved the idea of him and of having a boyfriend. I just didn’t know my worth and I settled. I chose to be a victim. Eight years is a long time but going to college and meeting people along the way who inspired me to be the best person I can be is what finally gave me the courage to walk away. I learned that having a boyfriend didn’t define me and that it’s okay to be alone. I learned to never settle again. If you know your worth, you will never settle.
Then came my dad's passing on April 10, 2011. His death turned my life upside down. I was so hurt. I’m still in pain. And while it was tempting to crawl into bed and be a victim, I just couldn’t do it. I have come such a long way in my life and I knew I would not be honoring my dad by being a victim. So choosing to be my own hero was one of the hardest things I had to do. The lesson I took away from this was that I will never taking anything for granted ever again. I will appreciate the people in my life who I love and will always cherish them. It made me see how short and unpredictable life really is.
However, there are times in your life where you will choose to be your own hero but then have a moment where you slide backwards and become a victim. We’re human. It happens. So eighteen months after my dad’s death, I felt myself slipping. Then Hurricane Sandy happened. Sandy took me out of my comfort zone. Even now, life as I knew it, will never be the same. And I realized that I was slipping backwards because I was getting too comfortable in my life.
Like I have said before, when you’re comfortable, you’re actually stuck. You think you’re good but really, you’re comfortable and standing still. I choose right now to be my own hero. I think many people affected by Sandy are not only going through a property rebuild but a life rebuild as well. Going through something like this gives you a new perspective on life. It reminded me that I cannot take anything for granted or ever get too comfortable. Life is meant to be lived to the fullest and you can’t do that while being in your comfort zone and being afraid to see what’s out there.
Life is all about staying focused on what you want and working hard for it. This rings true for happiness. If you want to be happy, you have to make the effort to be happy. You have to do things that will make you happy. Happiness just doesn’t come knocking on your door and saying “I’m HERE!” So why would you choose to be the victim when being your own hero guarantees you happiness? It takes so much strength to rise above setbacks and disappointments, especially when it is one that has hurt the deepest. But if you do that, the results are so worth it.
And you will look back and see that you were stronger than you ever gave yourself credit for, You became your own hero.