I’m reading Brené Brown’s new book, Rising Strong, and this passage leapt out at me:
The death of the idealised versions of our parents, teachers, and mentors — a stage in the hero’s journey — is always scary because it means that we’re now responsible for our own learning and growth. That death is also beautiful because it makes room for new relationships — more honest connections between authentic adults who are doing the best they can. Of course, these new connections require emotional and physical safety. We can’t be vulnerable and open with people who are hurting us.Brené Brown, Rising Strong
As far back as I can remember, I’ve always wanted a master. Someone who could take me in, impart the world’s secret wisdom to me, and turn me into a master myself.
To find a master, I searched for gung fu teachers to show me the way, hypnosis coaches and success gurus, ancient ninjas and forest monks.
Whenever I found a new master, I thought that I’d finally found The One. The One who had all the answers, and could finally teach me what I needed to know to become successful, powerful and wise.
Of course, this never happened.
Instead, I got my heart burned, from seeing behind the curtains and realising that not all who shone from afar still shine up close. I met people who had less integrity than fame, less answers than lies, and less empathy than talk.
Luckily for me, not everyone was like that. I had the good fortune to meet some brilliant, compassionate and wise people along the way too, without whom I would never be where I am today.
But you know what? Seeing the cracks behind my teachers was one of the best things that ever happened to me. I don’t know why I wanted to believe in other people more than in myself, but I did so way too much, to the point where I’d regularly place people on pedestals.
Like Brené Brown writes, the moment I let the idealised versions of my heroes die, was the moment I could see them with more clarity — as people too, with strengths and flaws, good and bad days.
When I made that shift, I found that my relationships with them improved; I could actually relate to them now as they were, not who I wanted them to be. I could learn from them, without having to idolise them.
(As Brown warns though, I found out that you can only do this with well-adjusted human beings. There are sick people out there who relish the master-student dynamic and will never accept anything except worship. These are assholes you’re better off leaving behind.)
But the most surprising part of making this change? When I accepted that my heroes could be flawed, I opened up to my own flaws and accepted them as well.
I discovered that having perfect heroes isn’t just unrealistic, it’s also heavy; the belief places a standard of perfection on you that’s unattainable and weighs you down. After all, if other people can become perfect, why can’t you? But it’s an impossible game to win.
On the other hand, when you realise that anybody can become great, while still remaining unfinished and human, then maybe you — maybe I — can become great too.
Maybe I don’t need to find a master, because I can be my own master. Not in the sense that I don’t need teachers, but in the sense that I am the master of my fate, I hold the responsibility for my choices. I can accept your flaws and mine as what they are; steps on the path to luminosity.