I had a conversation with a coworker in which she asked: Would you face a dangerous situation with bravado, like the heroes on TV and in the movies, or would you run and hide? She said that she likely would run away, since she couldn’t even be brave about facing a bug.

My answer was that we can’t know what we might do in a situation until we are in it. Someone who runs away shrieking at the sight of a bug might not hesitate to go into a burning house to save a child. We don’t have to swagger around with bravado like action-movie heroes before we can do something that is needed.

Three firefighters do a training exercise with flames in background.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)

Because we see hero images so often in our culture, if we are not full of bravado and don’t fit the hero archetype, it subconsciously makes us feel more powerless than we really are. We believe there’s not much we can do by ourselves, so we want a superhero to swoop down from the sky and save us.

As a result, we leave ourselves open to marketing efforts designed to prey on our sense of vulnerability. Companies promise to save us from the embarrassment of being our real selves if we buy their amazing miracle products. Political candidates who lack qualifications rely on bravado and bluster to make up for their shortcomings. Like the Wizard of Oz behind his curtain, there’s no real magic to be found; but we’ve gotten so used to looking for a hero that we often can’t spot a humbug.

Even if we don’t feel like heroes, we’re actually doing much more in everyday life than we give ourselves credit for doing. As with Dorothy’s companions, we are likely to find what we’re searching for through the journey itself, though we may not know it at the time. Bravado is not required.


  1. Yes, there are so many ways to be heroes and you are right, we never know what courage we will have until a situation is thrust upon us!! Great post!

  2. Amen to all that!!

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